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McCain Stumbles Badly with Joe the Plumber

It's turned into yet another John McCain debacle. An ill-conceived idea is turning into a total public relations disaster for John McCain.

John McCain's bid to shore up his poll numbers by highlighting ``Joe the plumber'' may backfire.

Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, the Toledo plumber who criticized the tax proposals of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, owes back taxes, isn't licensed or registered in Ohio and would fare only slightly better under McCain's tax agenda than under Obama's even if his income soared.

McCain this week thrust Wurzelbacher into the national spotlight as a symbol of overtaxed small-business owners after Obama opened clear leads in many states. Analysts said Wurzelbacher's circumstances have muddled McCain's effort to profit politically from the tax issue, making it unlikely ``Joe the plumber'' will have any more long-term benefit for his campaign than did the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

``Joe the plumber will have the same trajectory as Sarah Palin, but it will be tracked in hours rather than weeks,'' said Thomas Mann, a scholar at Washington's Brookings Institution.

McCain is showing he still practices the time-honored Republican strategy, which was honed to a fine art by President George Bush, of "Ready-Fire-Aim-Think."

It's not quite as "bonehead" as "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" and not as attention-getting as "I'm suspending my campaign because I'm afraid to debate Obama while the economy is melting down," but it's appearing that it'll have roughly the same, poll dropping effect.

During the last presidential debate, Oct. 15, McCain said that what Obama would ``do to `Joe the plumber' and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream of owning their own business.''

The problem for McCain, tax analysts said, is that the underlying premise that Wurzelbacher would face higher taxes under Obama is neither true nor typical of how the vast majority of small businesses would fare.

Buy a Business

Wurzelbacher told Obama Oct. 12 as the Illinois senator canvassed his neighborhood that he was about to buy a business that earns as much as $280,000 a year.

``Do you believe in the American dream?'' Wurzelbacher asked Obama, citing the Democrat's proposed tax rate increase for Americans earning more than $250,000. ``I'm being taxed more and more for fulfilling the American dream.''

Wurzelbacher hasn't paid the taxes he already owes, according to the state of Ohio, which placed a tax lien against him for $1,182.98 on Jan. 26, 2007, that is still active. A second judgment against him was filed in March, 2007 by St. Charles Mercy Hospital for $1,261, records show.

The company McCain said the plumber wants to buy has annual sales of $510,000, according to an analysis by Dun & Bradstreet. That makes it unlikely that Wurzelbacher's purchase would give him a taxable income of more than $200,000 -- leaving him unaffected by Obama's proposal to roll back tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000, said Steven Bankler, a certified public accountant in San Antonio, who counts plumbers and other trade professionals as his clients.

Few Businesses Affected

Few such small businesses have enough income to be affected by Obama's tax changes, Bankler said.

Ahh, yah, sure, there you go - there's that "Gotcha Media" again, digging up facts...

One other problem in making Wurzelbacher a symbol of the overtaxed: he would pay just $773 more in taxes under Obama's plan than McCain's if he did earn an adjusted gross income of $280,000, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, a Washington research group that is critical of high taxes.

Earning that much would make Wurzelbacher very unusual among small businesses. According to the Internal Revenue Service, most small businesses organize in ways that allow their owners to pay taxes at personal rates rather than as corporations, which impose a second layer of taxes. Almost 95 percent of 21.5 million owners of small businesses who file as sole proprietors had receipts under $100,000 in 2007.

Another 4 million businesses organize as so-called subchapter S corporations, according to IRS data; less than 5 percent of them earn more than $200,000.

`No Joe Six-Pack'

If Wurzelbacher managed to earn $280,000, ``he's not an average Joe Six-Pack,'' said Gerald Prante, a senior economist at the Tax Foundation.

``Rather than a game-changing blow for the McCain campaign, `Joe the plumber' is turning into a bad case of blowback,'' said Rogan Kersh, a public service professor at New York University.

"Ready-Fire-Aim-Think." How's that working out for you, John?

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Rating: 3.3/5 (12 votes cast)

Comments (15)

The Toledo Better Business Bureau says Joe the Plumber's company stinks!

See http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2008/10/17/joes-plumbing-company-stinks/


No it was not Obamas response At least he was honest unlike McCain who just says nothing is off the table leaving us with nothing,This was a hail mary by McCain and I think people are smarter than to fall for it.Obama said raise the taxes on the wealth,over 250,00 about 3% which is a very small amount given the wealthy can afford help to find all the loopholes they can to avoid paying there fair share.That has been the problem all along People that can afford to pay find the loopholes while the average Joe continues to pay his or her fair share.McCain thinks he has something and It waill be a wash when people find out it was a setup,doesn't matter what Obama said.People do not like that McCain is so nasty not just negative but down right nasty and if people looked into where he got his start they would be surprised.

Lee Ward[TypeKey Profile Page]:

Again, for you lightweights, it's not Joe who is the issue here, it's OBAMA's RESPONSE.

memo to Jo - if you have to keep reminding people about what the issue is... guess what -- you've got the wrong issue.

People are rightly seeing this as another of John McCain's shoot from the hip f*ck-ups. He really choose a bad example, then lied about the impact on poor ol' Joe - the $250,000 a year Plumber who makes $40K a year - who in fact has trouble paying his taxes period, and apparently "plumbs" illegally.


If McCain wants to talk about Obama's tax policy - then talk about it.

If McCain wants to talk about Joe the Plumber -- this is the real Joe...


oe the Plumber, if you're reading this, I'm so sorry that our "vulture media" and the Obama-bots are treating you so shabbily. You'd think Britney Spears had shaved her head again or that Dem Mahoney was caught paying off hush money to a third mistress... it's disgraceful and frightening and so very Orwellian what's happening to you this week.

But Joe, I gotta tell you, man - thank you for taking the hit for all of us who still believe that this is the greatest country in the world. You did it, you made Obama slip up and honestly express his agenda - "spread the wealth" - telling America that he is indeed a socialist and that is the America we would get under his command. You asked the question that started the avalanche. I applaud you, Joe the Plumber - you're an unwitting hero, but one, nonetheless. And frankly, I don't give a damn about whether you're Sam/Joe the Unlicensed/Tax-Liened Plumber or not - everyone has flaws, but no one has to show them to millions of Americans... unless you're in the crosshairs of the Obama Thug Machine. You'll rise from this, Joe - bet your son is proud of you, too. These attempts at character assassination are mere distractions like gnats at a picnic. Kudos, Joe, kudos!


Posted by: Lee Ward
"who in fact has trouble paying his taxes period, and apparently "plumbs" illegally."

If you want to look at the facts then lets look at all of them and not just the ones you like to see and benefit your side of the story. In most states in the U.S. you can work for a plumbing company legally without a plumbing license. There are some restrictions that go along with this but general plumbing jobs can be done, so saying he "plumbs illegally" is neither true or a fact. He doesn't have a license but very much plumbs legally.

As far as other issues brought out like his back taxes owed goes, there are many Americans who owe back taxes (and if this is so, they need to buckle down and pay what they owe). However this has nothing to do with the fact that he is an American with a simple concern about paying higher taxes under Obama's plan. (whether that be $700 or $7000 it is still higher taxes so there is no debate there, and I would take $700 less in my taxes any day of the week.

Obama's quick reply to Joe's question tells us allot of how he thinks, and "spreading the wealth" is a socialist philosophy; Taking from the rich to give to the poor... WHY CAN'T THOSE WHO ARE CONSIDERED POOR WORK THEIR TALES OFF LIKE THE REST OF US AND EARN THAT AMERICAN DREAM OF HAVING $$ AND STOP DEPENDING ON THE GOVERNMENT TO GIVE IT TO THEM. No matter how much you make a year that NO way means anyone owes you anything... And remember that...


Ok American's lets review the facts... Joe simply asked a question regarding what affect Obama's plan would have on him if he bought a company worth $250,000. This was a simple question.

Obama said, "He plans to spread the wealth." It's not Joe's fault that Obama's plan included taxing those in higher tax brackets more. This question simply answered shows that even the upper class American's who are making more money will only be taxed more and therefore have to assist in paying more for the debts American government has endured.

Joe is my cousin,and some of you might think badly of him, but I think that the media has done their part to blow this into an all about Joe the Plummer campaign as another tactic to keep you from seeing the real issue is Obama's plan to increase taxes.

It is not Joe's fault nor is it a question of his character as to why this happened. Joe may have simply got Obama to speak out about his plans. He encouraged McCain to do the same and it certainly is taking its toll on the media today that is responsible for covering the story.

Who is going to cover the story when America's military forces are cut by Obama's budget and plan to bring all the troops home? This not only will increase the unemployment rate in America, but it will also affect every US citizen in this country one way or another. We aren't solving the problem by increasing taxes, we are only prolonging it.

Also, cutting the military will also put us at risk for more terrorist attacks. Personally, I love this country, but I am not ready for a repeat in history where our homes are looted, women and children are shot and forced to go to war on our own soil. If you want that, so be it cut he military- invite the terrorists here and go from there.

Congress needs to be revamped to include fresh ideas from the younger side of society who has some fresh ideas and thoughts on how to improve our country and budget the money responsibly. I'm not saying that either candidate has great plans for this budget but I have to give high regards to the McCain campaign for actually taking action when the economy is slow and slidding backwards. McCain doesn't have his own channel on digital cable or satellite like Obama does and obviously is using his money a little wiser. While in the meantime, foodbanks are faced with increasing shortages, lower donations, less room for American's who have lost their jobs, homes, etc as a result of government's downfalls in decision making skills.
Personally, I don't have any idea as to who I will vote for in this election (I'm educating myself on both candidates weighing the pros and cons), no I haven't given money to either campaign, and yes, I believe that America needs a change but Im not certain that the change we need is in the President's hands entirely since Congress makes a lot of the decisions. I mean realistically, how many of us can choose the amount of our next raise? How many of us are off for virtually two months plus a year, and get paid for it? You got it, those in the governmental positions who determine the laws, Congress, Senate, and the Presidential offices. Our military men and women don't get this benefit either in fact their pay is still substantially less than most jobs in today's society.

I'm done now... Any thoughts??


Yes I have one thing to add...

The only issue is not the few hundred dollars added to one mans taxes, it is that we have a presidential candidate in the U.S. who wants to change us to a completely socialist society. He would never say it in those words because he knows if he is honest he will not get elected. This was the key in his slip up while answering Joe the plumber, he was accidentally honest.

Think about it though, here are a couple of examples and you can easily see more if you follow his past (and you are willing to look for the truth)...

He wants to tax more to the rich and give it to the poor, "Spread the wealth"

He wants to socialize healthcare which has only brought problems to countries who have done this. Some will argue this fact but it sounds great to say "we want free healthcare for all" but the truth is that nothing in life is free. In order to pay for this taxes would need to go up more and over time there will be lines in hospitals much worse than now and waiting lists for procedures that will get worse with time. The number of doctors and nurses will decrease over time because there will be a cap on pay with the government running things so they will slowly become undesired positions due to government regulation on saleries and many (no every other decision made). (This should be left up to the free market) If the Social Health Care system was so great in Canada then why are so many of them coming over here to get operations???

Post getting too long so I'll stop, but truly could go on and on and on and on with the problems that would come with socialising America... PLEASE AMERICA DON'T PUT US UNDER A SOCIALIST, AMERICA WAS STARTED TO GET OUT FROM UNDER SOCIALISM... AND A FEW HUNDRED YEARS LATER WE HAVE SOME TRYING TO PUT US BACK UNDER IT.



I'll support any ticket that has a chance of keeping these invasive control freaks at bay.

Old Joe Stalin waged Wars upon the Peasants when they got on his nerves. Today's hyper-corporate socialists Pick on Joe Plumber, who is more self-possessed and linguistically resourceful than most of the illustrious new acquaintances he has encountered since spotting the DNC presidential candidate across the way.

Old Joe had a lot of his sidekicks who looked as drunk and sad as Joe Biden does these days, but at least Old Joe didn't look like a sissy.

Robert Brown:

I have said all along that Obama was a socialist. What he said to Joe was proof.I suspect that a great deal of Obamas money is comming from the Communist Party and the muslim faction. The peopl who are supporting Obama have a herd mentality and are driving this country into colapse and destruction. God help us all.


Obama is upfront about "spreading the wealth", unlike Bush and company who spread the wealth from the middleclass to the rich, but never announced what he was doing.

I do agree that people need to get off their lazy backsides and go to work. With the people now in high places that hate unions, hate the vets, (see McCain's record on vet voting) etc, many people believe Obama will reverse this.

Neither side is wrong, nor are they correct. All of the elected critters are their for one purpose, and that is to fill their wallets at the Average American's expense. Why do you think their is only two big political parties? It's simple, keep the people divided, and they win and the American citizen loses.


Are you insane. 'Joe' was and continues to be a unmitigated gift to McCain. It has become a central theme of his campaign to paint Obama's economic policies as socialist.

Stumbles Badly?????


Lee Ward[TypeKey Profile Page]:

That's what you guys said when McCain announced he was "suspending his campaign." Republicans were talking about the leadership abilities of John McCain - and he accomplished nothing except embarrassing himself.

I'd rather have "Joe the Plumber," as my example than "Bill the Bomber."

EVERYTHING about Obama and his "tax plan" is bogus, bogus, bogus.

Even CNN said that McCain has the best health care plan. CNN!

Obama has nothing to offer this country except Marxist socialism, who would sell out his country if the price was right.

Get real.


I love how you Obamabots are so threatened by "Joe"--the gift that just keeps on giving for McCain. Mac is only a few points behind in the polls--which could mean he's ahead because polls are skewed...But keep on living in your LA-LA Land with your Messiah--who votes "present" so he doesn't have to stand for anything...Did I mention that every enemy of the USA has endorsed him for their choice for president? You are known by your friends...so do as old by your leader--vote early and vote often.


Let me see if I get this straight. John McCain (NOT BARRACK OBAMA) thrust this Joe the plumber guy into the spotlight by mentioning his name some 20 + times during the debate. BEFORE THAT NO ONE HAD HEARD OF THIS GUY! And due to McCain trying to USE this guy for political gains the media begins to research and try to find out who IS Joe the plumber. And somehow due to his "simply" asking a question...a question that was made PUBLIC by John McCain remind you!!! Now all of a sudden it's the Democrat's and Obama at fault for all he media attention aimed at Joe the plumber who once again was put in the public spot light by who????

Oh yeah John McCain...oh I get it. When something doesn't WORK to your advantage you then blame EVERYONE else for the fire YOU started!!!

Had John McCain NOT mentioned this guy's name over 20 times in the last debate the media and the world would not have known or cared about Joe the plumber!!!

Finally, why is it such an absurb question or statement to make with reagrds to... "how many plumbers do YOU know that makes $250,000 a yr???

So John McCain throws this guy into the Presidental campaign and yet it is the media and the Obama camp's fault that this guy has gotten all this attenion!!!

Yep MAKES SENSE to me..... How could I NOT SEE IT!


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