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Plumber Joe Wurzelbacher's entire video chat with Barack Obama

Joe Wurzelbacher world's newest famous plumber watching TV for the photographer

In the vice presidential debate months ago -- it just seems that way -- we had Joe Six-Pack.

Now, the country knows Joe Wurzelbacher.

He's the balded plumber in the tight Toledo T-shirt who engaged Barack Obama in a six-minute conversation Sunday about the freshman senator's small-business tax that would hit Joe's about-to-be-business harder. Obama patiently explained how Joe might end up paying more on what he made over $250,000 but that was to help the people who weren't making that much.

Since Joe just came up from that lower income area, he did not seem fully convinced.

Joe kept talking about being a foreman and chasing the American dream, but he didn't really get the higher tax part because it seemed to penalize his hard work the more successful he became.

Joe's name -- his first name anyway -- came up 26 times in last night's presidential debate, mostly at the instigation of Sen. John McCain, who sees Joe (there, that's eight Joes -- nine -- here already) as a symbol of upwardly-mobile Americans who would be taxed more under an Obama administration and which, McCain says, would be the worst thing to do in tough economic times. Even if your name's not Joe (ten).

Joe (eleven) says he always wanted to engage a politician in a substantive discussion and get them to stop toe-tapping all-around an issue, kinda like stopping a stubborn leaking pipe. Joe (twelve) says he still feels he got a tap-dance, but now he's also got about 13 minutes of fame left. If you need more on Joe (thirteen), our colleague Robin Abcarian has it here.

The entire polite conversation between Obama and Wurzelbacher was caught on tape by ABC News. It is actually rather unusual for a presidential candidate, whose most precious commodity is each day's 1,440 minutes, to spend six of them on one possible voter, even with a network camera obviously rolling nearby.

Since American political protocol says a candidate shouldn't be the one to break off a conversation with a voter, usually one campaign aide is assigned the duty to politely end such chats after one or two minutes by interrupting with a "We really must be going, sir." But not this time.

Obama, who picked Joe (fourteen) out of the crowd himself. may come to regret spending those six minutes on Joe (fifteen), even if Joe (sixteen) turns out to be a McCain campaign plant. (You can bet folks are checking him out overnight and we may soon learn he's pregnant. No, wait, better yet to discredit him, his ex-girlfriend got a temporary restraining order.)

There is a 100% chance you are going to hear some more about Joe in the campaign's remaining days. So you might as well watch the entire video exchange for yourself now so you know what it's all about in case you only see pieces later. It's viewable right here.

Seventeen Joes (eighteen) in 12 paragraphs. Not a record. But not bad.

--Andrew Malcolm

Even if your name isn't Joe (nineteen), you can get instant alerts on all Ticket items flashed straight to your cell registering here at Twitter.

Photo credit: Lori King / The Blade

Comments () | Archives (19)

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Frankly, I'm puzzled. Why doesn't the LA Times (and other mainstream media outlets) specifically cite Joe's income. If it is less than a 250,000 dollars a year, he won't get a tax increase under the Obama plan. On the other hand, if it is more than 250,000 dollars a year, then my sympathy for Joe declines dramatically.

By the way, did anyone else see the moderator of the last '08 Presidencial debate give McCain the first and last word time and time again? Obama is too much of a gentleman to point out the gross unfairness of letting McCain monopolize the debate time, but I am outraged.

Same out debate, not much new, I
do not want to be disrespectful to MR MCCAIN, BUT his eye,s were some what, BIGGER, popped open. did anyone notice, or was it just me.

So here's Joe's deal. He says he might make as much as $280,000 a year on his business. By the way, very nice. I don't know if that's "rich," but it's a whole lot better than most of us are doing these days. So under Obama's plan he would pay an extra 3% on the last $30,000, or $900. He's making over $250,000 a year, we're running huge deficits, but he's troubled by paying an extra $900. And we're supposed to be worried about this guy? He can't really be serious that this extra $900 in taxes breaks the deal for him, could he? 'Oh darn, I could have made $280,00 a year, but I'm going to pass because I will have to pay an extra $900 in taxes.' Puh-lease.

Further, as I understand Obama's plan, Joe would pay less on the first $250,000, meaning his actual net tax might well be lower than it is now. Plus he might get a tax credit for adding jobs. Not to mention McCain now says he is going to balance the budget, which absolutely will require more taxes. Joe doesn't seem to know on which side his pipe is greased.


If you make $300,000 your taxes would increase by $1,500 with Obama's plan. And the difference is for the income made after the first $250,000. That doesn't seem like it should be putting you out of business. Figure it out yourself.

Thank you Joe - for all the Americans who have worked hard for many years. Who do not collect and will probably never collect Social Security, who are not helped financially in anyway to buy a home because first they earned to little... and then they earned too much. They were taxed at 30% and then at 50%, never able to quite reach the american dream as they went from earning $50,000 a year to $125,000. Fannie Mae never helped us - but now we have to pay for her bail out. The Brits are laughing at us as fools... because Americans think that the folly of Wall Street and Fannie Mae can be corrected by throwing money at the problem... but it will only grow worse and they watch as we believe the lies we are being told by people who are motivated to try and save their own jobs and retirement funds while we have never had the ability to even start a 401ksavings... While those of us who have worked hard and have been taxed since our teen years... have no savings. We pay for everything ourselves... except when a neighbor or friend is willing to help us out... God forbid that the government might even acknowledge that there are those of us in the middle class who actually exist, work three jobs, are not able to pay their heating bills or buy food for their table (and friends drop off groceries at their door)... but would go to jail should we fail to pay our taxes so that senators can live well with vouchers for their children to be in the best schools and have government health care for their eye glasses (I've needed a new pair for 2 yrs but I'm a single mom - can't afford that). I can't go to the dentist, it would be out of pocket, and still if I went it would be cheaper to pay the doctor than to pay for the insurance. While I have not been able to afford health care (except for when I worked for the insurance companies). When we did have health insurance, before a divorce, the insurance was $500/mo for the 4people family. Since the divorce, there is no insurance, but I work 3 jobs to give others insurance... and neither Obama's or McCain's plans help me!! What is wrong - taxing those who don't have -- to give to those who don't have so those who are taxes still can't afford to go to the doctor, while everyone else can. Also, insurance doesn't cover the kind of care I need. I have a nutritional deficiency that almost killed me. None of it is covered by insurance companies, because adrenal insufficiency doesn't exist according to MD's and insurance companies unless my adrenals don't work at all or it is a genetic deficiency... but then again, I don't have insurance - but I pay taxes so you all can!

I was once told that when you say BUT after a comment you are basically wiping out what you just said. Like this is not as important or a I’m not really saying that but I am saying this.

Obama is full of but but but. This is such a common understanding of the language I am surprised no one has counted his buts. I noticed it in the other debates also.


It's a shame this article doesn't dig into the truth behind who Joe Wurzelbacher is.

Joe is related to Robert Wurzelbacher who is Charles Keating's son-in-law, and also the former senior VP of Lincoln Savings and Loan.

So basically, Joe is related to someone implicated in the Keating Five scandal. Kind of dumb for McCain to bring up Joe, then, but at least the truth is out and we know now that Joe himself cannot, nor anything he says, be trusted.

Spreading wealth is nothing new. It has been practiced somewhere else.

Spreading wealth is neither bad nor good. It can not go extreme either way.

If more middle-class become poor, Obama will win.

If more poors become middle-class, McCain will win.

Sounds ridiculous?

Keep in mind that it is all about individual or group interest.

Many great ones have come and gone. No one has ever changed such mind.

So following God rather than being God.

Well, in fast-paced growing global economy today,
Americans should be given more choices.
Immigration never means one-way.

I think Joe knew who he was voting for long before he spoke with Senator Obama- it is odd how all these folks show up at his and Obama's rallys just when Senator McCain needs them most- we are not all so gullible.....

I think the whole thing is brilliant. If Joe is a real guy from Main Street, I just love that Mr.Obama took the time to talk with him, whether they agree to disagree or not. I truly believe that Mr.Obama has the best interests of the American people in mind, his message and ideas are good ones. Mr.Obama himself is an example of someone who started at ground level, where Joe started, and who worked himself up over time. The embodiment of the American Dream. I see genuineness in that, hard work rewarded. There's none of that coming from McCain.

Joe has the American Dream. Why would he dream and strive to make more only to have it taken from him? In order to get city, state, and other general contractor work, Joe the Plumber will be hiring union plumbers. They get their health insurance through the union. It is deducted from their paychecks. Union plumbers cost Joe a lot more money than scabs, but a lot less money in law suits because they know how and why to do things the right way. Joe now knows that neither one of these guys have a clue and he is really, really worried.

The bank bailout worries Joe, too, because he knows that the population has just had more wealth taken from them and they won't be able to afford to hire him.

The average plumber makes 47K

Joe doesn't have a plumbing license, so his odds of having some 250K plus business are pretty low, unless something fishy is going on.

Of course, he's also a registered Republican, so he might not be the impartial voter each side can try to woo equally.

He *does* however have problems actually paying his taxes on time, which I guess makes him have more in common with McCain than Obama.

Joe Wurzelbacher isn't really a plumber - He's the son-in-law of Charles Keating of the Keating 5 (remember those guys?? the S&L scam bailout McCain got busted for back in the 80's).


Huh? In the real world, a good plumber IS a business. Every plumber I ever met made decent $$ and lived well. Not rich, but well.

C'mon captsaltyjack, you didn't let us know how many degrees of seperation from Kevin Bacon while you were at it. I say "Amen" Joe the Plumber and Joe the Doctor and Joe the Teacher--they are all Joe the Taxpayer likely to foot the bill for Joe the Welfare Recipient in a Socialist state.

Well Brad -- Of course Schieffer favored McCain -- Schieffer said that G. W. Bush had "an impressive command of foreign policy."

It's a shame this article doesn't dig into the truth behind who Joe Wurzelbacher is.

Joe is related to Robert Wurzelbacher who is Charles Keating's son-in-law, and also the former senior VP of Lincoln Savings and Loan.

RE: WHOA! Though most of you reading this probably don't remember The Keating 5, I do - I've lived in Arizona since "74.
I don't know if "Joe the Plumber" recieved any of that money, but if he did, he's probably quite comfortable, even in California.
By the way, people never did get all their money back from that scandal.

So basically, Joe is related to someone implicated in the Keating Five scandal. Kind of dumb for McCain to bring up Joe, then, but at least the truth is out and we know now that Joe himself cannot, nor anything he says, be trusted.

RE: McCain is anything BUT the brightest light bulb in the room - did anybody else notice that he refered to his running mate's disabled son as Autistic? That kid doesn't have Autisum, he's got Down's Syndrome. That's a completely different ball of wax.

As an Arizonan, I haven't voted for McCain in the last two elections. Why? Because he's been so busy running for President for the last 8 years, that he's done very, very little for Arizona as a Senator.
I remember, long ago, when he WAS a "Maverick" type. Arizona loved him for it.
When Bush and the wars came along, McCain stopped all of that and became another puppy following Bush around. Sad. I would have liked to see the old McCain in office, but that person is long gone.
He rairly bothers to vote on anything as a Senator, especially if it's a "touchy" topic like women's rights or abortion.
He complains about Obama signing in as "present" at meetings; McCain doesn't sign in at all because he doesn't bother to attend. I'd rather have someone who at least bothers to attend a meeting.
People out here have been calling for him to return his paychecks of the last 8 years because he hasn't bothered to do his job.
If you really want to know who the real McCain is today, check on his working records for the last 8 years. Arizonans already know.
I think that there should be a law against holding an office (for anything) while running for president. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do both.
Do your homework before you vote.

George, are you Sarah Palin? She ends all of her sentences with "also." Have you ever gone through and counted how many times she says "also" as a filler because she doesn't know what to say?

To buy a company that nets R$250,000 per year, assuming a 4-year payback, which is a very good one, Joe would need $1 million. So this "average Joe" turns out to be a millionaire. Even with $1 million this is very iffy. Where can you get 25% return per year on your money? Sure, Joe will have to manage the business, but hey, even figuring a base salary of a cool 100 grand, Joe is making 15% on his investment, if he pays only $1 million for that business. Can he afford to pay the extra 3%? Small price to pay, I would say, since Obama's plan decreases taxes for everyone with incomes less than millionaire Joe's -- which menas more average Joes working up to be millionaires, like Millionaire Joe the Plumber, who is apparently already there.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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