The Corner

Some Debate Notes

1) I give my overall take here. (Headline: “Cruz and Rubio Win. CNBC Loses.”) A few things I noticed about Cruz. a) He had a nice self-deprecating opening. b) He often gets criticized for being canned, but his best moment of the night–his attack on the moderators–was spontaneous. c) One thing that gave that attack power was that he didn’t just generalize about stupid gotcha questions but actually went through the specifics of what the moderators had asked.

2) Carson’s tax math does not make a lot of sense. Here he is talking about a 15 percent flat tax:

Let me just say, if you’re talking about an $18 trillion economy, you’re talking about a 15 percent tax on your gross domestic product. You’re talking about $2.7 trillion. We have a budget closer to $3.5 trillion.
But if you also apply that same 15 percent to several other things, including corporate taxes, and including the capital gains taxes, you make that amount up pretty quickly. So that is not by any stretch a pie in the sky.

A 15 percent tax rate is not going to extract 15 percent of all economic output for the federal government–unless Carson is going to start taxing health benefits, get rid of the personal exemption, the standard deduction, the mortgage deduction, etc., in which case he’s talking about a hefty tax increase on a lot of people. And he’s double-counting when he says that applying that tax to corporations would raise more money: Corporate income is already part of GDP (as are some capital gains). Also, if Carson is planning not to allow companies to write off the cost of any investments–which he would have to do to get 15 percent of GDP with a 15 percent tax rate–then he is also raising taxes on business investment in a big way. This does not seem to be well thought through.

3) I thought Carson had a nice response on the question about gay rights. Carlos Quintanilla suggested that an opponent of same-sex marriage had to object to a company’s providing same-sex partner benefits to its employees. Carson said no, that’s a caricature of my views.

4) Trump consistently talks about welcoming high-skilled legal immigrants, as he did last night. But his plan treats them as a threat to high-skilled American workers. Either position is defensible, but I get the impression that he has not read his own plan very carefully.


Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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