Toledo (Ohio, US), Oct.17 : Joe Wurzelbacher, the plumber in Toledo, Ohio, who hit the headlines in America this week after stopping Senator Barack Obama to complain about taxes, has suddenly found himself facing celebrity-level scrutiny.
It now turns out that Joe is not a licensed plumber. Thomas Joseph, the business manager of Local 50 of the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Service Mechanics, based in Toledo, said Thursday that Mr. Wurzelbacher had never held a plumber's license, which is required in Toledo and several surrounding municipalities.
According to the New York Times, he also never completed an apprenticeship and does not belong to the plumber's union, which has endorsed Obama.
On Thursday, he acknowledged that he does plumbing work even though he does not have a license.
His full name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher. And he owes back taxes, too, public records show.
The premise of his complaint to Obama about taxes may also be flawed, according to tax analysts.
Contrary to what Wurzelbacher asserted and Senator McCain echoed, neither his personal taxes nor those of the business where he works are likely to rise if Obama's tax plan were to go into effect, they said.
"I'm kind of like Britney Spears having a headache," he told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Just five days ago, Wurzelbacher, 34, lived in anonymity in Holland, Ohio, a single father who, as he said on national television, worked all day and came home to fix dinner and help his son, 13, with his homework.
But he became the hero of conservatives and Republicans when he stopped Obama, who was campaigning on his street, and asked whether he believed in the American dream.
Wurzelbacher said he was concerned about having to pay higher taxes as an owner of a small business.
"I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250,000 dollars to 280,000 dollars a year. Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" he asked Obama.
That encounter wound up on YouTube and led to appearances on the Fox News Channel, interviews with conservative bloggers and a New York Post editorial, all of whom seized on a small part of Obama's long reply. "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," Obama had said.
McCain invoked Wurzelbacher in Wednesday's debate as a way to criticize Obama's tax plan and wealth-sharing argument, and picked up the theme again on Thursday.
"You know what Senator Obama had to say to Joe? That he wanted to spread his wealth around," McCain said at an event in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
"America didn't become the greatest nation on earth by spreading the wealth," he said. "We became the greatest nation by creating new wealth."
After some version of "Joe the Plumber" was mentioned two dozen times during the debate, Wurzelbacher found news crews outside his home and Katie Couric on the phone.
Wurzelbacher told reporters that the company he works for, Newell Plumbing and Heating, has two full-time employees: himself and the owner, Al Newell.
Neither Newell nor Wurzelbacher responded to telephone calls.
Wurzelbacher has provided only vague information on his and the company's finances since talking to Obama.
But, according to the NYT, if the plumbing business remained a two-person company and the net proceeds - after deductions for business expenses - were shared by the two men, both incomes would most likely fall well below the top tax brackets on which Obama wants to raise rates, as would the company itself.
Both, in fact, would probably be eligible for a tax cut, said Bob Williams, senior research associate at the independent, nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, though the cut would probably be greater under McCain's tax plan than Obama's.