Obama spoke to a crowd estimated at 100,000 in St. Louis.

CONCORD, N.C.—Sen. John McCain opened a new attack on rival Barack Obama’s tax plan Saturday, suggesting it amounts to socialism.

He also accused Sen. Obama of wanting to turn the Internal Revenue Service into a welfare agency because his tax plan would give a tax credit to people who earn too little to owe federal income taxes.

“At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives,” the Republican presidential nominee said in a radio address. “Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut. It’s just another government giveaway.”

Sen. Obama would give a $500 tax refund to middle-class workers, even if they earn too little to owe federal income taxes. The Obama campaign says the money is meant to offset the payroll taxes that these workers pay.

At an afternoon McCain rally in Woodbridge, Va., a woman yelled out about Obama, “He’s a socialist!”

From St. Louis, Sen. Obama replied that both candidates want to cut taxes. But he said he would cut taxes for working Americans where Sen. McCain would favor corporations and wealthy taxpayers.

“John McCain is so out of touch with the struggles you are facing that he must be the first politician in history to call a tax cut for working people ‘welfare,'” he said.

The McCain attack came as he campaigned in a pair of Republican-leaning states: North Carolina, when polls show Sen. McCain in a tight race, and later in Virginia, where he is trailing. A sign at the Virginia rally expressed hope for a reversal. It showed a map of Virginia and said: “Red since 1964,” the last time a Democrat took this state.

“John McCain is so out of touch with the struggles you are facing that he must be the first politician in history to call a tax cut for working people ‘welfare,'” he said.

Underscoring Sen. Obama’s frontrunner status, the Illinois senator attracted a U.S. record crowd of 100,000 beneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Sen. McCain turned out a few thousand people at a community center in Concord, N.C. and about the same in Virginia.

The McCain campaign is tying the new attack to “Joe the Plumber,” a Holland, Ohio, man named Joe Wurzelbacher who met and told Sen. Obama that he fears his taxes could go up under his plan. At the North Carolina McCain rally on Saturday, handmade signs read “Let Joe Keep his Dough,” and “Fight for Joe the Plumber.”

The campaign’s Southeast regional campaign manager, Buzz Jacobs, said the campaign has launched “Joe the Plumber” coalitions of small business people worried about tax increases. The campaign already had small business coalitions in place, but the new ones are meant to emphasize the new theme.

And in a phone call Friday, Sen. McCain invited Mr. Wurzelbacher to campaign with him, possibly as soon as Sunday when he visits nearby Toledo.

“It’s time to give a tax cut to the teachers and janitors who work in our schools; to the cops and firefighters who keep us safe; to the waitress working double shifts, the nurses in the ER,” he said. “And yes, the plumbers, fighting for the American dream.”

Subsequent reporting has concluded that Mr. Wurzelbacher would likely see a tax cut, not an increase, under the Obama plan. But the McCain campaign has seized on part of Sen. Obama’s lengthy answer to him when they met last Sunday: “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody,” the Illinois senator said.

That encounter has been the centerpiece of Sen. McCain’s campaign ever since.

“We learned that Sen. Obama’s economic goal is, as he told Joe, is to quote `spread the wealth around.’ Spread the wealth around!” he told the North Carolina crowd, which replied with a chorus of boos. “We’ve seen that movie before in other countries and [in] attempts by the liberal left in this country before. Sen. Obama believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.”

“We learned that Sen. Obama’s economic goal is, as he told Joe, is to quote `spread the wealth around.’ Spread the wealth around!” he told the North Carolina crowd, which replied with a chorus of boos.

Sen. Obama replied that it’s a matter of values. His plan values work, not just wealth, he said. And after largely dodging Joe the Plumber, Sen. Obama referred to him on Saturday as one of the working people who would receive a tax cut under his plan.

“It’s time to give a tax cut to the teachers and janitors who work in our schools; to the cops and firefighters who keep us safe; to the waitress working double shifts, the nurses in the ER,” he said. “And yes, the plumbers, fighting for the American dream.”

Underscoring Sen. Obama’s frontrunner status, the Illinois senator attracted a U.S. record crowd of 100,000 beneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Sen. McCain turned out a few thousand people at a community center in Concord, N.C.


Sen. John McCain speaks to supporters Saturday during a campaign rally in Concord, N.C.

Sen. Obama would give a $500 tax refund to middle-class workers, even if they earn too little to owe federal income taxes. The Obama campaign says the money is meant to offset the payroll taxes that these workers pay. Several other tax credits would also be refundable and therefore available even to those who do not pay income taxes. He plans to raise taxes on individuals earning over $200,000 and families who make more than $250,000. Most others, he said, would see a tax cut.

Sen. McCain rejected the notion of giving tax breaks to people who don’t pay income taxes. “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 have to cover those checks by taxing other people, including a lot of folks just like Joe. In other words, Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others it isn’t a tax cut; it’s just another government giveaway.”

He did not mention that his health care plan also uses refundable tax credits—$2,500 per person or $5,000 per family toward the purchase of health insurance. It, too, would be available to people who don’t owe income taxes.

A bumper sticker and a T-shirt made up by one of this supporters, read: “Support Joe the Plumber. Vote McCain Palin. Obama’s friends are terrorists & communists.”

The rhetoric in Sen. McCain’s radio address was even sharper than his words on the stump. He invoked the notion of socialism, a economic theory that typically refers to government ownership of what is now private enterprise.

“You see, [Obama] believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it,” Sen. McCain said. “Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism.” He added: “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.”

Some of his supporters are picking up the attacks, and taking them even further. A bumper sticker and a T-shirt made up by one of this supporters, who declined to give his name, read: “Support Joe the Plumber. Vote McCain Palin. Obama’s friends are terrorists & communists.” The terrorist reference is likely a nod to the McCain campaign’s charge that Sen. Obama was closer than he has said to a 1960s era radical who is now a college professor.

They discovered that he (Joe) would probably qualify for a tax cut under the Obama plan, that he may not be properly registered to vote and is not a licensed plumber.

Sen. McCain also painted Mr. Wurzelbacher as a victim of attacks from the Obama campaign. “Joes didn’t ask Sen. Obama to come to his house, and Joe didn’t ask to be famous,” Sen. McCain said at his rallies. “He certainly … didn’t ask for the political attacks on him from the Obama campaign.”

The national media descended on Mr. Wurzelbacher after Sen. McCain repeatedly mentioned him in Wednesday’s debate. They discovered that he would probably qualify for a tax cut under the Obama plan, that he may not be properly registered to vote and is not a licensed plumber.

Asked for examples of attacks from the Obama campaign, a McCain spokesman offered several quotes from Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, where he said that he doesn’t know any plumbers who make more than $250,000 a yearand therefore would face higher taxes under Sen. Obama’s plan. He also said on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” that he was worried about “Joe the real plumber with a license.”

Source: WSJ

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