McCain rips Obama tax plan in Toledo
Gordon Trowbridge / Detroit News Washington Bureau
TOLEDO -- "Joe the Plumber" was absent, but never far from the thoughts of John McCain on Sunday in the suddenly famous worker's hometown.
McCain rallied several thousand supporters here Sunday as he has on the campaign trail since Wednesday's final presidential debate -- by invoking the Ohio plumber as a symbol of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's tax plan, a plan McCain all but labeled socialism.
"I'm not going to redistribute your wealth," McCain said as he pressed his argument that Obama's promise of a tax cut for 95 percent of families would in fact raise taxes on "hard-working Americans" to pay for tax credits to low-income families that already pay no income taxes.
"Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others, it's not a tax cut, it's just another government giveaway," McCain said.
The argument dodges the fact that McCain's health care plan, which would provide tax credits to workers to buy health insurance, also would send refunds to workers who pay no taxes. But McCain and Republicans hope it can help erase a polling deficit even McCain acknowledges.
Toledo is as near to Michigan as McCain has come since his campaign's withdrawal from the state three weeks ago. Instead, he has increasingly focused on states won four years ago by President Bush -- including Ohio, which appears vital to McCain's hopes. Polls show Ohio, which no Republican has lost while winning the White House, to be a toss-up state.
McCain's stop here came on the same day when the Obama campaign said it had raised $150 million in September, dwarfing the $84 million McCain has available for the entire fall campaign.
McCain's response: Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, known as "Joe the Plumber" since McCain mentioned him more than 20 times in Wednesday's debate.
A week before, Wurzelbacher had approached Obama as the Democratic nominee campaigned just outside Toledo, and said he worried the tax increase for high-income earners in Obama's tax plan would complicate his hopes of buying the plumbing business where he works.
Obama's response included a statement -- "When you spread the wealth around it's good for everybody" -- that has sparked Republican accusations that Obama would redistribute wealth from businesses and investors to those in lower income brackets.
"After months of campaign trail eloquence, we finally learned what Senator Obama's economic goal is," McCain said.
Obama's plan would raise income taxes on those earning more than $250,000, and cut them for earners under $200,000. Those at the lowest income levels would receive refunds, which the Obama campaign says would help offset the payroll taxes for items such as Social Security and Medicare that all taxpayers contributed. Though Republicans have called that plan redistribution, or even socialism, McCain's proposals include his own refundable income tax credit for health insurance costs.
Obama, campaigning in North Carolina, hit back at McCain.
"Lately, he and Governor Palin have actually accused me of -- get this -- socialism," Obama said. "Because I want to give a tax cut to the middle class -- a tax cut to 95 percent of American workers. ... John McCain thinks that giving these Americans a break is socialism. Well, I call it opportunity."