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Profile: Joe Wurzelbacher

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The meeting between Joe the plumber and Barack Obama

Joe Wurzelbacher shot to national prominence in the US presidential debate on Wednesday.

Mr Wurzelbacher was seized on by Republican Senator John McCain as a real-life Joe Six-pack, an ordinary man chasing the American dream, who had challenged Barack Obama's tax plans in a chance encounter.

Mr Wurzelbacher was mentioned more than a dozen times in the third and final presidential debate between Mr McCain and Mr Obama.

Joe Wurzelbacher
Wurzelbacher became the unexpected star of the presidential debate

But US media keen to know more about Mr Wurzelbacher have cast doubt on some parts of his story.

First came the news that Mr Wurzelbacher, who has refused to say how he will vote in the election, is a registered Republican, having voted in the primaries earlier this year.

Then a search of registered plumbers in Ohio also revealed that Mr Wurzelbacher, whose first names are Samuel Joseph, does not have a state plumber's licence, although he says he does not need one because he works for someone else at a company that does residential work.

In addition, in 2007 the state of Ohio was forced to claim $1,182.98 (682.62) in unpaid taxes from him.

Tax policies

It all began last week, when candidate Barack Obama came to Mr Wurzelbacher's hometown of Holland, Ohio, and Mr Wurzelbacher told the presidential hopeful that the Democrat's tax plans would prevent him from buying the business where he has worked for years.

Mr Wurzelbacher said the company earned $250,000-$280,000 (144,800-162,250) a year, and he challenged Mr Obama: "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"

Mr Obama said that under his proposals, taxes on any revenue below $250,000 would remain the same, but that earnings above that level would be subject to a 39% tax, instead of the current 36% rate.

Mr Obama said that 95% of small businesses earned less than $250,000 and that he wanted to give those small businesses a tax cut.

I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them. Unfortunately, I asked the question but I still got a tap dance... Almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr
Joe Wurzelbacher

Mr Wurzelbacher told Mr Obama that would mean he would be taxed more "for fulfilling the American dream".

In the presidential debate a few days later, Mr McCain spoke of "Joe the plumber" several times.

"Joe wants to buy the business that he's been in for all these years. Worked 10, 12 hours a day. But he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes," Mr McCain said.

"And what you want to do, to Joe the plumber, means more like him have their taxes increased, and not be able to realise the American dream."

"Joe" came up more than a dozen times as both candidates argued over how their economic and healthcare policies would help him.

'Slippery slope'

After the debate, Mr Wurzelbacher told CBS News that being mentioned in the campaign was "surreal" but that Mr Obama's answer to his question had left him feeling uneasy.

"I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question... for once instead of tap dancing around it.

"And unfortunately I asked the question but I still got a tap dance... Almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr," he said.

Robin Hood stole from greedy rich people and redistributed it to the peasants, so to speak, so if he's calling us peasants, I kind of resent that
Joe Wurzelbacher

"When's he going to decide that $100,000 is too much, you know? I mean, 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?" he added.

Speaking to Fox News, Mr Wurzelbacher said Mr Obama's plan to raise taxes to redistribute money was "kind of a socialist viewpoint".

"Robin Hood stole from greedy rich people and redistributed it to the peasants, so to speak, so if he's calling us peasants, I kind of resent that," he said.

He added that the American dream for him was "you work hard. You're going to get what you want eventually... I just resent the government or Barack Obama's plan to take more away from me".

Mr Wurzelbacher said Mr McCain did a "fine job" and said Mr Obama did well too, though added "talk is talk".

He still thinks Mr Obama's tax plan would keep him from buying the business, whereas Mr McCain had "got it right as far as I go".


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