During the October 28 Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) contested moderator John Harwood's statement that Rubio's tax reform plan disproportionately favors the rich over the middle class. Conservative news outlets rushed to defend Rubio, despite the fact that Harwood was correct.
CNBC Moderator Asks Why Rubio's Tax Plan Favors The Rich Over The Middle Class
CNBC's John Harwood Presses Marco Rubio On His Tax Plan, Notes Disproportionate Benefits To Top 1 Percent. During the October 28 Republican presidential debate on CNBC, moderator John Harwood pressed GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio on an analysis of his tax reform proposal from the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, which according to Harwood, “concluded that [Rubio] give[s] nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale.” Rubio questioned Harwood's assessment, and claimed the CNBC journalist had already admitted that his point about disproportionate tax benefits was mistaken:
[CNBC, The Republican Presidential Debate: Your Money, Your Vote, 10/28/15]
Harwood Was Right: The Tax Foundation Does Show Rubio's Plan Gives More To Top 1 Percent Than Middle Class
Tax Foundation: Rubio Gives Bigger Tax Cut To The Top 1 Percent Than The Middle Class. According to a March 9 Tax Foundation analysis of a reform proposal jointly authored by Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), “all income classes would have more after-tax income” if their tax plan was in effect but “the gains would be greatest at low and high incomes.” According to the Tax Foundation, under Rubio's plan after-tax income growth for the top 1 percent of earners far outpaces income gains for middle-income workers:
[Tax Foundation, 3/9/15]
FactCheck.org: “Harwood Was Right,” But The Two Were “Talking Past Each Other.” According to an October 29 post by FactCheck.org, Harwood “was right” to say that Rubio's plan favored the rich more than the middle class and the journalist correctly cited Tax Foundation research. Rubio's response focused only on his plan's promised benefits for low-income earners, ignoring Harwood's question. As a result the two men “were talking past each other”:
So Harwood and Rubio were talking past each other a bit. Harwood was pointing out that those at the top income levels were seeing greater benefit -- on a percentage basis -- than those in the middle income levels. And that's true. Rubio, meanwhile, insisted that those at the very lowest income levels would see the greatest percentage increase in income. That's also true. Rubio further confused the issue with his explanation that “5 percent of a million is a lot more than 5 percent of a thousand.” As we noted earlier, it's not just that those in the top 1 percent of tax filers would be seeing greater dollar savings in Rubio's plan than those in the middle income brackets, it's that those at the top would see a greater percentage gain as well [FactCheck.org, 10/29/15]
Bloomberg: Rubio's Tax Plan “Gives Larger Benefits To The Richest Americans Than To The Middle Class.” According to an October 29 fact check by Bloomberg, “Harwood was correct” and Rubio “sidestepped” his question about the middle class by focusing his answer on the bottom 10 percent of earners:
A contentious exchange in Wednesday's debate between CNBC moderator John Harwood and Senator Marco Rubio prompted outcries from conservatives accusing the journalist of “lies” when he cited a study saying the Floridian's tax plan gives larger benefits to the richest Americans than to the middle class.
Harwood was correct. Rubio sidestepped and answered that people “at the lower end” enjoy the largest gain under his plan, and he was also correct in percentage terms.
The study in March by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation shows the distribution. Rubio's plan would lead to average after-tax income gains of 27.9 percent for the top 1 percent of earners, considerably more than for middle-income earners. It would also lead to an average gain of 55.9 percent for those in the bottom 10 percent of the income spectrum, under “dynamic scoring” assumptions, the study says. [Bloomberg, 10/29/15]
Rubio's Plan Adds To National Debt With Tax Breaks For The Rich
Tax Foundation: Rubio's Tax Plan Could Add $6 Trillion To National Debt. According to an October 19 analysis of Rubio's recently-updated tax reform proposal by the Tax Foundation, the plan could add up to $6 trillion to the national debt over ten years in addition to projected debt accumulation under current law. According to the Tax Foundation, Rubio's reform proposal is one of the most expensive Republican tax plans:
[Tax Foundation, 10/19/15]
Bloomberg's Ponnuru: “The Revenue Loss Rubio Is Proposing Is Huge.” In his October 29 column for Bloomberg View, conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru wrote that after initially proposing a plan that would have increased taxes on some married couples making between $150,000 and $300,000 annually, Rubio's revised tax plan shows that he “has decided that he should avoid raising taxes on so many affluent people.” Ponnuru noted thtat "[t]he revenue loss Rubio is proposing is huge" and warned" [i]t would be irresponsible, given our looming debt problems, to cut taxes by that much and hope that spending cuts and economic growth would save the day":
But the revenue loss Rubio is proposing is huge. American voters are not usually obsessed with balancing the budget: If they were, we wouldn't have run the deficits we have over the past several decades. Six trillion dollars, though, is the sort of number that could make people notice. It would be irresponsible, given our looming debt problems, to cut taxes by that much and hope that spending cuts and economic growth would save the day. Voters might well think the same thing. [Bloomberg View, 10/29/15]
Washington Post: Rubio's Tax Plan Bypasses The Middle Class, “Greatly Boosts The Rich.” According to an April 14 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Rubio's tax plan “includes a huge break that all-but bypasses the middle [class] and greatly boosts the rich” by eliminating “all taxes on dividends and capital gains. That's where rich taxpayers cash in.” [The Washington Post, Wonkblog, 4/14/15]
PolitiFact: Rubio's Plan Cuts Taxes For Millionaires By More Than Three Times Median Household Income. According to a July 16 post by PolitiFact, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton's statement that Rubio's tax plan “would cut taxes for households making around $3 million a year by almost $240,000, which is way more than three times the earnings of a typical family” is “Mostly True,” and “the thrust of her statement is sound.” [PolitiFact, 7/16/15]
Right-Wing Media Accuse Harwood Of Bias, Falsely Claim Rubio's Response Was Correct
Fox's Doocy: “Was [Harwood] Just Trying To Play Fast And Loose With The Facts To Make [Rubio] Look Bad?” On the October 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that Harwood “flat out ... lied” about Rubio's tax plan before asking the senator if CNBC's so-called “chief inquisitor” was “trying to play fast and loose with the facts to make you look bad.” Rubio agreed, claiming his tax plan “helps everyone without hurting anyone”:
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): Do you think he just got the fact wrong? Or was he just trying to play fast and loose with the facts to make you look bad?
MARCO RUBIO: Yeah. So what he did, instead of saying “well your tax plan saves the most money for the people on the bottom end of the spectrum, but the rich get a break, as well. Explain that.” He basically made it sound the worst way possible, and I caught him and corrected him on it. The truth is my tax plan allows the people who make the least amount of money to keep the most. But my tax plan helps everyone without hurting anyone. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/29/15]
Fox's Kelly: “Rubio Was Going To Let It Slide” But Harwood Kept Making False Claim. On the October 28 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly claimed that Rubio heard Harwood's claim and was “going to let it slide,” but was forced to respond. Fox's Chris Stirewalt added that Rubio “squashed [Harwood] like a bug”:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Back on October 14th, John Harwood had corrected the first time he tried to incorrectly report this story ... So he, Rubio was going to let it slide, Chris. He had said “look, that is not right.” He was going to let it slide, and go on. Harwood interrupted him and said “No, Tax Foundation says it my way.” And then Rubio says “No, you had to go back and correct your own story.” And Harwood says “no, I did not.” What? How on earth could that happen?
CHRIS STIREWALT: Because you're so arrogant that you absolutely believe that you're so much smarter than everybody with an R next to their name, and you know that these guys are troglodytes, and you are smarter than they are -- and you get squashed like a bug. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/28/15]
Breitbart's John Nolte: Harwood Lied About Rubio's Tax Plan. Breitbart News' John Nolte accused Harwood of lying about Rubio's tax plan by pointing to the Tax Foundation's analysis, which shows “the bottom ten percent do twice as well as the top ten percent” under Rubio's plan:
A document has been unearthed proving John Harwood, the left-wing moderator of Wednesday night's CNBC debate, lied when he attacked Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over his tax plan -- and that document is Harwood's own tweet from just two weeks ago.
Harwood also lied about The Tax Foundation findings. According to their study, under Rubio's plan, the bottom ten percent do twice as well as the top ten percent. [Breitbart News, 10/28/15]
Daily Caller: Debate Moderator Attacked Rubio With Claim He Already Admitted Was False. In an October 29 post, The Daily Caller's Derek Hunter claimed that “John Harwood went hard after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ... claiming his tax plan favored the wealthy,” asserting that “Harwood was wrong, and Rubio was right,” and that “Harwood even retweeted Marco Rubio's policy director saying, 'In other words, lowest 10% see more than double the benefits of top 1%.” [The Daily Caller, 10/29/15]
Washington Examiner Claims Harwood Remarks About Middle Class Are False. On October 29, the Washington Examiner claimed Harwood's statement that Rubio's tax proposal gives “nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top one percent as to people in the middle of the income scale” was false by stating that the bottom 10 percent gain more as a percentage their total income than the rich. The Examiner failed to mention that middle class income gains are less than those of top income earners. [Washington Examiner, 10/29/15]
The Weekly Standard: Harwood Committed “A Major Error” In Rubio Questioning. In an October 28 blog post for The Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway wrote that Harwood “attacked Senator Marco Rubio's tax plan on the grounds that it disproportionately benefited the top one percent of earners.” Hemingway claimed "[t]here were some questions about whether or not Harwood, who tends to reflexively spout a lot of liberal opinions, was an appropriate debate moderator," and concluded that "[c]ommitting such a major error seems to justify those concerns." [The Weekly Standard, 10/28/15]
The Federalist: “Surprise! John Harwood Lied About Marco Rubio's Tax Plan.” In an October 28 post for The Federalist, Sean Davis claimed that "[t]he night's biggest loser, aside from everyone who suffered through watching the debate debacle, was CNBC moderator John Harwood, who blatantly and aggressively lied about the tax plan proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio." Davis claimed “Harwood got his facts wrong,” and “refused to issue a correction before the debate audience he deliberately misled.” [The Federalist, 10/28/15]