In Defense of Plumberpalooza

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Steve Benen is shocked, shocked, that John McCain is hitting Florida with a "Joe the Plumber bus tour."

McCain is exploiting Wurzelbacher for no reason. Under Obama's tax policy, Wurzelbacher would get a tax cut, not a tax increase. Indeed, I don't know the details of Wurzelbacher's finances, but there's reason to believe he'd end up far better off under Obama's tax plan than McCain's.

But Wurzelbacher wasn't asking Obama about what his tax plans would do right now. It was a hypothetical.

I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes about $270-280,000 a year. Your new tax plan's going to tax me more, isn't it?… If I buy another truck and build the company, I'm getting taxed more.

Obama explained to Wurzelbacher, correctly, that now he'd get a tax cut, and if he'd pushed his plan through when Wurzelbacher was making less money than Wurzelbacher would have taken home even more. Obama tried to talk about what Wurzelbacher makes now; Wurzelbacher said Obama would punish him if he "fulfilled the American dream." It's completely fair for McCain to attack Obama's taxes on small businesses (although you can make the case that Obama will save them on health care costs).

The problem with the bus tour is that somewhere along the line McCain lost his grip on the economic argument and turned Joe's story into "honest man versus mainstream media."

Now, Joe didn't ask for Senator Obama to come to his house, and he didn't ask to be famous. And he certainly didn't ask for the political attacks on him from the Obama campaign.

Who cares? No one's lost a dime over Wurzlebacher's bruised feelings. They will lose money if they try to start a small business under Obama. That's the attack! And, typically, McCain is whiffing it because it's easier for him to fight about "honor" than about economics. The whole campaign is running on the Drudge Report—whatever leads there is the attack of the day. It's made it tougher for them to find a winning message.

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  1. This is the fundamental problem with McCain. He’s an idiot. His Campaign Finance Reform was all about fairness in American elections, but he couldn’t be bothered with worrying about the actual details and subsequent consequences.

  2. Bet you wish you’d voted for Ron Paul now bitches!

  3. Wurzelbacher and anyone else earning less than 250k won’t be taxed under Obama’s campaign promises, they will be taxed under whatever legislation passes the House and Senate then receives Obama’s signature.there is no guarantee
    that taxes won’t be higher in an Obama administration.Is there a “plan” to continue Bush’s tax cuts for those earning less than 250k?

  4. Good!

    As bad as Obama will be, as bad a hash he will make of the conomy, McCain would be worse. The taxes Obama needs to execute his fantasies are less than the taxes McCain needs to conquer the world. With Obama, you get Keynesian economics coupled with social activism. With McCain you get Keynesian economics coupled with social activism and more war.

    If Obama is a kick in the crotch, McCain is a kick in the crotch and Captain Kirk double-handed karate chop to the back of the neck.

  5. Bet you wish you’d voted for Ron Paul now bitches!

    I don’t live in a state that has the luxury of having a say in who I get to vote for in the general.

  6. and he didn’t ask to be famous.

    Then why are you making him the centerpiece of your campaign message for the last three weeks of a presidential campaign?

    Because you want to protect his privacy?

    You mentioned him 21 times in the last presidential debate. You and your running mate mention him dozens of times a day in your stump speeches and interviews. You are organizing a “Joe the Plumber Tour.”

    And you’re sniffing, “He didn’t ask to be famous?”

  7. Bet you wish you’d voted for Ron Paul now bitches!

    I’m actually sort of wishing the sub-prime collapse happened eight months ago, instead of now.

    Paul would’ve had a great deal more traction.

  8. Joe the Planner,

    They tried to protect his privacy by not mentioning his last name.

  9. tarran,

    Under the rules of this campaign (such as Obama’s tax plan) you have to show where McCain has a “plan” to conquer the world.If it is not in his campaign plan it is indisputable fact that it won’t happen.

  10. “It’s completely fair for McCain to attack Obama’s taxes on small businesses”

    Really? What are the specifics? How does it affect a sole proprietorship, an LLC, or S-corp, etc?

  11. lmnop, you’re assuming GOP voters would then be looking for someone with a sensible view of the crisis. They’d more likely be looking for someone promising to take care of them. If anything, it would have helped Huckabee, not Paul.

    BTW, Huckabee, not Palin is the ’12 GOP fruntrunner. More joy is in store for us.

  12. joe,
    Are you saying that McCain runs a terrible campaign (regardless of his policies)? This is breaking news, but I’m not sure you’ll be able to sell the idea with his seemingly insurmountable lead in the polls.

  13. cunnivore —

    No, I was thinking more along the lines of

    “I told you this was going to happen. I’ve been saying it since 1999, at least. Why don’t you listen to the guy who properly predicted this mess?”

    That is a sell that could have earned him a second look from anyone.

  14. cunnivore,

    I’m kind of hoping Huckabee gets bodily assumed into Heaven. Good enough for Enoch is good enough for Mike.

  15. Paul would’ve had a great deal more traction.

    He would have found some way to catastrophically fuck it up. He’s even worse than the Democrats in that regard.

  16. They tried to protect his privacy by not mentioning his last name.

    Ha! No, just his hometown, his address, his profession, and ran the footage showing what he looks like over and over.

  17. Obama wouldn’t raise Joe’s taxes at his current income level – what Obama’s plan will do is to help keep Joe and others like him AT his current income level. Because what you want to avoid in Obama land is having a target painted on your forehead. You want to do everything you can to prevent becoming one of hte ‘rich’, and therefore a source of revenue to be tapped, rather than a member of the great unwashed to be ‘helped’. That’s the whole problem.

    How many of you realize that under an Obama administration, assuming he gets everything he’s campaigning for, the U.S. will shift substantially to the left of CANADA?

    In particular, you will have:

    – Higher marginal tax rates
    – Higher corporate taxes
    – Higher dividend taxes
    – Higher capital gains taxes.
    – Higher overall taxes
    – A much more progressive tax system overall (no cap on Social security taxes, refundable tax credits for the poor, higher marginal rates for the rich).

    The employee Free Choice Act will also put U.S. labor policy slightly to the left of Canada’s. Until now, you’ve always had an advantage in that our work force is more unionized and more rigidly controlled by those unions. But the Democrats are setting the stage for a massive increase in union roles, and for a massive increase in union power, protected by the state.

    All this adds up to a serious competitive disadvantage against your largest trading partner. As a Canadian, I would be ecstatic about this turn of events, seeing as we’ve always had the short end of the competitiveness stick. But I’m afraid that once you start losing jobs and investment to Canada and other countries at an ever-increasing rate, the next step after that will be protectionism. Then we all lose.

  18. Isn’t constantly refering to him as “Joe the Plumber” sort of condescending? The man has a name.

    It’s the elistist rich guy version of calling someone “My black friend Tony.”

    Did I tell you I’ve got a friend who’s black? I do!

  19. God, this sucks. I hate politicians and their media ass-lickers.

    In two weeks the election will be over, but the analysis cretinous yammering will continue unabated.

    It makes me want to shoot somebody’s dog.

  20. Did I tell you I’ve got a friend who’s black? I do!

    But is he a plumber?

  21. Wurzelbacher said Obama would punish him if he “fulfilled the American dream.”

    Horseshit. Tax rates are marginal for a reason.

  22. “I’m actually sort of wishing the sub-prime collapse happened eight months ago, instead of now.

    Paul would’ve had a great deal more traction.”

    I am not so sure he would have. Most people don’t have the reasoning skills to follow an argument, and those who do if they have any influence on national opinion don’t want them to. Just how this Plumber thing is being spun that Joe will get his tax cut now, when that wasn’t the question, the whole subprime thing would have been phrased as it currently is, that “deregulation” caused the crisis. I mean Americans just watched our lawmakers buy up crummy securities at above market value prices on our behalf, what makes anyone think they are intelligent enough to get anything. Ron is old, McCain is old, Obama is young and all the people on TV smile when they talk about him, McCain gets sneers and Ron gets laughed at or is asked some question about the civil war. If all it took was one situp a day for six pack abs we would still have an obesity problem, if it took googling an issue a day (or even once a week) to solve the problem of political ignorance…..(well you know where this is going)

  23. Burn this heretic at the stake!

    In his testimony Greenspan did make one significant shift, admitting that more regulation is now needed in financial markets, an abrupt reversal from his years as Fed chairman advocating a lighter regulatory approach.

    “There are additional regulatory changes that this breakdown of the central pillar of competitive markets requires in order to return to stability, particularly in the areas of fraud, settlement, and securitization,” Greenspan said.

    Hail Market,
    Full of grace,
    Prosperity is with thee.
    Blessed art thou among systems,
    and blessed is the fruit
    of thy womb, Capital.
    Holy Market,
    Mother of Goods,
    pray for us consumers now,
    and at the hour of our bankruptcy.
    Amen.

  24. Whether its true or not, Im going to argue that Paul could have beaten Obama in the general for the rest of my life (or until all the GOPers I know are dead).

  25. Steven Horwitz has an interesting piece in the Christian Science Monitor about that “Deregulation Done It!” theory.

    Not that anybody cares.

  26. This is a classic example of McCain not being able to stay on-message. There is no shortage of ways that he could be kicking Obama to the curb on the economy (and that’s even despite his own poor record), but he just can’t do it.
    All of McCain’s negative attacks seem to sum up to “Obama sucks.” No specifics. No marginal traits that he has manipulated into negatives. Just that he isn’t ready. Or he hangs out with terrorists. Or something. Look at the losers of the last few presidential campaigns and what a popular representation of them is (not necessarily accurate, but widely-known enough to write a skit about on late-night TV that most people would get):
    Kerry: Indecisive Francophile
    Gore: Robotic liar
    Dole: Newt Gingrich in zombie form

    If McCain miraculously wins, what would Obama be remembered as (not to the GOP base, but to my sister-in-law, who doesn’t give a rip about politics)? Nothing. Because McCain hasn’t been able to successfully frame Obama’s weaknesses. It’s not hard, but he hasn’t done it. Here’s a sample that took me all of 5 minutes to work up:

    Our last Democratic president promised to make middle class tax cuts. It was a staple of his campaign… and then he raised taxes on every. Single. American. Barack Obama promised to take public funding for his campaing. Then he broke his word. Now Obama promises that 95% of America will pay fewer taxes than they do now. Can you really trust Barack Obama with your pocketbook?

    There. I’m not saying it’s great or good or even accurate, but it’s 20x better than anything McCain has tried up to this point. McCain deserves the ass-kicking he’s going to get. No tactics OR strategy out of his camp.

  27. It’s completely fair for McCain to attack Obama’s taxes on small businesses

    If the guy is clearing $250k, I have to wonder what the definition of small business is.

  28. Legate,

    The new NBC/WSJ poll is out. It includes questions about which candidte is preferred on the issues.

    A week before Joe the Plumber, McCain and Obama were even on the issue of who the public prefers on taxes.

    Yesterday, after a couple weeks of the McCain campaign talking about that socialist Obama using the IRS to take money from “people like Joe the Plumber” and use it for “welfare,” Barack Obama had a 14 point lead.

    I think the Obama campaign should take a bunch of those Obama tire gauges, lay them out to spell “Spread the Wealth,” take a picture, and spend 50 million of their remaining dollars sending it out as a nationwide mailer. Bam, three point bump right there.

  29. people do enjoy free things, to be sure.

    free war! free love! free…stuff!

  30. Hail Free Mind,
    Full of grace,
    Intellegence is with thee.
    Blessed art thou among choices,
    and blessed is the fruit
    of thy womb, Progress and Human Improvement.
    Holy Free Mind,
    Mother of Thought,
    pray for us thinkers now,
    and at the hour of our realization that
    many folks are, indeed, idiots.
    (This means you, Lefiti!)
    Amen.

  31. There is no shortage of ways that he could be kicking Obama to the curb on the economy

    Well, he could always try “ZOMG!1!! Obama’s going to raise your income tax to the same level it was under Clinton!” but I doubt it would have much effect.

    In other words, he has to misdirect and/or tell outright lies because the truth for JtP ain’t that big a deal.

  32. joe and rhywun,

    Maybe increased tax burden is a selling point among the American populace. Or maybe it becomes one in times of economic uncertainty.

    All I’m saying is that my fiscally conservative, vote-with-pocketbook parents are saying “six one way, half dozen the the other” about McCain and Obama. Not that I think that McCain actually is much/any better, but he should certainly be trying to sell himself as such if he wants those soft-republican votes. And he won’t do that by changing economic messages every Thursday and alternate Sundays.

    Plus, unrelated to this post, but related to my narrative, he’s getting all of the blowback of being the more negative candidate without the positives of actually getting a negative message to stick. He keeps changing his negative message, too.

    Just a poor outing from the senior Senator from Deserthell. Having said all that, I’m voting Barr and rooting for Obama. It just didn’t have to become the blowout that McCain has allowed.

  33. “If McCain miraculously wins, what would Obama be remembered as (not to the GOP base, but to my sister-in-law, who doesn’t give a rip about politics)? Nothing.”

    That’s true – Obama would be remembered for nothing because he’s accomplished nothing.

    What would be remembered though would be the enormous temper tantrum thrown by the mainstream media and all the other assorted talking heads about the result all being due to “racism”.

    In fact, watching those clowns howl would probably be the most enjoyable thing about a McCain victory.

  34. Weigel is, of course, an idiot.

    The real libertarian issue in this – the one the fakes at Reason don’t understand – is that JTP asked someone a real question and got a minor version of the East Germany treatment. BHO’s surrogates in blogdom and the MSM went as far as trying to drive him out of work. And, while the BHO campaign kept its hands clean, they never once told their surrogates to back down.

    The other issue, of course, is that the only time Reason and Weigel have asked a slightly discomforting question, it was of someone with no power whatsoever (LarrySinclair).

    If anyone wants to do something, send this page to every MSM reporter you can find.

  35. Joe supposedly said:
    I’m getting ready to buy a company that makes about $270-280,000 a year. Your new tax plan’s going to tax me more, isn’t it?… If I buy another truck and build the company, I’m getting taxed more.

    The article indicates that this is an appropriate
    negative to attack Obama on. However, even this
    is wrong, since you are not taxed on the size
    of the company but the net profit. Adding equipment
    and employees and grossing more does
    not necessarily raise you taxes. If you
    perchance to actually increase your net above
    250,000 then you will pay an extra 2%. You’re
    making 250,000 and you’re whining about an extra
    2%! Cry me a river.

  36. Yerbaff

    The point is being faith-based. Evidence is a drag. Peace, brother!

  37. I will make them famous!

    You will know their names!

  38. I am rooting for Obama because he is smarter than McCain, because he is Black (or half black) and because the Republicans are now the biggest A-holes in the American political landscape (and that IS saying a lot). And the best part of my day is opening this blog and reading the libertarians dish it out to a republican candidate like its 1968. I love it.

  39. because he is Black (or half black)

    Racist.

  40. Somewhere you’re missing the point. 98% of small businesses net less than $250k. Chances are Joe the Plumber wouldn’t ever pay higher taxes because chances are his business would never be big enough.

    I think the problem here is people don’t understand the difference between net and gross.

  41. That’s true – Obama would be remembered for nothing because he’s accomplished nothing.

    He sunk Hillary Clinton. That ain’t peanuts.

  42. So far, everything I’ve heard from the McCain campaign and their supporters are reasons why NOT to vote for Obama. McCain hasn’t given us affirmative reasons to vote for him. As the Kerry campaign showed, you can’t win by saying, “At least I’m not that guy.”

  43. OLS:
    I’m anyone! I want to do something!

  44. Clarification: I want to DoSomething.

  45. “He sunk Hillary Clinton. That ain’t peanuts.”

    I was referring to real world accomplishements – not political campaign accomplishements.

  46. I was referring to real world accomplishements.

    I’d call making millions of people froth at the mouth at the mere possibility of getting elected is a “real world accomplishment”. I mean, honestly, could *you* do that?

  47. I was referring to real world accomplishements – not political campaign accomplishements.

    Well, in the debates he did us the favor of showing us what a dottering old fool McCain is.showing us

  48. Joe the Plumber asked a hypothetical, but isn’t the point of bringing up Joe the Plumber to do away with hypothetical situations?

  49. Real world accomplishments?

    You mean like crashing four planes?

  50. The attack on Obama IS unfair ( as I and many rational people point out repeatedly) because Joe’s hypothetical has no basis in reality.

    My American dream was to be a Power Forward in the NBA. I am 6’1, 30 years old, have bad knees, and haven’t played or trained much in 10 years. However I PLAN on securing a starting job in the next 2-3 years. After playing for the minimum, I will garner a maximum contract at over $15 million a year guaranteed for 6 years starting at the age of 36. Mr. Obama, you are going to make me pay more taxes aren’t you? why are you punishing my American Dream.

    I consider my Dream just as likely as Joe The Plumber from Ohio purchasing the 2 man small -time ( so small and under the radar no need to bother with licensing?) plumbing operation from his boss and making a > $250,000 NET profit and/or over a 1/4 mil personal salary ( depending on the business structure).

    Obama also wants to hurt the slobbering guy who mops the floor at McDonalds. You know the guy who talks to himself and walks like Napolean Dynamite while he’s mopping away and sweeps your shoes? Yeah, he’s planning on working his way up to assistant manager, where he will make 22 grand. Then in another 5-6 years he’s going to start his own franchise store. With a couple more he might profit in the mid 6 figures. Why does Obama want to not only punish his success but keep him from even attempting to pursue his American dream?

  51. “I’d call making millions of people froth at the mouth at the mere possibility of getting elected is a “real world accomplishment”.”

    I wouldn’t.

  52. “The attack on Obama IS unfair ( as I and many rational people point out repeatedly) because Joe’s hypothetical has no basis in reality.”

    The issue is Obama’s answer – not who the questioner was.

    It wouldn’t have made any difference if the question had come from Jake the hedge fund manager who made $3 billion last year.

    However much anyone makes, it belongs to them. They are the ones who made it – the government didn’t make it for them.

    Obama remarks about making it “more fair” is essentially a claim that he is a better judge of the value of any activity than the marketplace.

    He isn’t.

  53. How is this answer any different from what Obama said to Joe the Plumber?

    Is the McCain campaign that stupid that they don’t know shit like this is out there befor they embark on their current campaign theme?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kYsF1MerAY

  54. Weigel, you sure are dense.

    Every person with 2 cents can see the MSM and the nutrootz attacking a guy for asking a question.

    ‘How DARE you question the Holy Obama!’

    McCain can play the dry “Obama is bad for business” angle, but he can also hit the “Obama and his ilk hate being questioned and they will tear you apart if you try” homerun.

  55. Here, his accomplishments are listed on wiki.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama

    But I get it. You don’t want Obama to have ANY accomplishments therefore you will deny the few he really has.

    “”””I was referring to real world accomplishements – not political campaign accomplishements.”””

    So your saying McCain hasn’t had a real world accomplishment is about 30 years.

  56. “You mentioned him 21 times in the last presidential debate. You and your running mate mention him dozens of times a day in your stump speeches and interviews. You are organizing a “Joe the Plumber Tour.”

    And you’re sniffing, “He didn’t ask to be famous?” – joe

    Yeah, McCain sees “Joe, the Plumber” as a good theme, even so, how does anyone justify the anal probe the media gave Wurzelbacher?

  57. “So your saying McCain hasn’t had a real world accomplishment is about 30 years.”

    No – I didn’t say a thing about McCain – I was talking about Obama.

  58. “But I get it. You don’t want Obama to have ANY accomplishments therefore you will deny the few he really has.”

    He doesn’t have any accomplishments.

    He’s a liberal.

    Nothing liberals do ever counts as an accomplishment.

  59. “Yeah, McCain sees ‘Joe, the Plumber’ as a good theme, even so, how does anyone justify the anal probe the media gave Wurzelbacher?”

    McCain wanted to put a working class face on a hypothetical. Now he is using that face as the basis for his campaign. You can’t seriously be arguing that the media shouldn’t explore the theme of McCain’s campaign. Is that off limits now, like an extemporaneous Sarah Palin interview?

  60. Yeah, McCain sees “Joe, the Plumber” as a good theme, even so, how does anyone justify the anal probe the media gave Wurzelbacher?

    How do you justify the anal probe the media gave Britney Spears or Alec Baldwin or Richard Hatch? That’s what the media does to celebrities, especially flavor-of-the-month celebrities.

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