“Joe the Plumber,” the star of Wednesday’s debate

“Joe the Plumber” was a hot topic during the final Presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. The man’s real name is Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio man who caught Obama in a campaign line and asked him a question on taxes.

Here is the video exchange between “Joe the Plumber” and Barack Obama, via the New York Post:

A clip from Wednesday’s debate of McCain bringing up this video and asking Obama about it:

Joe’s name came up many more times, about 15 total or so, maybe more. “Joe the Plumber” became the face for McCain to attach his criticism of Obama’s tax plan to.

Report from Yahoo News:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Who is Joe the Plumber?

He is Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio man looking to buy a plumbing business who came to symbolize the notion of “spreading the wealth” in Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Earlier this week, when Wurzelbacher got a chance to speak with Obama when the candidate visited Toledo, he told Obama that his tax plan would keep him from buying the business that currently employs him.

Sensing an opening in the debate, McCain cited that exchange when the candidates were asked to explain why their economic plans are better than their opponent’s. McCain said Obama’s plan would stop entrepreneurs from investing in new small businesses and keep existing ones from growing.

“Joe wants to buy the business that he has been in for all of these years, worked 10, 12 hours a day. And he wanted to buy the business but he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes,” McCain challenged Obama.

“You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket which was going to increase his taxes, which was going to cause him not to be able to employ people, which Joe was trying to realize the American dream,” McCain said.

McCain then looked directly into the TV camera and said: “Joe, I want to tell you, I’ll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I’ll keep your taxes low and I’ll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees. And I will not stand for a tax increase on small business income.”

Obama denied that was true.

“Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks, because they are the drivers of the economy,” Obama said. “They produce the most jobs.”

So what did Wurzelbacher (pronounced whur-zell-BAHK-er) think about being at the center of the debate?

“It’s pretty surreal, man, my name being mentioned in a presidential campaign,” he said minutes after hearing McCain utter his name.

In Toledo on Sunday, Wurzelbacher told Obama that he was preparing the company, which earns more than $250,000 a year, and said: “Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?”

Obama said that under his proposal taxes on any revenue from $250,000 on down would stay the same, but that amounts above that level would be subject to a 39 percent tax, instead of the current 36 percent rate.

“And the reason why we’re doing that is because 95 percent of small businesses make less than 250 (thousand). So what I want to do is give them a tax cut. I want to give all these folks who are bus drivers, teachers, auto workers who make less, I want to give them a tax cut,” he said.

Wurzelbacher protested, saying he’s been a hardworking plumber for 15 years and why should he be taxed more.

“It’s not that I want to punish your success,” Obama said. “I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they’ve got a chance at success, too.”

At a later point in the discussion, Obama said: “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody. But listen, I respect what you do and I respect your question, and even if I don’t get your vote, I’m still gonna be working hard on your behalf because small businesses are what creates jobs in this country and I want to encourage it.”

Wurzelbacher’s name came up again when the debate turned to a discussion of health care policies.

He said Obama’s reaction on the tax question left him feeling uneasy.

“I didn’t think much of it the first time I heard it,” Wurzelbacher said, adding that he still thinks Obama’s plan would keep him from buying the business.

About McCain: “He’s got it right as far as I go.”

Even so, Wurzelbacher declined to say which candidate would get his vote on Nov. 4.

“That’s for me and a button to know,” he said.

So the winner tonight is, indeed, Joe the plumber who was probably sitting in his living room watching the two presidential candidates speak directly to him.

What an interesting campaign season this has been, and an interesting 3 weeks we still have to go.

  • Joe the Plumber… One of the Top 50 Swing Voters in 2008…

    #50 – Hockey Moms
    #47 – People with STDs
    #40 – Anonymous Sperm Donors
    #36 – Master Debaters
    #35 – Pot Heads


  • Ut oh

    I saw a picture of Joe the Plumber sitting on his couch. Placed on his coffee table was a pack of cigarettes. If one is to assume that those cigarettes belong to Joe, then one can conclude that he really isn’t too concerned about taxes–he pays cigarette taxes to the state of Ohio.

  • Maria Shaffner

    Redistribution of wealth?? Is this the new buzz word for welafe? Welfare for all. Why not. I am making $15 per hour. My neighbor makes $11 per hour. I’ll give my neighbor $2. Now we’re both making $13 an hour. I am sharing my wealth. Funny how no one has given me a hand out in the past. Those who don’t even get taxed at all will be getting checks from our government. Money taken by all of the tax payers. A redistribution of wealth. I can’t wait to open my purse up to that. I’m voting McCain

  • nancy

    I say we we vote for Joe the Plumber-he makes more sense then the two running for President.

  • Babs

    How insulting, Conrad. Joe the Plumber isn’t one to group in with your list above, except for Hockey Moms. Statistics show that swing voters in this election are by and large white women, so you can take your #40 off the list.

    Myself, I happen to be a white women and a small business owner like Joe wants to be. In fact, we own 2 small businesses, and you can smear the idea of us all you want. We’re the ones that drive this economy, and we’re not going to put up with Obama’s socialist spread our wealth crap.

    Chances are if you work, you work for a small business. If your Messiah wins, get ready to hit the unemployment line.

  • Melissa

    Conrad, you do realize that this Joe guy is a real person? That is so disrespectful to say, I agree with Babs.

  • the_don

    Small businesses will only get taxed if there net income is above 250,000. Thats after all the overhead is taken out of gross income. I make 40,000 dollars a year so i can tell you i do not feel bad for someone who makes over 5x’s what i make. If i did make 250,000 i wouldn’t mind paying a little more just as long as my money REALLY did help with education, public works, etc…

  • Deb

    Here is some interesting information about small businesses. After looking at this list it appears that Obama can say what ever he wants but facts are facts and he doesn’t have his straight.

    The US Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a “small business” according to its average annual receipts or the number of its employees. Here are examples from the SBA’s Table of Small Business Size Standards setting forth the maximum average annual receipts by industry that a business can have and still be classified as a small business:

    Crop production of all types – $750,000
    Animal production except for cattle & chicken/eggs – $750,000
    Cattle feedlots – $2.5M
    Chicken/egg production – $12.5M
    Forestry & logging – $7M
    Fishing – $4M
    Irrigation, sewage, water supplies – $7M
    Housing construction – $33.5M
    Heavy and civil engineering construction – $33.5M
    Dredging and cleanup – $20M
    Concrete, framing, and other housing contractors – $14M
    Car dealers – $23-29M
    RV, motorcycle, & boat dealers – $7M
    Furniture, hardware, clothing & sporting good stores – $7M
    Electronic stores – $9M
    Supermarkets, gas stations & department stores – $27M
    Pharmacies – $7M

  • Deb,

    You’re correct with those stats, I’ve read that as well.

  • the_don

    That doesn’t mean anything, im sure that those numbers aren’t what most of those businesses are actually making. And Obama didn’t classify anything, he just said that the net income of $250,000 would see a 3% tax increase. And guess what, with the money i will be saving as a middle class consumer im sure that i would be able to finally get the groceries that i actually need, or buy more clothes for my kids, or buy tools to do needed repairs on my house, or get my wife a safer car, or be able to afford prescriptions for my diabetes, or buy my son a new baseball glove for baseball in the spring, or many of the other things that i have never been able to provide for my family.

  • For anyone that is not educated in Economics there is a concept that we call MPC (marginal propensity to consume). This is a measure of how likely you are to consume.

    Now think for a minute, how likely is that person who makes 10 bucks an hour, with 2 kids at home, to consume every bit of money that you give to them? Now, how likely is it for someone who makes 300k a year? The person who makes 300k will probably save half and spend half. The person making 10 bucks an hour is more likely to spend all of the money you give them. Now from a “best bang for your buck” approach, on the economy, which would you rather give more money to if you are the government?

    Regonomics, McCain’s economical approach, has never and will never work. It sounds good in theory, but has never proved positive results.

  • Deb

    Check it out for yourself. http://taxcut.barackobama.com/
    I can’t wait to go spend my extra $20 a week.

    If Obama raises taxes on businesses then we will see the increase. If you don’t think so then why did we have to pay more for gas and groceries when the cost of a barrel of oil went up. Big businesses don’t pay taxes. They push it on the guys like us. It sounds so wonderful until you stop and really think about it. We will still pay for big businesses one way or another. We will continue to get screwed.

  • Deb

    Here is a chart that should make it a little more clear. Of course the lower wages are seeing less of a cut but in most cases they get all the taxes back that they pay in. This would in most cases give them more than they paid in.

    Here’s how the average tax bill could change in 2009 if either John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s tax proposals were fully in place.
    Income Avg. tax bill Avg. tax bill
    Over $2.9M -$269,364 +$701,885
    $603K and up -$45,361 +$115,974
    $227K-$603K -$7,871 +$12
    $161K-$227K -$4,380 -$2,789
    $112K-$161K -$2,614 -$2,204
    $66K-$112K -$1,009 -$1,290
    $38K-$66K -$319 -$1,042
    $19K-$38K -$113 -$892
    Under $19K -$19 -$567

    Source:The Tax Policy Center

  • Babs

    “That doesn’t mean anything, im sure that those numbers aren’t what most of those businesses are actually making.”

    the_don, now you’re correct. Small businesses are suffering losses and downturns in revenue across the board because of the economy. And Obama is going to make it worse. Let’s see you buy more groceries with your extra $20 when Obama has taxed the farmers out of business.

    Melissa, the real insults to Joe the Plumber are now coming from Obama himself. He’s calling him a liar on the stump today.

  • Deb

    So Chris what you are saying is that the economy is better off with the poor guy who spends all his $10 or roughly $20,800 a year. The guy who makes $300,000 a year and saves half is still spending more than the guy making the $10 but he is also putting money in the bank that the bank can use to give loans. Not sure how that makes sense but I am not the economist.
    I have read where some economists believe raising anyones taxes during a time like this isn’t good for the economy.


    Ok this is for all who believe Obama is not going to tax people and small businesses.

    This is basic political science right here. Republicans cut taxes, Democrats raise taxes NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY THEY DO! Remeber Bill Clinton talked about tax cuts for the middle class, Did that ever happen, NO! Dems raise taxes always, Republicans cut them. PLain and simple.

    Small business owner myself and I have read up into Obama’s tax plan. IF you are a small business owner no matter what your income is you are being taxed some way some how. Look it up and read it is easy to see through his lies.

    I think Joe will be smart come election day and will vote for the man who thinks he should keep his hard well-earned money himself and will vote for him over the Socialist democrat.

  • M. M.

    I love how people who are wealthy enough to have the option of owning their own business and being their own boss get outraged at the idea of having to give a little more up so that people who can’t afford to even feed their children or go to a doctor to find out what sickness is keeping them from working can survive.

    The working class is appropriately named. They know what hard work is, and they strive, every day, for a chance to make enough to keep the lights on or put food on the table. Most of the people reading this are lucky enough to be have been born into a family that can pass their wealth onto their kids. Nobody in the middle class starts at 0. Zero is having to leave school to find a job to help your parents pay the rent or watch your siblings. Zero is being deemed unskilled because of an untreated childhood illness that has left you disabled as an adult. Zero isn’t anyone who had a car given to them for their birthday or graduation, or clothes bought for them just because it was the beginning of the school year.

    Zero is almost a death sentence, especially under “fiscal conservative” presidencies, and fewer and fewer people care to actually realize that. It’s really sad, and quite frankly, I’m proud to have the human decency not to think that way.

  • PeoplePower

    As I am not an economist, I have not run the numbers on how people spend their money. I do know, from common sense, that someone who has more to spend and more security in their job will tend to buy better quality items, pay for services (like plumbing) and go out to eat more frequently.

    Certainly, someone who makes $300K/year will contribute a lot on their own. And if they pay an extra $9K (3%) in taxes, is that *really* going to alter their contribution significantly? Drop in the bucket…

    Whereas, 100,000 people who each get & spend $20 per month will contribute a great deal to the economy by spreading their purchases across many, many interests. And there are a lot more than 100,000 people who will gain $20/month from Obama…BTW – even if it were only 100K ppl gaining this, that would be $2 million dollars in extra spending per month…

    Joe the Plumber’s argument is a fallacy. As are the arguments of anyone who agress with him w/o qualifying it. If Joe’s plumbing business *nets* $250K or more, a 3% increase in his taxes would mean very little extra burden. And if his business *grosses* $250K, but nets less, he will see very little extra burden or none at all.

    And for those of you who keep saying the taxes will get passed directly to us, there is *some* truth to that, but it’s not always a direct dollar-for-dollar pass-on.

    If I have a business and sell 1,000 pizzas per day and my costs go up by Obama’s tax plans (neverminding the cost reductions from his insurance credits) – I would lose business if I jacked-up my prices too high to cover all of the extra expense. But, I could squeeze in an extra nickel or dime to the cost and pass along *some* of the cost to my customers.

    But, hey, we’ll all go broke if we have to pay 10 cents extra for our pizza!!! Malarky.

    All that’s really occuring is that Obama will reset the Bush tax disaster that is trickle-down. This entire theory is garbage and will only really be good for those who have a great deal of wealth – it’s so skewed that the gap between rich and super-rich has expanced exponentially since Reagan.

  • PeoplePower

    Oh, and sure, Democrats generally *are* tax and spend. But that’s much more fiscally prudent and less damaging to our future economy, national security and children’s future than the Republican’s borrow and spend.

    I for one enjoy having roads that don’t destroy my suspension, causing me to buy a new car too frequently. I enjoy having bridges that don’t fall down. I like to know that the police are available if their’s an emergency. I’m fine with paying the cost for this – you “fear the tax man” people really need to understand how societies thrive…let go of the selfish mindset that $3K “lost” to taxes is going to ruin your lives, but rather will help many others lives be better.

    We all need to let go of the idea that “I deserve the biggest & best, to heck with all the rest.” Nice things are good, but what is the cost of your status symbols?? And I’m not just talking about the dollar-figure.

    It’s a foolish view that we will have X resource forever and therefore we need not worry about conserving. Oil is an excellent example that I believe everyone now understands that it’s going to run out. But it is not the only resource that we are plundering to its utter elimination…how’s your water supply? Oh, wait, we’re in the U.S., the ‘land of plenty’. We’ll never run out of that….aha, keep dreamin’

  • Dreadsen

    “this is basic political science right here. Republicans cut taxes, Democrats raise taxes NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY THEY DO!”

    who said read my lips no more taxes?

    Oh that was a Republican.

    Clinton is a bad example. He raised taxes and balanced the budget. Unless you are suggesting that a Republican get in there and cut taxes when you have a deficit. Clinton also cuts a LOT OF PROGRAMS and a LOT OF SPENDING.

    George Bush was a democrat in republcan clothing. He spent so much money and created so many new social programs that if the liberals who hate him had any idea they would feel stupid.

    Its not that cut and dry anymore. That is politics of the 1940’s.

    Remember Republicans were supposed to be smaller government while Democrats were bigger government.
    Now both are bigger government.

    Remember Republicans were supposed to be fiscal responsible?
    Now they are borrowing and spending.

    i remember when Democrats started wars and republicans stopped them. Now it’s the other way around.

    both of them are sharing the same platform almost now.

  • Babs

    M.M., this is insulting:

    “I love how people who are wealthy enough to have the option of owning their own business and being their own boss get outraged ”

    It’s insulting to every small business owner in this country, I’d dare say. I’m certainly insulted.

    It shows your ignorance of what it takes to open a small business. You seem to think we all sat around with tons of cash sticking out of every pocket just wondering what to do with it. You couldn’t be more wrong. We worked hard, saved, and BORROWED to set ourselves up in our own business, and we took major risks to do that. Risks and sacrifices you would know nothing about. We did without in order to pour our receipts back into the business to grow it and pay our employees. Anyone who has ever owned a business knows the owner is the last one to get paid.

    You disrespect us with your comment, and re-enforce the reasons why we are left wondering why we bothered to try to contribute to the wealth of this country. By and large, statements like yours prove that no one gives a damn about our contribution. We are the least respected sector in this country, we’re thrown in with the wealthy elite who truly do just sit around and live off their dividends. That is not small business owners.

    Perhaps this country will understand that when Obama is elected and we are history.

  • Deb

    Babs, I am with you. I have a relative who just started a small business. They are still working their fulltime jobs because they are not getting profits they can live off of right now. The rich always get richer but people who start a small business very rarely have money that was handed to them. Owning a small business can be very demanding and the hours you put in don’t always match the money coming in. I am a parttime mortgage broker who worked to stay on the side of right. I wouldn’t help get a mortgage for anyone who clearly couldn’t afford it. I had people storm out of my office because of it. I am now doing commercial mortgages and if I didn’t have my full time job I would be starving. It takes hard work and long hours. We take some of our money and go into the city during the Xmas season and give money to the homeless people. It may only buy them one meal but it is something. My daughter was injured at work last year and spend a year on workman’s comp. I helped her pay her bills so she could keep her condo for her and her son. If I had more money I would give it away. But you can’t just asume because someone has a small business that they have extra money. They also have expenses and may be just getting by.

  • PeoplePower

    Babs – M.M.’s statement was a bit over the top, but if you read the rest of what was said, you’ll see that (s)he is talking about the difference between middle class and the poor & destitute.

    To the latter, someone with enough capital, someone backing them up and with good enough credit to be approved for a small business loan seems wealthy.

    Small business owners who start out as a person with an idea and a little money to back them up are *extremely* hard working. They also may have been at it several times: start a business, fail at it, start again, fail again…then finally succeed at one.

    It is indeed a risky proposition and such people deserve kudos for their hard work.

    Still, I can’t fathom why any small business owner would favor McCain over Obama. His tax plans, especially combined with his insurance plans, will help nearly every small business not only benefit from lower taxes but also allow them to finally have insurance coverage.

    Someone noted a list of the small business sizes, by sector, but failed utterly to note that there was a gigantic percentage of business showing 500, or fewer, employees; rather than showing annual receipts.

    It is likely that some, or even many, of these other businesses will have gross receipts over $250K/year. Still, with *all* of these companies, as is the case with us as individuals, they would only pay taxes on their net earnings – payroll is deducted, utilities, rent, etc. That’d knock very many of these companies below $250K or very close to it.

  • ann

    Joe the Plumber lesson is not who he is and not what he said. The lesson is what Obama said. They are doing everything they can, the Obama campaign, the Drive-By Media, to destroy Joe the Plumber, and he’s having some hard economic times right now like a lot of people are.
    Dreams are what he has, that’s right, he has a dream and they’re calling his dream a fantasy. I hope people are noticing what Obama is willing to do in order to win.
    We’re talking about somebody’s dream here. “Well, he’s got tax leans.” So does one of the chief treasurers of Obama; a lot of people have tax leans. A lot of people are in debt. You want to punish all of them?

  • “The Obama campaign are doing everything they can to destroy ‘Joe The Plumber’?” sounds like a big stinking pile of bullshit to me.

  • PeoplePower

    Sure ann. Obama is trying to destroy Joe the Plumber and McCain is trying to save him and the middle class by giving yet-more-tax-cuts to the rich & powerful.

    Hmm, if we all wait long enough with our soup bowls out, perhaps the wealthy will give us a drop. In the meantime, we’re starving…

    Joe the Plumber is being “destroyed” because his story is a farce. Perhaps he hoped to one day buy the company he worked for, but it wasn’t a $250K/year company that would “suffer” under Obama’s plan. He would be much better, as a plumber or as the owner of that company, under Obama’s plan no matter how you slice it.

    Obama had it absolutely right. If the tax plan Obama has were in place over the last 15 years Joe the Plumber was plumbing, he’d have more money to spend than he does now and maybe would already have been able to buy the company.