Last night’s Republican debate was quite interesting. I can’t do justice to all of it in one post, but here are two highlights that involve Marco Rubio.

I said yesterday that leftist John Harwood was a strange pick to be questioner. I asked rhetorically “How does that help any of them?” Maybe I was wrong. It might have helped because he was so biased and so into gotcha that the candidates, especially Rubio, looked good by comparison.

The most interesting interaction between the two was this:

HARWOOD: Senator Rubio, 30 seconds to you.

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. In fact, the largest after-tax gains is for the people at the lower end of the tax spectrum under my plan. And there’s a bunch of things my tax plan does to help them.

Number one, you have people in this country that…

HARWOOD: The Tax Foundation — just to be clear, they said the…


RUBIO: …you wrote a story on it, and you had to go back and correct it.

HARWOOD: No, I did not.

RUBIO: You did. No, you did.



HARWOOD: Senator, the Tax Foundation said after-tax income for the top 1 percent under your plan would go up 27.9 percent.

RUBIO: Well, you’re talking about — yeah.

HARWOOD: And people in the middle of the income spectrum, about 15 percent.

RUBIO: Yeah, but that — because the math is, if you — 5 percent of a million is a lot more than 5 percent of a thousand. So yeah, someone who makes more money…

HARWOOD: (inaudible)

RUBIO: …numerically, it’s gonna be higher. But the greatest gains, percentage-wise, for people, are gonna be at the lower end of our plan, and here’s why: because in addition to a general personal exemption, we are increasing the per-child tax credit for working families.

I checked the data and Harwood is both right and wrong. Notice that he doesn’t say above that the percentage gain to the top one percent exceeds the percentage gain to the bottom 10 percent. He says that the [percentage] gain to the top one percent is double the percentage gain to the middle. According to Tax Foundation scoring, he’s right.

But Rubio is right that Harwood admitted two weeks earlier that he had screwed up and that he had retracted. It was stunning to see Harwood deny this when there’s an electronic trail.

Notice how careless The Federalist is about this. It’s headline:
Surprise! John Harwood Lied About Marco Rubio’s Tax Plan

No, he didn’t. What he lied about was that he had had to take back a previous criticism. Notice also that Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation did not claim in his now-famous tweet that Harwood lied or even got Rubio’s plan wrong. Instead he claims that Rubio correctly stated that the percentage gains to the lowest 10 percent exceed the percentage gains to the top 1 percent. Here it is:

What disappointed me most about Rubio was his call for increased regulation of labor markets. He stated:

For example, before you hire anyone from abroad, you should have to advertise that job for 180 days.

One of the big pluses we have had in this country is relatively flexible labor markets. Making employers wait half a year to hire someone? That’s positively European.