“Joe the Plumber” has become a crutch John McCain and Sarah Palin are leaning on, heavily, to keep their limping campaign from keeling over. They quote him constantly as a sharp critic of Barack Obama’s plan to increase income taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year while cutting them for those earning less.

The Republican twosome are using the plumber to give their campaign a phony aura of populism, as if they are defending the “Joe Sixpacks” of America against Obama’s “spread the wealth socialism.”

Joe the Plumber is Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher. He and Obama had a six-minute conversation. He is not licensed, which in the state of Ohio means you are not a plumber. He is one of two employees of Toledo-based Newell Plumbing and Heating, which had $100,000 in total revenues last year. Asked by a TV news interviewer if he makes more than $250,000, Wurzelbacher laughed. “No, not even close.”

Daniel Fleisher, a licensed journeyman plumber in Baltimore, wrote a letter to the Baltimore Sun Oct. 21 pointing out that Wurzelbacher disparaged Social Security as a “joke” and complained that he “hates” the federal withholding tax that finances the program.

“When Dan the plumber looks in the mirror, he sees Dan the plumber,” Fleisher wrote. “When Joe the plumber looks in the mirror, notwithstanding the lien on his house, he apparently sees some version of Warren E. Buffett.”

“Which of these two working-class guys is more likely to make political decisions that are in his own interest?” Fleisher asks.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman pointed out in a recent column that the average income of Ohio “plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters” is $47,930.

“So what does this say about the candidates? Who’s really standing up for Ohio’s plumbers?” Krugman asked.

Not everyone would be better off under Obama’s tax plan, Krugman continued. “The plumber would almost certainly be better off but Richie the hedge-fund manager would take a serious hit.”

In this election, voters at last have a chance to tear off the Republican rightwing blinders and vote their own interests rather than be hoodwinked into voting to further enrich the greedy.