Reality Checking "Joe The Plumber"

John McCain Joe Wurzelbacher Barack Obama CBS/ AP

Last Sunday he was plumber Joe Wurzelbacher confronting Barack Obama.

But by last, night, he was "Joe the Plumber," small business owner.

Joe the Plumber told Sen. Barack Obama that he might buy a business worth $280,000, but is afraid higher taxes will cut into his dream, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports.

Sen. John McCain then used Joe's story to claim Obama will raise taxes for millions of small business owners.

"And what you want to do to Joe the Plumber and millions more like him is have their taxes increased," McCain said during Wednesdays third and final presidential debate.

The fact is, millions will not be hit by a tax hike. An estimated 335,000 small business owners - just 2 percent of the total - would be impacted by Obama's tax increases.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Obama's tax hikes apply only when personal income, not the value of the business, rises above $250,000.

"What goes on your income tax form is your profit, not your gross receipts," said Eric Toder of the Tax Policy Center.

So today, Joe, who said he makes much less than $250,000, reluctantly admitted Obama would lower his taxes.

"I would, if you believe him, I would be receiving his tax cuts," Wurzelbacher said.

But that wasn't it for Joe last night.

McCain wanted Obama to say how much he would fine businesses that don't provide health insurance to employees. Obama spoke directly to Joe, claiming there will be no health care fines on small business.

"And I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there. Here's your fine - zero," Obama said Wednesday.

This claim is murky because Obama has not defined what he thinks is a small business. Meaning there's no way for voters to measure who gets these exemptions.

The McCain campaign, meanwhile, likes Joe the Plumber so much that officials began calling him on Tuesday and have asked him to appear at campaign rallies.

But Joe's anti-tax leanings are also playing out in his personal life. It turns out - he's behind on state taxes.

So the man whose personal story steered a Presidential debate over taxes owes some $1,200 in back taxes, according to the state of Ohio.
  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.

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