Opinion writer

* Ben Carson is not going to shy away from telling our young people that the country is headed to its demise:

Ben Carson took a shot at Bernie Sanders in an address to students at the nation’s largest Christian college on Wednesday, warning against “unscrupulous politicians” offering free college that will add to the national debt and hasten “the destruction of the nation.”

Just 12 hours after the fourth Republican presidential debate concluded Tuesday night in Milwaukee, Carson told students at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that a successful democracy depends on “a well-informed and educated populace.”

“If people are not well informed, they just [listen to] unscrupulous politicians and news media and off the people go in the completely wrong direction, listening to all kinds of propaganda and inculcating that into their way of thinking,” the GOP White House hopeful said.

“It becomes easy to swallow things. If you don’t understand our financial situation and someone comes along and says, ‘free college for everybody,’ they’ll say, ‘oh how wonderful,’ and have no idea they’re talking about hastening the destruction of the nation.”

Yes, what the Carson candidacy depends on is a well-informed electorate.

* The latest news from the “reaching out” front is not good for Republicans:

Republicans need to make gains with Hispanic voters in 2016, but that reality is complicated by the fact that more adults support Donald Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, a new Economist Group/YouGov Poll finds.

A whopping 49 percent of Republicans and independents who lean to the GOP say Trump is the presidential candidate who can best handle the issue — well ahead of Marco Rubio with 10 percent GOP support, Ted Cruz with 7 percent and Jeb Bush at 5 percent.

Keep in mind that Trump would model his deportation plan on a program from the 1950s colorfully named “Operation Wetback.” But really, Hispanics, the GOP welcomes you with open arms.

* And who’s going to carry this operation out? Why a “deportation force,” says Donald. Sounds good.

* Francis Wilkinson explains in a way we haven’t seen before just what a bill of goods Marco Rubio’s real position on immigration has become. — gs

* Jonathan Chait ventures inside the alternate reality the GOP candidates were inhabiting last night.

* Brian Beutler explains how Republicans got everything they wanted out of the debate, and why that was excellent news for Democrats.

* Jonathan Cohn has a nice long-view look at the fundamental question the GOP candidates cannot answer about GOP economics, one that could loom large in 2016. — gs

* Michael Grunwald says the debate showed exactly why Republicans dislike talking about the 2008 financial meltdown so much.

* Ryan Cooper makes a crucial point about the Democratic Party’s failings when it comes to the politics of deficits:

The upshot here is that austerity politics is a one-way street. When times are bad, Democrats box themselves into thinking that their social justice priorities are going to have to be sacrificed at the altar of the almighty deficit, but Republicans feel no such compunction. Instead they constantly bellyache about how spending they don’t like is going to lock our children into permanent debt slavery, but forget all about it when they get a chance to cut taxes on the rich. As Dick Cheney once said, “Ronald Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

The key here is “spending they don’t like.” If Republicans say “we can’t afford X,” you can bet that X is something they’d be happy to get rid of entirely.

* Justin Wolfers explains how female economists are often demoted to second-class status when they publish with their economist husbands.

* Adele Stan has some thoughts about the welders and philosophers Marco Rubio brought up last night.

* At The Week, I asked when we might get an atheist president. It might be sooner than you think.

* And yesterday, Rand Paul voiced doubt about climate science by noting that there have been “times when carbon in the atmosphere has been higher.” Darren Samuelsohn responds:

The good news for the senator: He’s right. Scientists believe carbon dioxide levels were once far, far higher than they are today. The bad news: There were no humans. Whatever the earth was like to live on, it was populated by a very different set of species.

That’s a Geppetto Checkmark for you, Senator! — gs