Kathryn Lopez

This Election Day could usher in a crushing blow to the American dream.

Within hours of meeting Joe the Plumber, Americans from all over the country flooded my inbox with their stories.

Joe the Plumber, as so many who watched the final presidential debate of the 2008 election know, is Joe Wurzelbacher, from Holland, Ohio, who wants to buy a small business but knows it's going to hurt under an Obama administration's tax plan.

Jarringly, when Joe told Obama of his worry during a campaign stop, the Illinois senator said, "It's not that I want to punish your success, I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

(Yes, it turns out that Samuel Joseph "Joe" Wurzelbacher doesn't have a plumbing license. But Obama didn't know that when he responded. And the presidential candidate's response wasn't geared toward just one working-class guy from Ohio.)

The meeting created an opportunity for John McCain during that last debate, at Hofstra University in New York. By the next day, McCain was declaring Joe the victor. McCain said, during a rally in Downingtown, Penn.: "We had a good debate last night. I thought I did pretty well, but...the real winner last night was Joe the Plumber."

McCain continued, "Small businesses provide 16 million jobs in America, and Americans know that raising taxes on small businesses will kill those jobs at a time when we need to be creating more jobs." He moved to a rousing conclusion that clearly resonated with the crowd: "America didn't become the greatest nation on earth by spreading the wealth; we became the greatest nation by creating new wealth."

Meanwhile, another Joe, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Biden, said on "Today" that, "I don't have any Joe the Plumbers in my neighborhood that make $250,000 a year," referring to Obama's much-vaunted plan to increase taxes only for people making more than that amount. Following in the footsteps of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, who, the night of the debate, declared that Joe the Plumber is McCain's "invisible friend," Biden implied that the concerned Buckeye water jockey didn't exist. A McCain spokesman shot back: "It is astounding that Joe Biden, the self-adulated 'everyman,' can't believe that an American making less than $250,000 a year might still be opposed to socialism."


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.