In his weekly radio address today, John McCain uses the ubiquitous Joe the plumber to all but accuse Democratic rival Barack Obama of being a socialist.
McCain reminds listeners of the story of Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio man who complained to Obama last weekend that his tax plans -- to end the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 -- would put a crimp his plans to buy a plumbing business.
In an exchange recorded for posterity on a YouTube video, Obama told Wurzelbacher that in the economic crisis it would be good to "spread the wealth around."
"Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism," McCain says in his radio address. "And a lot of Americans are thinking along those same lines. In the best case, 'spreading the wealth around' is a familiar idea from the American left. And that kind of class warfare sure doesn't sound like a 'new kind of politics.'
McCain adds that the "spread the wealth" philosophy "would also explain some big problems with my opponent's claim that he will cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans. You might ask: How do you cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans, when more than 40 percent pay no income taxes right now? How do you reduce the number zero?
"Well, that's the key to Barack Obama's whole plan: Since you can't reduce taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit. And the Treasury will cover those checks by taxing other people, including a lot of folks just like Joe. In other words, Barack Obama's tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington."
Democrats have pointed out, however, that McCain's plan to make healthcare more affordable also includes a "refundable" tax credit that would go to people who don't pay income taxes.
But McCain presses his attack: "At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut it's just another government giveaway."
McCain promotes his own plans to double the tax deduction for children to $6,600 per child, to cut the capital gains tax rate, and slash the corporate income tax. "In this country, we believe in spreading opportunity, for those who need jobs and those who create them," he says. "And that is exactly what I intend to do as president of the United States."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.