Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus referred to last week’s CNBC debate as “a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and meanspirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates,” in a letter to Chairman of NBC News, Andrew Lack.
The RNC criticism against CNBC distracts from the real issue: the questions weren’t the problem, the answers were.
Early in the debate, moderator and “Squawk Box” host Becky Quick questioned Dr. Ben Carson on his proposed tax plan.
Carson has previously mentioned his policy is based on biblical tithing, which is essentially a flat tax. As of the CNBC debate, Carson’s tax rate is 15%.
This is similar to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s proposed flat tax of 17%, which underfunds the government by $700 billion a year.
“You would have to cut government by about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion hole,” Quick explains to Carson.
Although the former neurosurgeon claims “it’s not true,” he offers no specifics as to how it doesn’t do that.
According to Joseph Rosenberg of the non-partisan The Tax Policy Center, to keep the government’s current amount of revenue, a flat tax rate would have to be at least 25%.
On the day of the debate, Ted Cruz revealed his tax plan: a 10% flat tax. Who saw that coming?
“The Tax Foundation, which has scored every one of our plans, shows that this plan will allow the economy to generate 4.9 million jobs, to raise wages over 12 percent, and to generate 14 percent growth, and it costs with dynamic scoring less than a trillion dollars,” Cruz explained to the world.
I was shocked when he admitted he was using numbers from dynamic scoring.
As discussed in my January entry, dynamic scoring can be used to manipulate the outcomes of any tax proposal, which is why static scoring is the preferred method.
Although Cruz didn’t mention it, the static numbers are hidden in the Tax Foundation’s analysis.
The plan will actually add $3.6 trillion to the government’s deficit, and guarantee income inequality remains a major issue.
The analysis reads that the bottom decile of taxpayers would see a 4.3% increase in after-tax income. The next six deciles would see an increase of 1.2 and 2.4%. High income earning taxpayers would see an after-tax income increase of 17.4%.
It gets even better: the top 1% see an after-tax income increase of 29.6%!
Of course, Cruz’s big moment came later in the debate with moderator Carl Quintanilla.
“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And if you look at the questions: Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues.”
The question that set Cruz off regarded his opposition to raising the debt limit, an actual “substantive issue.”
The most entertaining thing about Cruz’s attack on the media and moderators is that none of the questions he cites were asked.
John Harwood specifically listed Trump’s most unrealistic policy proposals, leading into asking if this was a comic book version of a campaign.
Trump validated the question when he elaborated on his immigration policy in response:
“They built The Great Wall of China. That’s 13,000 miles. Here, we actually need a thousand, because we have natural barriers. So we need a thousand. We can do a wall. We’re going to have a big, fat, beautiful door right in the middle of the wall.”
This guy sounds like he should have been a character in Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop.”
Referencing the Sun-Sentinal piece asking Rubio to resign due to his number of missed Senate votes, moderator Carl Quintanilla asked if the perception in the piece that the Florida senator hates his job was an accurate depiction. However, It was Jeb Bush who put his big boy pants on and gave the Florida Senator the resignation ultimatum, not the moderators:
“You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job. There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida as well. They are looking for a senator that will fight each and every day.”
Rubio proceeded to hand Jeb his ass in spectacular fashion:
“I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”
Cruz may not want this to be a cage match, but I don’t think you can talk Marco Rubio out of donning the Ultimate Warrior make-up at this point.
Throughout the night, the moderators seemed to be doing a real-time fact check for the candidates.
Becky Quick not only had a better understanding of Ben Carson’s tax plan than the candidate himself, it also sounds as if she could have been the webmaster for Trump’s campaign site.
“You have been very critical of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who has wanted to increase the number of the H-1B,” Quick said to Trump.
H-1B is a visa that allows US companies to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty positions (science, architecture for example). The number of visas are capped at 65,000 each fiscal year.
Trump responded, “I have not been at all critical of him.”
Quick added that the Donald had also criticized Marco Rubio for supporting the H-1B program: “I think you called him Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator.”
Trump rejected that statement also, but Quick was correct and mentioned the subject again after a commercial break:
“Mr. Trump I’m going to go back to an issue that we were talking about before. The H-1B visas. I found where I read that before. It was from the donaldjtrump.com website. And it says – it says that, again, Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1BS that would decimate women and minorities.”
That’s a Rick Perry-worthy “oops.”
Trump ignores Quick’s comments regarding his website and seemingly endorses H-1B, contradicting the information on his own site… again.
The RNC doesn’t need the media’s assistance in embarrassing their candidates; they’re doing a great job on their own.