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“Marco Rubio Has An Arithmetic Problem”: Anyone With Access To A Calculator Should Recognize Just What A Joke This Scheme Is

At first blush, it’s tempting to see Marco Rubio’s economic plan as a dog-bites-man story: Republican presidential campaign proposes massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, even while saying the opposite. The Florida senator isn’t alone on this front, and it all seems sadly predictable.

But in this case, there’s more to it. Even if you’re unmoved by Rubio’s odd inability to handle his own personal finances in a responsible way, the way he intends to deal with the nation’s finances as president is arguably a national disqualifier.

The trouble started in earnest at the last debate for Republicans presidential candidates – the one pundits decided was a triumph for Rubio – when CNBC’s John Harwood pressed the Florida senator on his tax-cut plan.

HARWOOD: The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give 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. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?

 RUBIO: No, that’s – you’re wrong.

It turns out, analysis from both the left and right scrutinized Rubio’s plan and found that he was completely wrong. I can’t say whether he was deliberately trying to deceive viewers or simply unaware of the details of his own policy, but in either case, the senator’s claims were false.

In the days that followed, scrutiny of Rubio’s plan intensified. Vox’s Dylan Matthews talked directly to Rubio staffers and discovered that the senator’s plan includes even more generous tax breaks for the top 1% than Jeb Bush’s and Donald Trump’s plans. An analysis for Citizens for Tax Justice also found that the bulk of the benefits in the Rubio plan would go to the very, very wealthy.

Indeed, New York’s Jon Chait added, “Rubio’s proposal deliberately provides some benefits to Americans of modest income, which means that its enormous tax cuts for the very rich come alongside some pretty decent-size tax cuts for the rest of us. All told, Rubio’s plan would reduce federal revenue by $11.8 trillion over the next decade. The entire Bush tax cuts cost about $3.4 trillion over a decade, making the Rubio tax cuts more than three times as costly.”

It’s against this backdrop that Rubio has also proposed a vast expansion of the U.S. military, while leaving Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees untouched.

In any version of reality in which arithmetic exists, Rubio’s plan is simply indefensible. Massive tax breaks for the rich, coupled with significant increases in military spending, leads to ballooning budget deficits. It’s not theoretical – we tried this in the Bush/Cheney era and it led to predictable results that we’re still trying to address.

The difference is, Rubio wants tax cuts that are triple the size of the ones created by George W. Bush and Dick “Deficits Don’t Matter” Cheney.

As this relates to the 2016 race, the central problem relates to policy: Rubio’s numbers don’t, and can’t, add up. Anyone with access to a calculator should recognize just what a joke this scheme is.

But the other problem is what we’re learning about Rubio as a candidate. There is, like it or not, a character aspect to presidential hopefuls’ platforms – because they offer Americans an opportunity to learn about candidates’ honesty, priorities, values, and candor. The Florida senator who talks about his ability to appeal to maids and bartenders has gone to almost comical lengths to craft a plan that benefits CEOs and hedge-fund managers, all while pretending to be an expert on fiscal responsibility.

Marco Rubio’s economic plan tells us something important about his candidacy, and it’s not flattering.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Economic Policy, Marco Rubio, Tax Policy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, And The Dreaded ‘M’ Word”: The Label Isn’t Related To Issue Positions, It’s More About Tone And Relationships

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has quietly run a very interesting presidential campaign. He hasn’t held the spotlight much, but he’s raised a lot of money, laid the groundwork for a credible ground game, positioned himself to benefit if/when the Amateur Duo falters, and held his fire, waiting to see who his real rivals are going to be.

Last night, however, Cruz offered a peek into his broader strategy.

“Historically, there have been two major lanes in the Republican primary,” the Texas senator told CNN’s Jake Tapper last night. “There’s been a moderate lane and a conservative lane. And, in past cycles, there’s been a consensus moderate choice early on… Look, I think Marco is certainly formidable in that lane. I think the Jeb campaign seems to view Marco as his biggest threat in the moderate lane. And so I think they’re going to slug it out for a while.

“But, when you look at the conservative lane, what I’m really encouraged by is that conservatives are consolidating behind our campaign… And once it gets down to a head-to-head contest between a conservative and a moderate … I think the conservative wins.”

Let’s strip away the spin for a minute: Marco Rubio is breathtakingly conservative. He’s a climate denier who desperately wants to give billionaires a massive tax break the country can’t afford. The Florida Republican believes Medicare and Social Security have weakened Americans; he thinks the war in Iraq, even in hindsight, was a fine idea; he still opposes marriage equality; he doesn’t think the federal minimum wage should exist; and Rubio’s so hostile towards reproductive rights that he believes the government has the authority to force impregnated rape victims to take that pregnancy to term, even against her wishes. The guy voted against a bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, even when he knew it would pass easily anyway.

If Marco Rubio prevails in the 2016 race, he would be the most right-wing major-party nominee in generations. If he wins a general election, he’d be the most extreme president in modern American history. There is nothing “moderate” about him.

But that’s not quite what Ted Cruz is talking about.

As the Texas senator sees it, in every race for the Republican presidential nomination, candidates invariably find themselves in “lanes.” And under this framework, there’s always an establishment favorite who’s friendly with party insiders, picks up a lot of endorsements, generates a lot of positive media buzz, etc. For Cruz, this is the “moderate” lane – the label isn’t necessarily related to issue positions, per se, but it’s more about tone and relationships.

In the current GOP fight, the assumption has long been this “lane” would be occupied by Rubio, Jeb Bush, or perhaps John Kasich. But with Kasich struggling, and Jeb faltering, it seems increasingly likely that Rubio will be this establishment “moderate.”

We know – because he’s said so repeatedly – exactly what Ted Cruz is going to tell Republican voters: “You could pick the establishment ‘moderate’ and media darling, or you could choose the unapologetic conservative. Remember, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were establishment ‘moderates,’ too, and look how the election turned out for us in those cycles.”

A Cruz ally told the conservative Washington Examiner this week, “The difference is, who went to Washington and stood up, not just to Democrats, but to his own party, on issue after issue? The other fatal problem for Marco is ‘gang of eight’ support. People don’t trust him.”

Want to know what the Republican race is going to look and sound like in January? This strikes me as a pretty explicit hint.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 6, 2015

November 9, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Good Advice For A Presidential Candidate”: Kasich Explains Government Spending To Woman: ‘You Ever Been On A Diet?’

At a town hall Tuesday in Dubuque, Iowa, John Kasich gave an interesting answer to a woman who asked the GOP candidate and former chairman of the House Budget Committee his advice on how to keep federal spending under control.

“I know how to do this. I mean, I know how to balance budgets; I know how to cut taxes; I know how to deal with the bureaucracy. I know how to do these things. And I get there, and we’ll get it done — but it won’t be done overnight,” Kasich said, actually sounding at least somewhat sensible. “It’s gonna take years to get there, because the debt is really high. And there’s no way to just slash all these programs — people wouldn’t accept that. But they will accept change.”

Then his answer got interesting. “And then you get there, and once you’re there, then you say, ‘How are we gonna stay here?’ And that’s where things kind of fall apart, because — Have you ever been on a diet?” Kasich said to the woman.

The woman replied, “Many times.” — to which he laughed and responded, “Well, you’re the perfect example!”

“Okay, so we set a goal, and you reach it. And what happens? How about a little spumoni? How about a trip over to Mario’s, an extra — you ever go to Mario’s? We were there last night. How about a little spumoni? How about another piece of garlic bread?”

The key, he said, was to maintain the original discipline — which might also be a good advice for a presidential candidate making personal remarks to people who ask questions at town halls.

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, November 4, 2015

 

November 5, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, John Kasich, Women Voters | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Retreating Entirely Into Their Own Little World”: GOP Debate Flat-Earthers Would Rather Just Talk Among Themselves

The defining essence of today’s Republican Party is that it lives in its own reality with its own set of “facts.”

You know this well enough. On the planet most of us inhabit, huge tax cuts for the rich hurt the economy and compound the deficit. The Earth is warming, and man-made carbon emissions have a lot to do with it. Evolution is a fact that happened and is still happening. On GOPEarth, tax cuts for the rich help the economy and reduce the deficit. The Earth isn’t warming, and even if it were just a little, it’s nothing to do with us. Evolution is just a theory.

It’s all fantasy, and all promulgated partly out of deluded belief but mainly for the benefit of Republican politicians’ benefactors and shock troops—in the three cases above, for the über-rich, for energy and oil companies, and for religious-right voters. And because of the way discourse in a democratic society works, if one party decides that it believes and wants to peddle empirically untrue things, well, provided it gets enough people to believe and repeat those things, the rest of us have no choice but to take those arguments seriously and engage them and quarrel with them. So we waste a lot of time in this country “debating” things that in every other advanced democracy in the world are settled matters of fact.

But now Reince Priebus may be doing those of us on mother Earth a favor. With his astonishing admission Monday that anyone allowed to ask a question of a Republican presidential candidate at a debate ought to “care or give a rip about the Republican Party,” the GOP chairman is unwittingly hastening the arrival of the day when the flat-earthers can just talk among themselves and the rest of us don’t really have to pay attention.

It’s an incredible statement in the way it imposes a precondition of support for the party before a person is even allowed to ask a question. Now, there may be a reasonable role for ideological journalists to be on a debate stage. I’d love to participate in a Democratic debate. But not so I can lob them softballs. Rather, I’d ask them tough questions that it would never occur to Anderson Cooper to ask, because I’m immersed in liberal thought and policy debates in a way he isn’t, and I have a pretty strong sense of what kinds of questions might get them off their talking points. So there’s a role for that. But that of course is not what Priebus meant. He meant lickspittles.

On the surface, the Republican anger over the debates is about a series of somewhat picayune questions about format, like these, which were set forth in a letter from GOP lawyer Ben Ginsberg to the networks (Will you commit that you won’t “show an empty podium after a break/describe how far away the bathrooms are”?)

While Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich all said Monday that they would not sign the letter, even I would agree that Republicans have a couple of legitimate gripes on some of these format questions.

The format of having the top 10 (or 11) candidates debate and leaving the others to the kids’ table has been ridiculous from jump street. Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum, both of whom have actual policy knowledge, aren’t any less serious than Chris Christie and John Kasich just because they’re a point or two behind them but within the margin of error. From the start, it should have been two groups of eight or nine, randomly drawn from a hat (although, interestingly, the campaigns did not agree Sunday that this should be the practice going forward).

They’re right that the CNBC debate was chaotic. And they’re right that questions aren’t fairly distributed. Underlying these two problems, especially the latter one, is a hard economic fact that the networks won’t acknowledge and which Republican free-marketeers are unlikely to condemn. These debates, especially with Donald Trump in the picture, are far less about civic edification than they are about ratings and the ad rates that can be charged when Trump-scale audiences tune in who naturally enough want to see more of Trump than they do of Mike Huckabee. Did CNN expand that GOP debate to three tedious hours so the public would learn more, or so that the network could rake in one extra hour’s worth of ad revenue? Let’s not kid ourselves.

But at bottom, the Republican complaints about the debate process aren’t really about these format issues. They’re about GOP resentment that the questioners don’t share the candidates’ ideological presumptions and don’t see the debate as a PR opportunity for the party; which is to say that they’re about this insular reality that Republicans and conservatives have created for themselves in which everyone who doesn’t reflexively agree with a long list of litmus-test assumptions about the world, many of them provably untrue, is a liberal and an enemy of freedom and all the rest.

So now, with Priebus’s words Monday, they’re edging close to retreating into that reality in a way that would have been unimaginable a few years ago but that we may yet see. Picture this: Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. In 2019, Republicans start contemplating running against her and start thinking about primary debates. First off, they may not even have them at all (a blessing in a way, though not really a triumph for democracy). But if they do have them, is it far-fetched to think that there will be only two, and that they’ll be limited to, oh, the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Tea Party Network? After all, remember, it’s C-effing-NBC they’re mad at—the network that helped create the Tea Party! Remember also that Fox made them furious back in the summer, when Fox moderators asked tougher-than-expected questions. Pretty soon their own mothers won’t even be allowed to ask them questions (especially Jeb Bush’s).

Priebus doesn’t seem to have thought through one basic fact: If the Republican Party really sues the political media for a debate divorce, then the political media will be under decreasing obligation to take the party’s barmy positions seriously, and they can talk on their networks about their world, and the rest of us can talk in every other outlet about the real world. It’s sad, but not as sad as having to take all their whining seriously.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 3, 2015

November 4, 2015 Posted by | CNBC Debate, GOP Primary Debates, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jindal’s Trumpism-Without-Trump Tax Plan”: His Distinctive Tax “Idea” Is One Of The Dumbest In The Conservative Arsenal

With all the excitement going on this week, I totally missed the fact that my favorite Republican presidential candidate, the Gret Stet of Loosiana’s Bobby Jindal, released a tax plan, or at least a tax-based messaging document. WaPo’s Catherine Rampell informs us it’s everything you’d expect from the candidate who’s offering the GOP Trumpism Without Trump:

Jindal — who once declared that the Republican Party needed to stop being the “stupid party” — decided he, too, wanted to pander to stupidity.

That is, he decided to out-Trump Trump.

In a sprawling, largely detail-free plan released Wednesday, Jindal tried his hand at the tax-cut buzz saw. On a static basis, the Tax Foundation estimates, Jindal’s proposal would cut revenue by $11.3 trillion over the next decade.

That’s in the same ballpark as Trump. Yet rather than denying or trying to draw attention away from the gigantic hole he intends to blow in the budget (as Trump and Bush, respectively, have done), Jindal touts it with pride.

“Governor Jindal’s plan reduces the amount of money the federal government will be able to spend,” his Web site boasts, invoking long-ago disproven “starve the beast” rhetoric. The main effect of previous attempts to “starve the beast” through tax cuts, as Jindal surely knows, has not been spending decreases, but subsequently legislated tax increases.

But here’s the fun part:

Jindal’s plan is also, impressively, even more regressive than Trump’s. While Trump would raise the after-tax incomes of the top 1 percent by a mere fifth (21.6 percent), Jindal would increase their incomes by a full quarter (25 percent).

Then, in addition to lowering taxes on the rich, Jindal — but not Trump — would raise taxes on the poor.

Yes, you read that right. Jindal wants to engineer a reverse Robin Hood, taking money from the poor to give to the rich.

As Dylan Matthews explains at Vox, Jindal’s plan would eliminate the child tax credit, the standard deduction, the personal exemption, and the dependent exemption, with the very explicit goal of making everybody, even the poorest Americans, pay income taxes (hey, he does keep the EITC, but maybe that was an oversight!). So in effect his most distinctive tax “idea” is one of the dumbest in the conservative arsenal: going after the “lucky duckies,” the 47% who don’t pay income tax (though they do pay payroll taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, etc. etc.).

At least Bobby’s being consistent: he spent years unsuccessfully trying to get Louisiana to shift from an income tax to a sales tax system for financing state government. Don’t want those job creators to have to pay taxes if they can instead be borne by those proles lucky enough to work for them, right?

Maybe the very conservative voters of Iowa, with whom Jindal is spending most of his time these days, like this approach; you should not underestimate the power of resentment of those people when two or more conservatives gather. But I dunno: as with his efforts to be Mr. Christian Right in a crowded presidential field, I suspect most voters otherwise attracted to Trumpism-Without-Trump would also prefer Jindalism-Without-Jindal.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump, Tax Policy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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