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Misleading Joe the Plumber ad
and other inaccurate tax claims

Joe the Plumber has become a campaign touchstone, evoking a lot of passion from both sides.

After I spent a day blogging about Joe's various tax connections (here, here and here), I got mail from folks who, for the most part, said "Get real, Joe!" or "Leave Joe alone!"

I know that I promised to let the 15-minute fame clock run out on Joe, but Joe himself keeps giving TV interviews.

And now John McCain has decided Joe's famous/infamous man on the street exchange with Barack Obama is worth inclusion in a television ad. 

The problem, says FactCheck.org, is that McCain's ad slamming Obama's tax plan is not quite correct.

In pointing out the ad's errors, the nonpartisan organization says, in its analysis summary, that:

  • The ad characterizes Obama's proposed refundable tax credits as "welfare." But McCain himself proposes refundable tax credits, too, as part of his health care plan, and calls them "reform."

  • The ad also says "hard-working families" and "seniors" would pay higher taxes. But -- need we say this again? -- that would be true only for the affluent few, not for the many.

The full critique raises more issues about the ad.

And thanks to TaxProf for the tip.

Enough tax exaggeration blame to go around: While McCain's ad might be the latest in misleading tax claims, the Tax Foundation says both candidates are guilty of cherry picking provisions to appeal to their respective and potential supporters.

After each debate, the nonpartisan educational organization looked at the tax issues discussed and claims made by both Obama and McCain.

The Oct. 15 face-off was not quite as bad as the previous two debates in terms of abuse of the facts on tax issues, says Gerald Prante, senior economist for the group.

However, he notes that both candidates continued to make many of the same dishonest and misleading statements they made in the previous debates. That trend has continued on the campaign trail. 

"And given that these falsehoods have been debunked countless times not only here but by other organizations like CNN, CQ, and Factcheck.org, the fact that they continue to spout them suggests that they don't really care about the truth and would rather just say what sounds good in front of a camera," adds Prante.

Below are the Tax Foundation's analyses of the mistaken and/or misleading tax statements of the candidates during the debates:

You'll find similar analysis from the Tax Foundation of the Joe Biden-Sarah Palin vice presidential debate.

You also might want to look directly at the candidates' tax plans -- Obama's here; McCain's here -- without the editing of campaign commercial makers.

You've got two weeks to make an informed decision as to which man will provide you and the country with the better tax and economic results. Good luck to us all!

And to borrow Prante's question following the last debate, is it Nov. 5 yet?


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As I pointed out in the TaxProf comments, the ad doesn't actually make the first characterization. It quotes a news source doing so. So FactCheck could have said something like "John McCain's ads apparently agree with someone who compared Barack Obama's tax credits to 'Welfare', even though John McCain characterizes his different tax cuts as 'reform'". I think it's at least as important as the fact that Joe -- who didn't claim to be licensed, or to make $250,00 -- is merely working for a licensed plumber (as is required by the rules in his state) and hoping to buy a business (as he said in the original video).


Attacking the character of Joe the Plumber is about as weak as it gets. The only thing relevant about this guy is the answer his question elicited from Mr. Obama:

"we need to spread the wealth around."

Why isn't the media focusing on that rather than whether or not Sam Wurzelbacher owes back taxes?

I think I know the answer.

By the way, go here to read about some tax liens we should be talking about.

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