Honesty Took a Big Hit in Wednesday’s Debate

Mark J. Terrill/AP

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I’m used to politicians fudging and tap dancing during debates. All part of the game. But the number of flat-out lies in tonight’s debate was pretty stunning. Here are the four that stood out.

First up is Donald Trump:

QUICK: I think you called him [Marco Rubio] Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator because he was in favor of the H1B.

TRUMP: I never said that. I never said that.

Trump said exactly that in his own immigration plan. Maybe he never read it. It’s right here.

Next we have Carly Fiorina:

FIORINA: We have 400,000 small businesses forming every year in this country. How great is that? They are employing themselves, they are potentially employing others. The bad news is, we have 470,000 going out of business every year. And why? They cite Obamacare.

No, we don’t have 470,000 businesses going under and claiming it’s because of Obamacare. Crikey. By the way, she didn’t save 80,000 jobs at HP either. And the tax code isn’t 73,000 pages long no matter how often she says it. Nor have 307,000 veterans died because the VA couldn’t see them. Etc.

And Ben Carson:

QUINTANILLA: This is a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a 10-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer, they paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas, and yet your involvement continued. Why?

CARSON: Well, that’s easy to answer. I didn’t have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.

Carson wasn’t on Mannatech’s board or anything, but he sure seems to have done a bit more for them than just a paid speech or two.

And finally Marco Rubio:

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.

….RUBIO: No, that’s—you’re wrong.

HARWOOD: Senator, the Tax Foundation said after-tax income for the top 1 percent under your plan would go up 27.9 percent…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, numerically, it’s gonna be higher. But the greatest gains, percentage-wise, for people, are gonna be at the lower end of our plan.

That’s completely wrong. Rubio’s plan gives the rich more percentage-wise than the middle class. The Tax Foundation did indeed say this, right here. The median taxpayer gets 15 percent more. Rich taxpayers get 28 percent more. Hell, Harwood even gave Rubio a break by quoting the extremely dubious dynamic estimates instead of the more conventional static estimates.

I dunno. Everyone seems to have internalized the fact that you can say anything you want at a televised debate, and only a tiny fraction of the audience will ever see a fact-check. So why not claim the moon is square?

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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