MAY LOOK LIKE LIBERAL BIAS: Rubio's evasion succeeds!


Part 5—May look like plutocrat bias:
In the second hour of last Wednesday's debate, an embarrassing moment occurred.

John Harwood asked a question about Candidate Rubio's tax plan.

Rubio misunderstood the question. Either that, or he chose to dissemble:
HARWOOD (10/28/15): 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 one 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...
Oops. Harwood asked about the way Rubio's plan treats middle-income earners.

In his response, Rubio inaccurately said that Harwood's statement was wrong. He then discussed the way his plan (allegedly) affects those with the lowest incomes.

To his credit, Harwood didn't give up. He restated his question, which compared treatment of the top one percent to treatment of those in the middle class. At this point, Candidate Rubio began to flounder and evade in a deeply embarrassing way:
HARWOOD: The Tax Foundation— Just to be clear, they said the—


Senator, the Tax Foundation said after-tax income for the top one 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— Five percent of a million is a lot more than five percent of a thousand. So yeah—

HARWOOD: But this is in percentage terms.

RUBIO: —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...
"But this is in percentage terms," Harwood interjected. No use!

Rubio continued to ignore the question Harwood had asked. Most embarrassingly, he threw gorilla dust all around through his conflation of dollar amounts with percentages. This allowed Rubio to discuss what was happening "numerically!"

It's hard to assume good faith on Rubio's part in that exchange. Assuming even minimal competence, it seems he simply looked for ways to avoid Harwood's question.

Candidate Rubio's non-answer answers were, at best, embarrassing. That said, he successfully avoided Hardwood's question.

Rubio's performance was an embarrassment. But in several ways, Harwood's performance was less than optimal too. This helps explain why Rubio was able to escape.

For unknown reasons, Harwood waited until late in a scattershot debate to raise this very basic question. Beyond that, note the horrible way he began the exchange:

"Senator Rubio, 30 seconds to you."

All through the evening, Harwood and his two to five fellow moderators kept doling their precious seconds in teaspoons as they hurried ahead to their next scattershot question. In this instance, this allowed a dissembling candidate to evade a sensible question.

Who should be blamed for the fact that Rubio escaped? Beyond that, why was he asked that question midway through the evening's second hour as part of a scattershot, grab-bag debate in which the moderators made little attempt to create a steely focus on basic budget questions?

To a cynic, that behavior by the moderators may look like something we'd describe as "plutocrat bias." That cynic might claim that Quintanilla, Harwood and Quick had no intention of zeroing in on the craziness of the budget plans those candidates have proposed.

Those budget proposals pander to the one percent in ways which seem utterly crazy. Indeed, Candidate Kasich had used that term one day before, assailing the "crazy" budget plans of Candidates Carson and Trump.

A cynic would say that those moderators deliberately avoided confronting The Crazy. That cynic would say that the moderators displayed a type of plutocrat bias—that they refused to examine the ludicrous ways those candidates are trying to serve the interests and the bottom lines of the one percent.

(More accurately, the interests and the bottom lines of the top one-tenth of the one percent.)

Were those moderators working from some form of plutocrat bias? If so, did they do that deliberately?

We can't answer the second question. We think the first question should be examined in detail, especially with the next Republican debate coming up on Tuesday.

That debate will be run by the Fox Business Channel. Our guess? They'll avoid confronting those strange budget plans, just like Harwood, Quick and Quintanilla before them.

To a cynic, last Wednesday's debate might look like a groaning example of plutocrat bias. It's a flat disgrace to see leading liberals praising the conduct of such an unfocused, scattershot effort.

The conduct of those moderators may look like plutocrat bias! We'll examine that pregnant theme all next week.


  1. Yes, Bob. It is indeed "plutocrat bias" for a moderator to ask a presidential candidate to justify a tax plan that benefits the 1 percent far more than the middle class. And to continue to press him when said candidate outright lies about it.

    My, what an "unfocused, scattershot effort"!

    Question for you, Somerby, as your vanity blog sinks slowly into even more irrelevance and will soon disappear and be forever forgotten.

    How many more times will you be jumping the shark?

    1. That's just ugly and hateful, dude. What point does it serve, anyway? And furthermore, facts, logic, and clarity about important topics are never irrelevant.

    2. "And furthermore, facts, logic and clarity about topics are never irrelevant."

      What does that have to do with Somerby? He is just as susceptible to spin and narrative as Rachel, Salon, Dowd, or any other of the white whales he lazily skewers in lieu of actual analysis of the mainstream "press corp " and american discourse.

      In short, he's a f*cking crank and a phony.

      But, by all means, you continue to enjoy his offal disguised as "analysis."

    3. David in Cal (the real one)November 8, 2015 at 1:43 AM

      I didn't write the above comment.

    4. Your impostor got tired of typing "douchebag."

    5. I also see he/she was at work in the previous comment box at about the same time.

    6. There is an ugly new troll in town. If you ignore him he may get bored and go away.

    7. I think your "ugly new troll" is a regular member of Bobfandom fond of dressing in troll clothing.

    8. What does that even mean?

    9. You don't have to say even. Just say "what does that mean?". First, it's a split infinitive. 2nd you are not Paris Hilton.

  2. Agreed. I long for the day when our hapless plutocrats no longer have to endure such harsh criticism.

  3. Rubio had a better answer available. The 15% and 27.9% increases in income are based on a dynamic model, which I think is wishful thinking. It was to Rubio's advantage that Harwood assumed the correctness of this model. Rubio could have responded, "John.Thanks for raising that point. As you just noted, my plan will make every American a lot richer!"

    1. DinC may be correct (for once).
      The economy is never going to get that much better until we ignore ALL conservative policy plans.

    2. Rubio had a better answer available


      "he chose to dissemble

      began to flounder and evade in a deeply embarrassing way:

      continued to ignore the question Harwood had asked

      he threw gorilla dust all around through his conflation of dollar amounts with percentages"

      Pretty much exactly what you denied happened about a week David.

    3. Huh? I criticized Rubio for not giving a good answer answer. I said he should have been able to explain his plan.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. 'Rubio could have responded, "John.Thanks for raising that point. As you just noted, my plan will make every American a lot richer!"'

      And if Harwood was smart enough, he might have replied with this: "I didn't actually note that. I was merely repeating what a conservative organization that favors supply-side economics said, after they analyzed your plan based on very favorable and unrealistic assumptions. And even if those assumptions WERE realistic, it still wouldn't be clear that the non-wealthy would come out ahead overall, because your plan would almost certainly necessitate dramatic cuts in government programs that help the non-wealthy."

    6. I feel really bad for Senator/Candidate/Check Kiter Rubio. Even David in Cal has deserted him in his hour of need.

      Hint to David in Cal: practice "Madam President."

    7. David,

      What you are claiming,

      "I said he should have been able to explain his plan."

      is totally different from what TDH wrote above and what I and many others have stated about Rubio's response to Harwood's question.

      You are implying that Rubio simply was not successful in explaining his plan. On the other hand what I and others who have objectively reviewed his deliberate dissembling, obfuscations, evasions and conflations of his tax plan have concluded is that Rubio was quite successful in his number one objective, which was not to answer the question honestly.

      Do you not see that, or are you just playing dumb? Or maybe you're just playing?

    8. What is disgraceful in this exchange is that Somerby in his effort to prove Harwood a plutocrat biased failure and Rubio an evader, ignores that when Harwood object to Rubio using dollars rather than percentages, Rubio returned to percentages. He correctly stated that the largest percentage beneficiaries were the lowest in income.

      Instead Somerby acts if Rubio's response did not exist:

      SOMERBY: "But this is in percentage terms," Harwood interjected. No use!

      In fact as soon as Rubio did hear the interjection he addressed it. By cherry picking which parts of the transcript to quote and which to omit, Somery functions as a shape shifter of the whole exchange.

    9. The rich benefitted more in percentage, not just actual dollars.

    10. But not more than the bottom 20%, according to the Tax Foundation. That means Rubio, while still not answering Harwood on the comparison between middle and upper income, did not as Somerby was arguing ignore Harwood's correction on using percentages rather than dollar amounts.

    11. The question was about the rich vs the middle class. The middle class are not the bottom 20%. He did ignore Harwood's correction because Harwood was asking about the rich vs the middle class. Everyone agrees that Rubio's plan was kind to the lowest 20%, so much so that he would be offering an unsustainably large subsidy to them (probably unintended). How he would pay for that is part of the problem with his plan.

  4. It makes me sick to my stomach that this blog even exists. It's written by a proven liar. It's disgusting that Becky Quick has to be defended as her probe was 100% spot on and the disgusting lackeys who praise the blogger sit there and pretend it's all some sort of cosmic relevance when in fact the media is doing fine thank you very much and disgusting Republincans are the problem. Excuse me while I go vomit out out every hole because of this blog and primary it's fans so in and so forth pleated

    1. Get back on your meds ASAP.

    2. While in the bathroom vomiting he heard a voice. He doesn't need meds. He's cured and is working on a book.

  5. I love how Bob moves the goal posts after being caught in a bulb faced lie about the Quick probe.

  6. I think the media doesn't focus on finances during the debate because talking about that stuff would bore the audience and hurt their ratings. The moderators want to give the candidates a chance to produce sound bites and zingers. They don't want long detailed explanations because the audience won't follow them.

    Somerby is frustrated because no one wants to examine these insane candidate proposals -- something that is essential to a functioning democracy. You guys all think Somerby is wrong about how terrible these moderators were. They were terrible, measured against the yardstick of informing the public. They were pretty good at providing entertainment -- their understood function. They were no different than moderators have been for several decades now. Our society no longer believes in expending effort at the polls. It no longer believes in competence, in candidates or voters or elected officials.

    In the meantime, we have this crop of stupid trolls clogging up the comments so that there is no chance of a meaningful discussion on any topic. It would be productive if Somerby would moderate his own comments, as a first step toward encouraging greater coherence on everyone's part. What does "primary it's fans so in and so forth pleated" even mean?

    1. Don't play dumb jerk.

    2. Who says I'm playing?

    3. 6:55, I realize how hard it is for you and Somerby to get off the "utterly incompetent media, every one of them" line that is the very theme of this blog.

      But go look at the exchanges above between Harwood and Rubio, and go back and look at the one between Quick and Carson.

      Tough question, followed by lie, followed by calling them out on the lie, followed by another lie.

      And who does Somerby blame for those lies? The liars? Heaven forbid! He blames the questioners.

      If Somerby truly wanted to "examine these insane proposals" he would be applauding Harwood and Quick for doing everything they could in that ridiculous multi-candidate "debate" forum that includes at least five certified crackpots, and a couple more trying to prove they are as nutty as the front-runners.

      Instead, Somerby falls back in his comfort zone. Yet another "coulda, shoulda woulda" done post about the awful, horrible, incompetent questions.

      And the guys doing the lying get off scot-free.

    4. What does 'what does ___ even mean?' mean? Why not say 'what does ___ mean?'?

    5. You don't get to write my comments for me.

      What does "primary it's fans so in and so forth pleated" even mean? It is so incoherent it sounds like word salad. My theory is that KZ is decompensating. With any luck he will be hospitalized for a few months and we will get to have some actual discussions around here.

    6. 11:19/6:55, I will forever call you Defender of Moderation, or DofM.

      You call for Somerby to moderate his comments trolls are clogging the place and "there is no chance of a meaningful discussion on any topic."

      The post preceding this one, on disaggregation of test scores, contained a link by Somerby to a post he wrote in 2012. I will repeat that link and urge to to follow it to find out how a troll free comment box on Somerby's favorite topic works to further discussion among coherent readers such as yourself.

      I won't join you in speculating who writes comments. That said, I will lament that the person who used to write the disclaimers proved to be lazy and allow causal readers of this blog to wander into this horrid comment box unwarned.

    7. I am the person who used to write the disclaimers. They briefly annoyed the trolls but ultimately didn't do any good so I stopped. I also try to write substantive comments and sometimes there are some interesting exchanges, but then the trolls fill the comments with noise.

      Like most of the substantive commenters here, and there are several, I may disagree with Somerby but I always find his views interesting. The trolls are always monotonous, boring, and annoying. We all get that they hate Somerby and think he contradicts himself and is a hypocrite, hates women, is a codger, etc., etc. I don't know what he ever did to generate such hostility, but it gets boring quickly. Other bloggers have a rule that those who attack the blogger will be deleted. It keeps the hostility down and permits actual discussion. If Somerby doesn't have time, I'm sure he could get volunteers to moderate this blog. The concept of a free internet is nice, but isn't working out well across the blogosphere.

      I don't think this comment box is horrid. I think it represents a sad waste of time on the part of individuals who could be doing useful things, such as serving meals at homeless shelters, training puppies or collecting stamps.

    8. So your disclaimers weren't really a warning to casual readers of the blog? They were repetitive comments deliberately designed to annoy people you judge to be unworthy of participating with you and those like you? Is that not the very definition of monotonous trolling?

    9. No, annoying trolls was a side benefit. The purpose of the disclaimer was to let people who drop in every once in a while know that the trolls were not representative of the opinions of other commenters. I think I will go back to posting the disclaimer. You are reminding me that it was perhaps useful after all.

    10. Your earlier statement was that you stopped because they "ultimately didn't do any good." I am glad I was able to let you see the error of your ways. Perhaps you let your tribal hatred of trolls overcome your generous desire to protect the innoicent.

      Allow me to suggest you be more like Malala and say to yourself "I do not hate the Tali-trolls."

    11. It would be a lot easier for the rest of us to ignore the trolls if the everyone trying to engage in a useful discussion here would trouble themselves to pick and stick to using one screen name. If your anonymity is important to you, pick a pseudonym by using a random number generator on a calculator and coupling the first three digits that come up with the twentieth word in you read in the next post you come upon at some other site. Do that and Birkhoff at Division still won't be able to track you.

    12. Thank you for your useful suggestion on how to have useful discussions.

      I think it would have been more useful to address the original topic of the commenter, which is why the media don't focus on finances during the debate. Instead everyone engaged in adding unfocused scattershoot topics.

    13. Let's face it. We are all losers.

    14. CMike is correct and I can't understand why anyone wanting to be understood here does not follow his advice.

    15. I stopped posting here entirely because of what CMike decries. It's impossible to keep track of anonymous in all its guises. To my mind, anonymous posters are either lazy, clueless, or cowards; they make up the majority of commenters here making this combox unusable except by masochists.

  7. Hillary's 2 classified emails weren't classified - bite me cicero and David in Cal.

    The eminent Dr. Carson is - semantics aside - a serial liar and grifter. Bite me cicero, Bob, and David in Cal.

  8. Bob Somerby does not understand the difference between a cynic and a crank.

  9. In the 5th (or is it the 8th) post on last Wednesday's debate, one of many embarrassing moments occurred. Blogger Somerby wrote:

    SOMERBY: "Beyond that, note the horrible way he began the exchange:

    "Senator Rubio, 30 seconds to you."

    All through the evening, Harwood and his two to five fellow moderators kept doling their precious seconds in teaspoons as they hurried ahead to their next scattershot question."

    Isn't it horrible that Harwood started by noting this question was one with a 30 second time limit on responses? Of course the well known rules said responses would be either 60 or 30 seconds. And of course we recall a post length lecture delivered by one of cyberspace's leading Presidential debate moderation analysts just last August aimed at the "new Salon" and its "unending supply of delusional ranking professors." The delusional professor complained about the 60 second reponse limits in the first FOX Republican debate.

    LEADING CYBERSPACE ANALYST: "Cracker, please! We reached that point a long time ago. It wasn’t the doing of Fox.

    Do our scholars ever actually watch our presidential debates?"

    He then recounted examples of the 60 and 30 second rule being applied by MSNBC and PBS going back to 1999.

    Our guess? The Leading Cyberspace Analyst may think we crackers need a whole 'nother week of his crack analysis of this one "debate."

    1. So, are you in favor of 30 sec and 60 sec limits on answers about topics such as tax plans or do you think candidates should have more time? It wasn't clear from your comment what your position on this matter is.

    2. It should be clear I am in favor of giving Somerby enough time on any topic to completely contradict himself.

    3. So you have no real interest in the topics discussed in this blog.

    4. anon 12:07, (and I assume most of tese "troll" posts, I'll vote here, by checking the boxes that you are obnoxius, boring and really dumb.

    5. We'd also say it's astounding that Bob apologists like AC/MA are somehow unable to see Someby's self contradictions, or are willing to praise them.

    6. Imposing an unreasonable standard on this blogger, which no one else on earth adheres to, is just trolling.

    7. What standard is imposed Corby. How is it unreasonable.

    8. I don't see where I'm apologizing for anyone - I'm simply observing that you are an idiot.

    9. That said, it is more astounding that AC/MA does not recognize the inherent wisdom of Bob when Bob's words are copied but AC?A's initials are substituted for Bob's usual targets.

  10. don't let the few sentences about "plutocrat bias" (which for reasons someone stated above did not seem to be at play in the Harwood-Rubio exchange) cause you to overlook how excellent this post is. no one lays out as clearly and thoroughly as Somerby does the way Rubio evaded Harwood's question.

    1. Don't let the shifting theme of this long series, and its promised extension for another week on the theme of "plutocrat bias" cause you to think the few sentences about "plutocrat bias" will be just a few sentences. Because otherwise you couldn't have watched the debate or read the transcript yourself to see how Rubio evaded Harwood's questions without Somerby's brilliant explanation that Rubio threw gorilla dust.

  11. Today, the Huffington Post has a headline "One year to go" with pictures of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders embedded among all the Republican candidates. This is an obvious ploy to present Clinton and Sanders as similar to (or equivalent to) the array of crazies on the right. It is a perfect example of false equivalency. The kind of serious substantive campaign being waged by both Sanders and Clinton is in no way like the circus on the right. Shame on Ariana Huffington for implying there is any similarity between them.

    1. Shame on Bob for not moderating stupid comments like yours.

    2. Ha ha ha ha you are so funny and clever. I wish I could be funny and clever like you.

    3. ABC once published a photo which was an obvious ploy to futher the meme started by their oligeanous Old Coot Diane Sawyer that the Clinton's are out of touch with their middle to lower income base.

    4. Cicero seems to be back.

    5. Warning to casual readers of this blog: The comments here are not moderated and are infested with anonymous trolls claiming other anonymous commenters are actually people who use their names when commenting.

  12. How do we know, in a Presidentital Debate setting, when a candidate's evasion is unsuccessful?

  13. "It's a flat disgrace to see leading liberals praising the conduct of such an unfocused, scattershot effort."

    I agree with Bob Somerby. I just wish he had given the names of leading liberals and examples of their praise.

    1. He did that on Nov 6.

    2. Well, as best I can tell, on that date he did something with some similarity. He wrote:

      "On the whole, though, the moderators didn't necessarily seem to be working from liberal bias. They also didn't stage a substantive debate, despite what liberal apologists and potential colleagues would soon be claiming."

      In this case he suggests "liberal apologists," not "leading liberals" were claiming the debate was substantive. In this case he again gives no names or examples.

      Perhaps to Somerby praising conduct and claiming substance are the same, but does he, and more importantly do you, define "leading liberal" and "liberal apologist" as one and the same? I can see people who would do so, but I would not consider them to be liberal. "Liberal apologist" seems to me to be the kind of perjorative label thrown around by the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter, Palin and Cruz.

    3. You might not be looking at the right post. In the one I read on Nov 6, he mentions Klein and Drum by name.

    4. Oh, I am looking at the right post. A few lines after the one I quoted, Somerby writes:

      "On the whole, we'd say the moderators worked from a form of "plutocrat bias" in the basic way they proceeded. We'd also say it's astounding that liberals like Ezra Klein and even Kevin Drum were somehow unable to see that fact, or were unwilling to say it."

      Here Somerby mentions two people who are unable to either see or say something about "plutocrat bias." That does not mean they are praising any conduct or claiming any substance. It means those two did not see something or write about somehting Somerby calls "plutocrat bias."

      Obviously something Somerby wrote caused you to think Somerby considers these two, Klein and Drum, to be leading liberals. Or do you think he meant they were liberal apologists since he used that term in the same post, right before he mentioned them by name?

    5. I have no time for this.

    6. Somerby could have saved you time if he had named names and given examples as I suggested at the beginning.

    7. No, he could have saved you time. I already knew their names and what they had said about the debates because I had read the posts to which Somerby was referring. How much longer do you need Somerby's posts to be? Insisting that he include a bunch of extraneous information to bring you up to speed (on things discussed in previous posts) is just more trolling.

    8. So are you Anonymous @ 3:45/4:41, Corby?

    9. I'll kick both you fool's asses.

    10. I think we should salute Bob Somerby for inventing the term "plutocrat bias" for this series, then attacking two people for not recognizing or talking about it before he coined the phrase!

      What a trend setter that Bob Somerby is.

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