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Posted at 4:14 PM ET, 10/20/2008

Fighting for Joe the Plumber

By Michael Dobbs

On the campaign trail.

"Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it's just another government giveaway."
--John McCain, Concord, NC, October 18, 2008.

John McCain hammered his Democratic opponent over the weekend for "phony tax cut" policies that will allegedly harm hard-working Americans such as his new-found friend, "Joe the Plumber." The Arizona senator claims that Obama has been going round the country promising to "cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans" at a time when 40 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. According to McCain, welfare payments for non-income tax paying Americans will inevitably mean higher taxes for "folks like Joe."

Is the Republican presidential candidate telling the truth about Obama's tax plan?

The Facts

Let's begin by putting the latest McCain "welfare" charge in context, with key passages in italics.

[Obama] believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans. This explains some big problems with my opponent's claim that he will cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans. You might ask: How do you cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans, when more than 40 percent pay no income taxes right now? How do you reduce the number zero? Well, that's the key to Barack Obama's whole plan: Since you can't reduce taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit. And the Treasury will have to cover those checks by taxing other people, including a lot of folks just like Joe. In other words, Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it's just another government giveaway.

The McCain campaign has not replied to my request to provide a source for a specific Obama promise to "cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans." Under his "Making Work Pay" tax plan, the Illinois senator has promised a "refundable income tax credit" to reimburse workers for up to $500 of their payroll taxes. In other words, Obama's tax credit is designed to offset payroll taxes, not income taxes. While it is true that many American workers do not pay income taxes, virtually everybody is hit by Social Security and Medicare taxes, typically 7.65 percent of earnings.

According to the Obama campaign, the senator's tax plan "will cut taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families." Note that Obama is not saying that he will cut "income taxes"; he is saying that he will "cut taxes." It is an important distinction. The McCain camp equates all taxes with income taxes.

Sarah Palin, meanwhile, has been making an even more extravagant claim than the one attributed to Obama by the McCain campaign. Speaking in Lancaster, Pa., on Saturday, she said that her running mate would "cut taxes for every American." Using the McCain camp's own logic, this would mean welfare payments to tens of millions of Americans who don't pay income taxes.

McCain continued to argue over the weekend that the Obama plan will mean higher taxes for people like Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio plumber who was a focus of the last presidential debate. This is only true if "Joe the Plumber" succeeds in buying a business that generates more than $250,000 in income. According to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, on an income of $269,000, "Joe the Plumber" would end up paying around $250 more in taxes under Obama than under McCain.

Right now, however, "Joe the Plumber" is nowhere near the $250,000 and above tax bracket. The company that he has talked about taking over reported gross sales of around $100,000. By these figures, "Joe the Plumber" is making less than $250,000 a year, and is probably making around $50,000. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, this puts him on track for a tax cut of around $1,042 under the Obama plan and around $319 under the McCain plan.

The Pinocchio Test

It is unclear whether either presidential candidate will actually keep their many promises on taxes. But the McCain claim his rival's current plan will force "folks like Joe" to subsidize welfare checks to non-tax-payers does not stand up to serious scrutiny. The McCain campaign has erected a bogus straw man argument with its claim that Obama has promised "to cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans."

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | October 20, 2008; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Barack Obama, Candidate Watch, Economy  
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Senator McCain and Governor Palin:

You are both liars.

Posted by: JakeD | October 20, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Nice try, fake JakeD -- of course, Joe is an apprentice plumber -- he was simply asking a hypotehtical question, hoping someday to make over $250,000. It's a valid question, which Obama failed. Why all the attack against an average Joe for daring to question The One?

Posted by: JakeD | October 20, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Joe The Plumber's lack of understanding of tax policy is perfectly understandable, Sen McCain's holding him up as a human shield from behind which he hurls misinformation at voters is not. It's sick and pathetic.

Posted by: zukermand | October 20, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

It reminds me of Bush hiding behind the troops to deflect challenge to his Iraq policy. Spineless, amoral cowards.

Posted by: zukermand | October 20, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Clearly Obama will not keep Joe from owning a plumbing company, probably his lack of a license will. On the contrary, perhaps Joe's extra $700+ under the Obama tax policy will help him study for and finally get that license. Go Joe go!

The key is that under either tax policy, Joe is still incented to make more $. Bracketed tax systems don't mean putting the entire income into the higher tax bracket. Joe, like most suckers for right wing rhetoric, fell into that misconception.

But don't take my word for it -- the richest man in the US, Warren Buffet, is fully aware of this, and has spoken out against the Bush tax policies that McCain intends to extend -- Buffet pays around 17 or 18 percent while his receptionist pays over 30. Does this reverse welfare seem fair?

Posted by: TaxFairness | October 20, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Leave it to Jake D to confuse and obfuscate the argument. No one is attacking Joe for asking the questions, as you have asked, rhetorically. But when McCain takes the discussion and perverts it, as MR. Dobbs has described above, it becomes a lie, and for that he (McCain) deserves to be attacked.

Incidentally, McCain's treatment of the subject highlights precisely why Colin Powell endorsed Obama.

Posted by: engine for change | October 20, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Okay - can we check the facts here??? The MAIN POINT of this Joe the Plumber dude, is the PHILOSOPHY behind Barrack Obama. Obama wants to 'spread the wealth.' You can defend his tax policy all you want, and Obama can promise anything he wants during an election, because all politicians do it....however, the bottom line is...which presidential candidate's philosophies line up with what our nation was originally built upon?
We, as voting citizens of this great nation, need to seriously ask ourselves:
1) Do we want our nation to trend towards socialism or capitalism?
2) Do we seriously want the government to get involved with private healthcare so they can destroy it like the social security system, that no one even wants to talk about?
3) Do we want a president who wants to spend, spend and tax, or one who will cut spending and decrease the deficit (or do you like owing China money???)?
4) Do we want a president who has very little experience or someone who we can trust in office on day 1?
5) Do we want a president who would really rather be the leader of the world, or one who respects our nation's sovereignty?
6) Do we really want to choose a smooth talker over someone whose policies and values are to be trusted?
7) Do we want a president who lacks foreign policy experience and will make who knows what kind of mistakes? Or one who will bring our troops home with respect and honor? Who will give our veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms that we take for granted, the assistance that they need?

I for one single vote, am amazed that there is even a question about this! What is happening to our country? It's almost like everyone has fallen in love with Obama and as you know, love is blind. They want to defend whatever he says, because he is so great. I'm just not enthralled with him, and don't see it. Frankly, his views are scary to me!
And I'm sick and tired of the biased media's propaganda on it all, too.

Thanks for letting me vent.
And one last thing: this race isn't over until the fat lady sings. The news media wants us to believe Obama's got it in the bag....but, I'm not so sure about that!

Posted by: 1stMomof5 | October 20, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

"turn out the lights, the party's oooover..."

Posted by: Fatlady | October 20, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse


For America, if Obama wins.

Posted by: JakeD | October 20, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama said :when you are talking about spread the wealth, that's good for every body. For comment, read:

Posted by: austin b | October 20, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

1stMomof5 summed up the hollowness of the McCain campaign's desperate last gasps with this statement:

"The MAIN POINT of this Joe the Plumber dude is the PHILOSOPHY behind Barrack Obama..."

I see. As a McCain supporter you're not interested in the facts or the actual numbers of each candidate's tax plans. Oh No! It's the "philosophy" of Obama (as defined by such trustworthy lobbyists, I mean campaign managers, like Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis) that really matters to you.

Don't you see the irony in your criticism of Obama supporters who, you claim, are picking style over substance???

Posted by: Shadow9 | October 20, 2008 9:46 PM | Report abuse

To 1stMomof5:

You need to reread this article and possibly talk to a tax advisor or CPA who may be able to better clarify for you Obamas plans vs. McCains. And regarding your question #7 - the best candidate that has shown the most concern for our vets after they come home has been clearly Obama - supported by the Veterans of America. Again, doing a little 'unbiased' research (Limpbaugh doesnt count) can go a long way in making the most objective unemotional decision.

Posted by: Texas | October 20, 2008 9:49 PM | Report abuse

>>>Nice try, fake JakeD -- of course, Joe is an apprentice plumber -- he was simply asking a hypotehtical question, hoping someday to make over $250,000. It's a valid question, which Obama failed. Why all the attack against an average Joe for daring to question The One?

Posted by: JakeD | October 20, 2008 4:36 PM

Joe the Plumber is a plumber ONLY if he is registered or licensed with the licensing authority in the area where he lives. According to the Toledo Division of Building Inspection, Joe the Plumber cannot "legally do plumbing work without a license, regardless of his boss's certification." The agency also mentioned that it does not have record of Joe the Plumber with a plumber's license anywhere in the state of Ohio. Also, according to Local Union 50 of the Plumbers, Steamfitters and Service Mechanics, Joe the Plumber applied for training as an apprentice plumber in 2003, but failed to finish the program. The licensing authority in Toledo, OH added that Joe the Plumber is not authorized to do plumbing work anywhere in Toledo, OH without an individual license, regardless of the certification status of his employer. Remember, Joe the Plumber claimed that he didn't need a license because his employer already has a license. The Toledo, OH licensing department refutes Joe the Plumber's claim that he does not need a plumbing license.

But, in any way one cuts it, Joe the Plumber would be unable to get financing to buy the business with an IRS tax lien on record, given the tightened credit markets. The only option available to him is that his boss finances the purchase of the business.

With the boost in celebrity and the media attention that the McCain campaign accorded Joe the Plumber, the Mesa, AZ DMV has also stepped in to say that Joe the Plumber has a money matter to settle since he skipped town before he paid up. Joe the Plumber owes the Mesa, AZ DMV between $600-700 for unpaid traffic fines. Because he did not pay the fines, AZ suspended his license. Now, the Mesa, AZ DMV is going to report the matter to the DMV in Ohio since it learned that Joe the Plumber managed to get a driver's permit license in spite of this suspension.

Posted by: ldsw | October 20, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

All these Republican small business owners are so concerned with paying 3% more in taxes, and not with their middle class consumers earning 7% less than they did 8 years ago. Common sense tells me I need people to be able to afford to buy my services long before I should be worried about that bump in taxes when it happens. Perhaps the easy credit that replaced wage increase has insulated these business owners from that reality, but those days are gone and reality is around the corner. Talk about thinking with your party instead of your head ... or pocket book !

Posted by: Malc | October 21, 2008 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Simple economics would say to me that under Obamas plan...taxes raised for the people providing the jobs and/or products would create the following problems. 1.They cant provide as many jobs. 2.Prices are raised to cover those taxes which ends up hurting the consumer. 3.They take their companies outside the USA for production to avoid the higher taxes and thus creating loss of jobs in the USA. Lowering taxes would have the opposite effect. Not rocket science here, just common sense.

Posted by: Peggy | October 21, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Do you think that mccain will catch up.
Watch Obama and mccain Videos

Posted by: Roverfind | October 21, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse


Again, why all the attack against an average Joe for simply daring to ask The One a question?

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 12:40 AM | Report abuse

It must be rocket science. How can so few people understand that businesses aren't taxed on expenses, i.e. payroll. Obama's tax plan doesn't won't affect any businesses ability to hire, advertise, or buy inventory. Small businesses are taxed on profit. You should have to take a test before you can vote.

Posted by: Jochen | October 21, 2008 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Obama is putting taxes for the top 5% back where they were under Bill Clinton. He is giving tax relief to 95% of working people to help them. According to CNN a redistribution of wealth has taken place in the nation under the Republicans. 600,000 has been taken away from the 95% and given to the 5% at the top. If Joe the Plummer had received Obama's tax breaks over the laast 8 years he would have more saved up to buy his business earlier. This is what Obama told him in the contoversial conversation. He also explained to Joe that it doesn't do much good for small business if the customers can't afford to buy his services. I canbarely pay my bills and keep food on the table. Ny husband and I both work 2 jobs and still fall under the 200,000 dollar amount for Obamas tax plan.

What is so hard to understand about this, most of the people running to the polls to vote for McCain are voting against redistributing the wealth back to the lower 95% of which they are a part. Does this make any sense.

If continuing to give the 5% a tax break is going to keep jobs, why are so many people out of jobs right now...

Think people, when are you going to wake up and stop letting the Republicans keep you down.

McCain is telling out and out lies. He is trying to tell the nation that Obama is going to raise their taxes and give it to people on Welfare who do not work or pay income taxes. This is not true. The 40% of people that do not pay federal income taxes that he is talking about work. Their income is so small that they do not have to pay under the current tax tables. However they do pay social security tax and others. If you work and pay federal taxes you will pay less in tax under Obama. If you work and do not make enough to pay federal tax then you will receive a tax credit up to 500.00... What is socialistic about that... We have tax credits now. The child tax credit McCain is promising to double is one. Is McCain a socialist. McCain is also giving a tax credit in his HealthCare Plan a 5000.00 one.

I am tired of our leaders lying to us and trying to fool us into thinking they care about us.

I am voting Obama, he is the only one that truely cares about me and my family and helping us make ends meet. I tried it the other way, I voted Bush twice. Worse mistake of my life!! The Clinton days look pretty good to me right now. He left a balanced budget. Both Bush's left a mess to clean.

Posted by: Linda | October 21, 2008 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Senator Obama has had ample opportunity to show what a humane and outreaching individual he is and just how non-mean-spirited he and his campaign are by loudly admonishing the character assassination attempts against Mr. Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) by the viscious liberal and socialist pols, pundits and press. He has not only failed to do so, but he has himself, as has his running mate, been derogatory and condescending toward Mr. Wurzelbacher. Mr. Wurzelbacher is just a regular guy trying to get ahead, who happened to ask a reasonable question of Mr. Obama. I was led to expect more from the Senator, and was disappointed. This does not sound like "change" to me, but business as usual.

Posted by: T H McElroy | October 21, 2008 12:58 AM | Report abuse


Ahh I see, so the life blood of business is the owner not the consumer who buy's the product ! Makes perfect common sense to me. I can finally see why all those CEO's made millions for leading their company's into the ground. As long as the CEO can make a huge salary it doesn't matter if sales slip and you no longer need employees to produce the product. Brilliant !

lets see hear ...

1. In case you didn't notice during the last 8 years of Bush's lower taxes for the rich, these business owners have sent more jobs over seas than any other period. This has more to do with weak Government oversight then taxes. The walthy just want more wealth, Thanks Small Govt ! 2. These business owners have seen an increase in productivity and output from their workers as evident by their 7% increase in income, while their workers wages have gone down by 3%. Hmm so profits don't mean better wages. 3. Inflation and the price of goods still went up in spite of the low taxes for the wealthy. Actually inflation was higher during these past 8 years than it previously was.

You might do well to remember the Clinton years when a more equitable tax code (ie higher taxes for the rich) resulted in lower unemployment rates, lower inflation, lower national deficit, Higher strength in the dollar, and gains in income for BOTH the middle class AND the wealthy. 1992 to 2001 prove your logic flawed. The lower taxes that you, Bush and McCain stand for have lead us to this mess. Easy Credit and the inflated Home equity replaced the real wages these Business owners should have been paying. it's not called rocket science, it's called history.

Posted by: Malc | October 21, 2008 1:22 AM | Report abuse

The attention focused on Joe the plumber by Sen. McCain is another example of his erratic selection of people and policies. He more or less pulled his vice presidential nominee from somewhere up his sleeve, with, it seems, little or no party consultation. The problem is not the person he chose, but how he did it - how suddenly and unexpectedly. McCain focuses on Obama's having been on some committees with and having had a living-room meeting with a former organizer or supporter of violent protest, who is now a professor and whose previous bad qualities (30 years ago) were not known to Obama. McCain misquoted his own finance adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin when he said that IRA regulations, if unchanged, would force persons over 70-1/2 to sell stock (untrue, but Douglas Holtz-Eakin's statements were correct). He jumps from being laissez-faire to wanting more regulation of financial firms, and a big-government bailout plan. He hints that he can handle a nuclear-armed Iran and face down Russia, but gosh knows what he could do about the troublesome problems there.
Simply put, McCain is a loose cannon while we need a careful planner. The Russians are chess players and we cannot put a Bingo player in place to deal with them. Let McCain go play bingo someplace far from the White House.

Posted by: loblolly | October 21, 2008 1:26 AM | Report abuse

taxfairness; Buffet's taxes are primarily based on dividends and capital gains while his secretary's taxes are based on wages. Dividends and capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than wages therefore skewing the difference between what she pays and he pays in taxes based as a percentage of income. I am all for tax fairness but am even more for honesty.

Posted by: dondon | October 21, 2008 3:19 AM | Report abuse

Gov Palin taxed the big oil in Alaska and then sent the money to Alaskans in the form of checks.

Is this redistributing wealth, or what?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 21, 2008 6:06 AM | Report abuse

Joe the Psuedo-Plumber

Making $250K as plumber, only in his imagination.

Posted by: theNOTORIOUSflavio | October 21, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Joe the Pseudo-Plumber

WAS an apprentice plumber. He hasn't continued the program.

His employer is going to get in trouble because he is REQUIRED to have a license to work as a residential plumber in that town.

Posted by: theNOTORIOUSflavio | October 21, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Joe the Plumber is not much different than Joe Six Pack. And the candidates need to respect each. .................

Posted by: Ohg Rea Tone | October 21, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"The McCain camp equates all taxes with income taxes."

Isn't that interesting? Perhaps one of his supporters here could explain why he does that.

Posted by: zukermand | October 21, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Let's see now--"Joe the Plumber" isn't actually a plumber, he actually would benefit under Obama's tax plan (not McCain's), he owes taxes instead of paying them anyway, & he likes to go on Fox "News" talk shows where he can safely tell hand out other misleading B.S. Is he trying to get Caribou Barbie's job? Or a McCain cabinet position? How about Secretary of the Treasury? Send the whole pack of liars home. Elect for a better future; elect Obama.

Posted by: GD | October 21, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Sen. Obama is not ready to lead this country and especially the way things are going now. There is not one single person who can take over and fix these problems because it wasn't just one man who caused them. It was the corporate greed, congress, war, fires in Calf., Hurricanes, gas prices, saudis, President Bush, Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain, and so on. Do you people realize that not one person caused this mess and what really pisses me off is that not one person can fix it unless you believe that pigs can fly which I am sure some of you Obama fans can relate to. This is a time for someone who has the knowledge of how our government works, who has the relationships needed to move things forward and I feel anything Obama wants to pass will the shot down. There are to many people in politics that don't want to see Obama succeed and that will hinder him greatly. I feel that is the truth and so I come to say that if you want America to move forward then you vote has to be for McCain, Obama will be spend our money on government projects and he WILL tax us middle class because how else will they make up their losses, think about it.

Posted by: James | October 21, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

To answer Peggy...which I'll post her comment...just a few clarifications to help you understand economics better...***"

Simple economics would say to me that under Obamas plan...taxes raised for the people providing the jobs and/or products would create the following problems. 1.They cant provide as many jobs. 2.Prices are raised to cover those taxes which ends up hurting the consumer. 3.They take their companies outside the USA for production to avoid the higher taxes and thus creating loss of jobs in the USA. Lowering taxes would have the opposite effect. Not rocket science here, just common sense.

Posted by: Peggy | October 21, 2008 12:20 AM "**

Do you have any idea of what kind of deductions a small business can take?
Your check list neglects the fact that even if a business ends the fiscal year "Netting" 250k, by the time deductions are taken off there is NO increase in tax at all...You could probably earn 300k and still be able to drop the "net income" enough to still not equate to the 250k guide line..would not equal to a tax increase...
I'd love to see a show of hands at a McCain rally to see how many of them waving their flags would set em down to show they are "Middle class" sure a raise of hands for those who make UNDER 250k would be many more then those who make above that...making there choice for president not based on how better they would do under an Obama administration... should actually read the complete policies of the candidates..and be HONEST about who you would do better under..
This is not just about is also about standard of living..unemployment, housing and education...
Educate yourself and learn what is exactly at stake...and am not talking about the fear of this race but the actual ISSUES that affect all of US..and yes, that includes small town USA...and the "bitter" people..heck, I'm bitter...but NOT at Obama..I am bitter at the current admin and how they have killed my America..I do not want 4 or 8 more years of the same...
I like having a roof over my head ...

Posted by: Goddesscon2001 | October 21, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I'm trying to think what the most satisfying aspect of Barack Obama winning the presidency will be. Will it be that America has elected the first black president in history? Will it be that voters have rejected sleazy, Rovian campaign tactic in favor of a positive message?

Or will it be the look on JakeD's face when all of his huffing and puffing, lying, and racism appears have been in vain? Right now, I'm leaning towards the latter.

Posted by: ManUnitdFan | October 21, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Nice try, fake JakeD -- of course, Joe is an apprentice plumber -- he was simply asking a hypotehtical question, hoping someday to make over $250,000. It's a valid question, which Obama failed. Why all the attack against an average Joe for daring to question The One?

Posted by: JakeD | October 20, 2008 4:36 PM

Because Joe would get a tax CUT under the Obama plan, that's why! For McCain to trot this guy out as an example of how Obama's plan will raise taxes on "ordinary" Americans is despicable. Obama should have told Joe that yes, his taxes would go up slightly if he ever was fortunate enough to have a net income from his business above $250,000.
According to the analyis in the story, if Joes's income was $269,000, his tax burden would go up $250. Now tell me Jake, can someone who is making over $22000 per month aford a tax increase of $20 per month? Give it a rest, your candidate and party are toast!

Posted by: NM Moderate | October 21, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Actually, John McCain is the candidate who plans to give your money to people who don't pay any income taxes to the federal government. This would happen because his health care tax credit is refundable. To non-tax nerds, this means that if the taxpayer's tax liability is less than the amount of McCain's credit ($2500 for individuals or $5000 for families) the taxpayer gets a check from the U.S. Treasury for the difference.

But, alas, McCain's argument against Obama isn't about tax policy or tax fairness; it is about stirring the embers of racial resentment among white voters. It's a tactic that has worked quite well for the Republican Party for the last 45 years, and it's really all that McCain has left.

Posted by: Skye | October 21, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Look, guys, the Small Business Administration defines "Plumber / HVAC" as SMALL BUSINESS at $14 million and lower. The issue is not this individual Joe. ANY plumber who makes between $250,000 and $14 million will be taxed more by Obama. While $250 may not seem like a lot to elitists, it adds up. At last count, Obama expects to tax BILLIONS this way. Can our economy withstand that?

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

For the record, again -- I am neither a racist nor a registered Republican -- I would have no problem voting for a PRO-LIFE African American Democrat.

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

And, no one has answered my question: Why all the attack against an average Joe for daring to question The One?

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

dondon: A debate tip for you, with my compliments. It is customary when calling one dishonest to point out the factual error, rather than help the opponent’s case by pointing to the underlying reasons behind the statistics that you don’t dispute. Your underlying assumption is that Buffet is unique. You would have us believe that the average million dollar wage earner places his/her income under a mattress rather than invest in the stock market.

You are precisely right that a lower rate on capital gains is a reason Buffet pays one-half the tax rate of his mignons. AMT (the tax bubble for the “semi-rich” that we should eliminate) is a second contributor to the regressive nature of our current income tax system.

Were the capital gains tax rate permitted only on new stock issuances, perhaps I might buy into the argument that this policy spurs economic growth. As it stands, the rate largely rewards speculation, and we might as well tax casino winnings at 15%. Is it fair that such speculation is rewarded more than income from a hard earned wage? I will personally still invest in the stock market, irrespective of whether it will be taxed at 15%, 28%, or higher since it outpaces all other investments over the long haul. And the prices right now are cheap!

FWIW, I’d replace capital gains with the eventual elimination of corporate taxes. Business doesn’t exist for the fun of profit but to distribute same to the shareholders, which will become a taxable event. If all states were aware of this, Delaware would have to close out a few Mailboxes, etc. Likewise at the national level, countries like Ireland, with lower corporate tax rates are much more attractive than the US today.

By the way, I will personally pay more taxes under Obama than under McCain, so I’m not voting out of greed here. I do believe it patriotic that we all feel a burden when we fight wars, and don’t put the entire burden unto the soldiers and their families. And since Ron and W both managed to increase military spending while blindly following the Laffer curve / supply side theory, we're left with a $10 a trillion debt. It is unconscionable that we would consider leaving this to our children by cutting taxes again, especially in a regressive manner.

Posted by: TaxFairness | October 21, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Good point, TaxFairness: even some who make LESS THAN $250,000 will pay more taxes under Obama than under McCain. Hopefully, McCain can find rock-solid citizens (ready for personal attacks from the left) to put a face on the issue.

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

This "Joe the Plumber" is an unlicensed plumber taking jobs away from the hard working people who play by the rules, follow the law and take the time to get the license - he is one level above an illegal immigrant.

The guy hasn't even paid all of his taxes.

He IS the type of guy who leeches off of the system - he has no room to talk.

Posted by: Rob | October 21, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

JakeD: If you re-read I never wrote anything from which you could logically conclude that Obama would tax households with income less than $250k. I only said that *my* taxes would go up but that I'm voting for Obama anyway.

Why? Though neither candidate's tax policy is ideal, most economists have concluded that Obama's will do better to move away from deficit budgets. I also believe Obama's to be more fair since it's flat to progressive, rather than regressive. Regressive we've toyed with unsuccessfully under two administrations now, specically Reagan's and W's, and McCain's tax policy is trying it a 3rd time.

Posted by: TaxFairness | October 21, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

CNN Fact Check this question...

The Verdict:
True. Obama is promising tax credits to 95 percent of American workers to offset payroll taxes. The credits would be funded in part by tax hikes on individuals making $200,000 or families making $250,000.

Posted by: ProSmallerGov | October 21, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Is it true that Obama's mother gave up her US citizenship when she married the Muslim from Kenya? And, will Obama take the oath of office on a Quran (IF he's elected!), as he did when sworn i as a senator? If so, how can he claim to be a Christian and a natural-born citizen of the US? Please respond.

Posted by: lynh2o | October 21, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Sequence of events:
1. Misinformed McCain supporter confronts Obama, Obama engages
2. McCain makes this person centerpiece and foundation of debate and the remainder of his campaign
3. Person enjoys spotlight, outspoken and candid in multiple interviews
4. News media immediately discover every aspect of person's story, trumpeted by McCain campaign, is comically inaccurate
5. People generally feel a little sorry for the poor sucker being held up as a human shield by the McCain campaign
5a. Person a little less candid and outspoken in multiple interviews and appearances on right wing news outlets
6. McCain campaign, right wing noise machine and JakeD whine about "personal attacks from the left"

To answer your question, Jake, your candidate, and your, complaining of personal attacks on Joe the Plumber does not constitute evidence they exist. If you are referring to reporting that McCain's claimed Obama tax increase on Joe the Plumber is neither an increase nor on a plumber, we'll just have to disagree on the meanings of "personal" and "attack".
Of course, you knew all this and you pretend otherwise to enable your perverse obsession with trying to annoy those you disagree with politically, but hey, different strokes, right?

Posted by: zukermand | October 21, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it. If Senator McCain pulls an upset and wins the Presidency, his friend, Joe the Plumber, will be dropped like a hot potato. Then his true friends will appear at a gala in Washington: James the Manufacturer, Charles the Banker, Robert the Industrialist, Alan the Real Estate giant, Christopher the Corporation President, Richard the Oil Tycoon and Philippe the Telecommunications Giant.

Posted by: wmonaghan | October 21, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"Joe the Plumber" was a Republican ploy/plan that fell far short of the expectations of the McCain campaign another erratic choice as was his choice of running mate Sarah Palin. How can one man get it so wrong? By the way "Joe the Plumber" that is Mr. Wurzelbacher has been in the news recently, he is a tax evader and owes the taxman a considerable amount of money. They should have stuck with "Joe Sixpack"

Some very good points in your comment wmonaghan and so true.

Posted by: Argylle | October 21, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

McCain is just using Joe the Plumber as a way to connect himself to the working middle class. He should of checked out Joe the Plumber before he decided to use his name. But he had no other ammunition. Terrorist. Doesn't work. Ayers, doesn't work. Rev Wright- old news. People who follow McCain and Palin identify with who this man represents and the smokescreen that they put up about it. The truth is most Americans will benefit from Obama's plan. While for McCains plan- The wealthy like they have been will continue to benefit the most. That is what they don't see. So under Obama's plan, they pay 250.00 big deal. It is time the playing field for the middle class and the poor. The Wealthy and cooperations have had a President and up until 2006 a Congress that was for them. Not is is our turn.
Obama/Biden 2008.

Posted by: bjlopez1130 | October 21, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Joe the Plummer has nothing to do with this election, the media brought him into it. As for McCain dropping him like a hot potato if he wins the Presidency, well then what do you think Obama will do with all those promises he continues to make to us so called "middle-class" Americans. You watch Obama supporters, he will do much more harm then good for this country because he has no back bone to support the role of being our President and it will take longer then four years to clean up this mess we are in. Obama is a great speaker of words, but I fear he is not a person of action. He will be afraid to make decisions because he wants everyone to believe he is the chosen one.

Posted by: James | October 21, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Does McCain have something against people who make less than $50,000/yr. for a family of 4? There are some hard working heads of households in this America, who may not make much money, but they are honest, decent, respectable people. There are far more of these Americans living in this Country today. You could even say that if they didn't drink budweiser, Cindy's company might go out of business.

Posted by: pat | October 21, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

lynh2o | October 21, 2008 12:59 wrote:

"Is it true that Obama's mother gave up her US citizenship when she married the Muslim from Kenya? And, will Obama take the oath of office on a Quran (IF he's elected!), as he did when sworn i as a senator? If so, how can he claim to be a Christian and a natural-born citizen of the US? Please respond."

Dear lynh20:

If a person is born on US soil, even to non-citizen parents, that person is automatically an American citizen, period. I don't know if Senator Obama's mother gave up her citizenship, but either way your question, along with your pathetic attempt at maligning the Senator, are irrelevant.

With respect to taking the oath of office on the Koran (which I do not believe is true), I have a question for YOU: so what? Last I checked, we here in America are free to practice the religion of our choice, or none at all if we so choose.

You know, the Constitution is available as a very short, inexpensive little booklet, and maybe even FREE on the internet. You really ought to try and read it some time...

Posted by: UcantFixStupid | October 21, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Aside from the main stream media and ordinary liberals on here to try and run average Joe out of the country. (a party for the average person?? right!) It seems to me the democrats are only wanting their party to get elected, no matter what is at stake! Security for our country? (remember Chamberlian WWII) Harassing the average person asking a simple question? (Nazi Germany)Distributing other peoples income for the poor? (Communist Russia) Listening to Anti-American retroric from a close mentor? (Al Queda).....Wow all of these seem to point to one man! Think who your voting for before you cast that ballot!!!

Posted by: Eric | October 21, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

UcantFixStupid (I agree):

I believe the Koran episode is misattributed -- some other Congressman who is openly Muslim was sworn in on that -- I don't have a problem with freedom of religion. It's whether Obama is LYING about his religion that would be the issue.

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know the definition of "small business"?

Whatever "small business" means, anyone who owns a business that clears over $250,000 after expenses is obviously VERY well off and shouldn't mind paying their FAIR SHARE of the tax burden. Remember, George W. LOWERED taxes for that same UPPER INCOME bracket, placing an unfair tax burden on the middle class.

That policy resulted in stifling growth - ESPECIALLY "small business" growth - at the middle class level, where historically we've had the greatest potential for growth and JOB CREATION.

Our country followed the classic "top down" philosophy for the last 8 years, and we're in a mess. It doesn't work. It hasn't created jobs. It's LOST jobs - millions of jobs. Philosphies that don't work should be discarded. Nothing to be angry or defensive about. It's just a fact, and it's OK, as long as we're willing to learn from it.

There's at least one disconnect in the "trickle down" theory of wealthier businesses getting the most tax breaks so they can create more jobs. Here's the disconnect: When the wealthier businesses relocate in foreign countries, the jobs go to THOSE countries - not THIS country.

Funny thing about Joe the Plumber. Joe doesn't make $250,000 a year, and the business he says he wants to buy doesn't make $250,000 a year. Yet he complains about Obama's tax plan under which he AND the business would pay less taxes than under McCain's tax plan.

I get it though. Joe doesn't think he should pay any taxes at all or have a license for anything or pay fines for any tickets, etc. Maybe he's a Libertarian, or possibly even an anarchist.

That's OK if that's what he's into. He may have to go to jail for it, but if that's what he believes, go Joe.

But as a DEMOCRACY, our country has created laws by which the majority of us has agreed to abide. That includes whatever tax laws we happen to have.

I'm a (VERY) small business owner. I pay my taxes; so I carry my share of the burden for our infrastructure, our hospitals, our national parks, our schools, etc. - all of which Joe the Plumber has most likely benefited from, though apparently he doesn't think he should have to pay for them. (Could that make Joe some kind of welfare recipient or maybe just a freeloader?).

My taxes have even helped pay for this unjust war in Iraq, because that's what the majority of our citizens voted for. I don't believe in this war, but I do believe in democracy, even when the vote doesn't go my way. In my view DEMOCRACY is the important philosophy.

It's now time for a new direction for our country.

And if Obama is elected, maybe I'll be able to hire some workers HERE in the US, since - like MOST small businesses - I certainly won't be sending my small business to another country (It's a farm. It's not going anywhere)!

Please help elect BARACK OBAMA!

Posted by: Alice | October 21, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Barrack Hussein Obama is and was born a Muslim so I feel he completely lies to us when he says he is a christain. It's all about covering up his past so he can become our first Muslim President and screw all of us infidels. Just wait and see people and I know if we are attacked again by a Muslim state he will rather talk to them and give them the benifit of doubt. You will NEVER see a christain running for any type of office in the Middle East so I feel we should never have a Muslim run our country.

Posted by: Jacko | October 21, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Look, guys, the Small Business Administration defines "Plumber / HVAC" as SMALL BUSINESS at $14 million and lower. The issue is not this individual Joe. ANY plumber who makes between $250,000 and $14 million will be taxed more by Obama. While $250 may not seem like a lot to elitists, it adds up. At last count, Obama expects to tax BILLIONS this way. Can our economy withstand that?

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 11:49 AM

Jake - even you can't be serious. $250 per year tax increase to someone making 22,000 per MONTH. I am crying crocodile tears for poor Joe the Plumber! And how many "plumbers" are making up to 14 million per year - profit?! Give me a break with your pseudo-populism.

Posted by: NM Moderate | October 21, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Alice and NM Moderate:

As I said, the SBA defines "Plumbing / HVAC" small business as $14 million (I believe that's gross, not net) and less -- I don't know how many such "small businesses" there are, but that's not the issue -- Obama must think there are plenty of RICH FOLKS in that category to make it worth his while increasing their taxes. $225 to one business doesn't sound like much, I already granted that much. The CUMULATIVE impact, however, is going to send a stalling economy into a tailspin.

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Joe is being used as a symbol ( which I suspect was far more attention than the real Joe ever imagined )...

If the symbol of Joe can be used by the McCain campaign, it can be used, supported, or criticized by any other campaign.

If McCain didn't want to make Joe a target for political commentary, he needed to keep Joe out of it.

Posted by: wolf | October 21, 2008 7:18 PM | Report abuse

i think both parties should shut up. theres plenty of people who are on welfare and drive a mercades and go to europe every year. not everyone needs a tax cut off. they just need to follow theses people who rip off the government and stop giveing them maoney to be lazy at home or do underground work for extra cash. these are all false promises that are gonna send america down for the greed of money. just look at hilary she got money from people for her campain and said she didnt recive it where did it go in her pocket if course. everyone and evrything is a conspericy.

Posted by: unknown | October 21, 2008 8:00 PM | Report abuse

After listening to all 3 debates and both candidates for months, I have only heard McCain say "Obama's plan to cut taxes by 95%", not income taxes. Once the Bush tax credits expire next year, our income taxes will be higher under Obama's plan.

Posted by: Kodi | October 21, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

I love the comment that Joe the plumber was a fake. You see, I`m from the "battleground" state of North Carolina. I suppose then that Senator No (Jesse Helms) fought for a lot of fakes down here. When he kept taxes down, tobacco subsidies in place, military bases open, national defense strong instead of pulling out troops in the face of the enemy or cutting off their funds, refused to go along with wasteful and frivolous spending by government, all for what. A ploy? Or was it something else? Was it, perhaps, good government run more efficiently. He knew how to be respected in the world, learned not to place importance in polls and popularity contests, yet he was one of the most successful Senators ever to work in Washington. My one regret is his health got in the way of a good fight against Pelosi and Obama. I can tell you one thing he would never approve of. He would never stand for socialism to rear its ugly head in America, no matter how long he had to filibuster. Yet Obama`s health plan is just that. Social Security is already broke. How will his health plan be paid for without higher taxes? Spreading of the wealth indeed...spread to the open arms of government. Jesse, we need you again.

Posted by: jtruitt8 | October 21, 2008 11:45 PM | Report abuse

OK, I’m sold by the McCain spin on this issue and hence reversing my position. Let’s eliminate the socialist practice of wealth redistribution. Each citizen should pay the same amount of tax, irrespective of their income, so if we simply divide the annual federal budget by the number of US citizens…

~$3 trillion / 300 million = $10k per citizen per year

For a family of 4, at any income level, they will pay $40k per year.

This sounds great to me as I paid a lot more than that last year and I’m just one person.

Issue solved and I can go buy a Mercedes in cash.

p.s. Obviously I’m being sarcastic. My point is that our tax system today is already doing wealth redistribution. Both candidates’ tax plans continue that practice. So let’s drop the rhetoric and figure out who has the better tax policy. I’ve concluded Obama’s is hands down a more logical approach, and support it, even knowing I'll pay a tad more than I do today.

Posted by: TaxFairness | October 22, 2008 12:36 AM | Report abuse

His real name isn't even Joe, It's Sam !
I bet all of you Obama basher's were saying the same krap about Clinton before he was elected too. Didn't turn-out as bad as you said eh! It's okay for your party to promote corporate welfare and you don't care, but when it comes time to help the everyday guy, you whine.
What's up with that ?

Posted by: jime | October 22, 2008 1:29 AM | Report abuse

There's no need to personally attack Joe the plumber, but don't we care about the truth?

Joe aspires to own a business that makes up to 280,000 a year. Good for him.

98% of small businesses make less than $250,000 a year. So if Joe joins that 2% elite, he'll pay 3% more on the taxable income above 250,000. To portray the top 2% as the average small business income is false.

Check it out on Politifact.

Posted by: middleclassmom | October 22, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

This campaign has amazed me at the twists and turns it has taken. When Hillary was running against Obama, she found the worst of the worst in him, now she supports him, has he changed? Why would McCain choose a woman, that for all intent, has displayed her "hometown" verbage and clearly knows nothing about the issues at hand. McCain professes that he is "ready" to lead, has he been president of the USA prior? His "maverick" label was dubbed him because he did not follow the rules in the service. McCain has slandered Obama but nothing has been said about his first wife, his adultery and why aren't his sons supporting him in this election? For the past twenty years each campaign has ran on the issues of energy, health care, economy, foreign affairs and guess what..they are still unsolved issues. My question is, if the government is actually FOR THE PEOPLE, why haven't WE done something before to change what has happened. If we believe that our government is truly OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE (Gettyberg Address) why do lobbyists has such an impact on how our government is run? We have so much greed, corruption and deceit in our government, I am not sure who or what to believe. Neither of our candidates have been President prior, neither of our candidates have made executive decisions and one must read what a president's role: to understand what they can and can not do. If the government is the smartest of smart and the best of the best, why are, We the people,and our great nation in the state we are in???

Posted by: Luckylady8088 | October 22, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: Debra | October 22, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

First of all as has been noted:




Posted by: Chris | October 22, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse


You are the only one. Democrats for the FIRST TIME in ages, have a fantastic bid for the White House and if you don't plan to vote for Obama, that's too bad for you.
But it isn't going to matter because with or without you, the Democratic Party is back to reclaim the White House, the Senate and the House and it is going to equate with a fantastic NEW direction. We will be DONE with the wasteful spending on a foolish war that is of NO BENEFIT to America, we will be DONE with the repressive policies that have sucked the LIFE BLOOD from the AVERAGE AMERICAN CITIZEN. America will be restored to AMERICANS- this is ONE McElection that even 400,000 bucks worth of LIPSTICK for their McPIGALIN, won't help. America is poised for change and believes in the message that OBAMA has effectively delivered.

Posted by: Chris | October 22, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Jacko wrote: "Barrack Hussein Obama is and was born a Muslim so I feel he completely lies to us when he says he is a christain. It's all about covering up his past so he can become our first Muslim President and screw all of us infidels. Just wait and see people and I know if we are attacked again by a Muslim state he will rather talk to them and give them the benifit of doubt. You will NEVER see a christain running for any type of office in the Middle East so I feel we should never have a Muslim run our country."

This idea that babies inherit religion from their parents is interestingly insane. How precisely does one indoctrinate a baby in the womb into Islam or any other religion? Please explain to me how it's even possible for an infant who can neither talk nor understand speech to be a believer of any religion. Are we to take it that you believe God himself appeared to Obama in the womb, explained to Islam to him and secured his agreement to believe in its tenets?

Even supposing we accept this doctrine of babies miraculously being members of any particular religion or religious at all when born, how would that make it impossible for them to convert to some other religion later in life?

Lastly, Christians running for elected office may be rare in the Middle East but not unknown - there are plenty of Christian officeholders in Lebanon. Please either get your facts straight or shut up about your areas of ignorance.

Posted by: jontorrance | October 23, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: hclark1 | October 26, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Dobbs, for your timely clarification of a very important campaign issue.

The McCain campaign owes Sam the unlicensed plumber aka Joe an apology for exploiting him and exposing his gullibility to ridicule.

The whole episode stinks of fat-cat Republicanism and its manipulation of the middle class.

Posted by: jhbyer | October 26, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

LYNH20: NOoooo, Obama's mother did NOT give up her America citizenship, according to her death certificate.

As a matter of fact, she never even set foot in Kenya, not even to visit, so why would she become its citizen? She divorced Obama Sr. long before he returned to Keny.

I'd say "nice try", but there's nothing nice about such a dishonest tactic.

Posted by: jhbyer | October 26, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

If you actually buy the old custom that religion is inherited, you ought to know that the custom decrees it's inherited strictly through the MOTHER.

Therefore if you think Senator Obama inherited his religion, his maternal line is entirely Christian ergo he's Christian.

His mother, who was a follower of no organized religion, was christened as an infant in a protestant church. Case closed.

Posted by: jhbyer | October 26, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

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