Joe the Plumber

You might not be aware that I moderated the final debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. Bob Schieffer of CBS News handled the job on TV, but in my living room things went more like this:

MCCAIN: Senator Obama was out in Ohio and he had an encounter with a guy who's a plumber, his name is Joe Wurzelbacher. Joe wants to buy the business that he has been in for all of these years. He looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes.

OBAMA: Let me tell you what I'm actually going to do. If you make less than a quarter million dollars a year, then you will not see your income tax go up, your capital gains tax go up, your payroll tax. Not one dime.

LUNDGREN: So, if Joe the Plumber buys the business and his annual profits are over $250,000, then his taxes would go up under the Obama plan, otherwise they wouldn't. That seems simple enough to understand.

OBAMA: Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks.

LUNDGREN: Joe the Plumber must be part of that 98 percent, because if he makes a quarter mil from a year of plumbing ... well, that would be kind of incredible.

MCCAIN: When Senator Obama ended up his conversation with Joe the Plumber, he said, "We need to spread the wealth around." In other words, we're going to take Joe's money, give it to Senator Obama, and let him spread the wealth around.

LUNDGREN: Well, yeah. That's how it works. Citizens pay taxes, and whether it's Barack Obama or John McCain, someone in the government will decide how to spread it around.

MCCAIN: I want Joe the Plumber to spread that wealth around.

LUNDGREN: We've already established that Senator Obama is not going to raise Joe the Plumber's taxes. He said he's going to lower them.

MCCAIN: The whole premise behind Senator Obama's plans are class warfare -- let's spread the wealth around.

LUNDGREN: It seems like you want to say Senator Obama would take from the rich to help the poor and middle class, but you don't think making that statement would help you politically. I've got to hand it to you, though. Putting the name of a plumber on the rich, even if it doesn't make sense, seems to be working for you.

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul @ geekprom.com.