Wash. Post uncritically reported McCain's attack on Obama for "wanting to raise taxes" on Americans like Joe the Plumber

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

The Washington Post reported that Sen. John McCain "railed against [Sen. Barack] Obama for wanting to raise taxes" and uncritically quoted McCain's attack that Obama would raise taxes on Americans like "Joe the Plumber," a reference to Sam Joe Wurzelbacher. However, the Post did not point out that, according to Wurzelbacher himself, he would not be subject to a tax increase under Obama's proposal. Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families and raising taxes only on households earning more that $250,000 per year.

In an October 17 Washington Post article, staff writers Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray reported that at a campaign rally in Philadelphia, Sen. John McCain "railed against [Sen. Barack] Obama for wanting to raise taxes." Balz and Murray also uncritically quoted McCain saying of the October 15 presidential debate: "The real winner last night was Joe the Plumber [Sam Joe Wurzelbacher]. Joe's the man. He won, and small businesses won across America. ... The American people are not going to let Senator Obama raise their taxes." But Balz and Murray did not point out that Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families and raising taxes only on households earning more that $250,000 per year. Nor did they note that, according to what he recently told ABC News' Diane Sawyer, Wurzelbacher does not make $250,000 or more and therefore would not be subject to a tax increase under Obama's tax proposal. Balz and Murray also did not mention that Wurzelbacher also reportedly said he would not make more than $250,000 if he bought the business he has expressed interest in purchasing.

On the October 16 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Sawyer asked Wurzelbacher: "[Y]ou're not taking home $250,000 now, am I right?" Wurzelbacher replied: "No. No, not even close." Sawyer then asked: "And you were you asking about the prospect, the hope, that someday you would make $250,000, and you were saying you didn't want that to be taxed?" Wurzelbacher responded: "Well, exactly. Exactly." Additionally, in an October 16 post on his blog, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper wrote that according to ABC News' Chris Bury, Wurzelbacher "acknowledged that he wants to purchase the plumbing business for $250-280,000, not that he would net that much in profits. He would make much less, he said."

Further, during an October 15 webcast, CBS Evening News host Katie Couric asked Wurzelbacher: "Well, [Obama] supposedly will raise taxes only on people who make over $250,000 a year. Would you be in that category?" Wurzelbacher responded: "Not right now at presently, but, you know, question -- so he's going to do that now for people who make $250,000 a year. When's he going to decide that $100,000 is too much? I mean, you know, you're on a slippery slope here. You vote on somebody who decides that $250,000 and you're rich? And $100,000 and you're rich? I mean, where does it end? You know, that's -- people got to ask that question."

Moreover, an October 16 MSNBC.com article reported that if Wurzelbacher buys the company for which he currently works, as he has said he hopes to do, "Obama's tax plan wouldn't affect him" because "Ohio business records show the company's estimated total annual revenue as only $100,000. Actual taxable income would be even less than that." From the article:

Wurzelbacher also acknowledged that he had no specific plans for buying Newell's business, saying he and Newell had simply talked about the idea from time to time. He might have difficulty making the purchase: Court records from his divorce show that Wurzelbacher made $40,000 in 2006.

Even if he did buy Newell Plumbing and Heating, Obama's tax plan wouldn't affect him. While Wurzelbacher told Obama that he would be taxed at a higher rate because the company grossed more than $250,000 a year, Ohio business records show the company's estimated total annual revenue as only $100,000. Actual taxable income would be even less than that.

In any event, Obama's tax plan specifies that the higher rate would apply only to income above the $250,000 threshold. Assuming Wurzelbacher's income as owner somehow hit $280,000 -- the top end of his supposition of the company's revenue -- only the extra $30,000 would be taxed at a higher rate.

From Balz and Murray's October 17 article:

McCain took his debate performance to the Philadelphia suburbs, where he talked about "Joe," the Ohio plumber who became the focal point of Thursday's debate. McCain railed against Obama for wanting to raise taxes, a mistake that he said would plunge the country from recession to depression.

"I thought I did pretty well," McCain said. "The real winner last night was Joe the Plumber. Joe's the man. He won, and small businesses won across America. ... The American people are not going to let Senator Obama raise their taxes."

[McCain senior adviser Steve] Schmidt said that Obama's comments to the Ohio plumber last week, in which the senator from Illinois said he wants to spread the wealth to more Americans, were "anathema" to the American people and set up a sharp contrast for the last weeks of campaigning. "Obama has every potential to tax and spend the country into a depression, and we will focus acutely on that," Schmidt said.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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