Florida Senator Marco Rubio gave a portmanteau speech before about 150 students, professors, and invited guests at the Washington campus of Hillsdale College Wednesday. The speech was entitled “Finding Economic Security in an Insecure Time,” but the headline just as easily could have been, “The History and Trajectory of Everything,” so many topics were covered, so stuffed was Rubio’s forensic bag.
Rubio became a Republican star after he trounced then-Florida Governor (and prospective future Florida governor) Charlie Crist for a Senate seat in 2010. Rubio was on everyone’s presidential short list for a bit until he hurt his political prospects badly by backing the Senate’s awful immigration “reform” bill in 2012. Since then he has been trying to make amends by being active on every conservative front, and being very vocal. Yesterdays speech appears to be part of this strategy.
The good news is that Rubio struck many conservative themes in his proposals for an America where the dream survives. He demonstrated a clear understanding of what has made America free and prosperous, and contrasted these things nicely with the darker purposes and the failed policies of the political and cultural left.
The bad news is that while some of his proposals make good sense, other are vague or impractical. Some would even require even more government to administer. Still others have no chance as long as Democrats hold the Senate and the White House. And the scope of the speech was numbing. It had in common with a Bill Clinton State of the Union that it sounded more like a list than a speech.
Many TAS readers know Rubio’s inspiring biography. He’s the son of Cuban immigrants, a bartender and a maid, who came to America, worked hard, and allowed their son to enjoy a successful career as a lawyer and politician. He says he sees the prospect of this American Dream slipping away under the onslaught of taxation and regulation by the party of government.
In a flurry of recommendations to put America back on track, Rubio proposed:
• Ditching the “one-size-fits-all” federal anti-poverty programs and putting the money now spent on them in a “Flex Fund” to go to the states, which could use the money as they see fit.
• Instead of increasing taxes and the minimum wage, replacing the earned income tax credit with a wage enhancement credit.
• Establishing an independent accrediting process that would open the door for more innovative and affordable schools.
• Allowing parents who are pursuing their education full-time to remain eligible for the childcare credit.
• Raising the child-care credit from $1,000 to $2,500.
• A federal tax credit that encourages contributions to scholarship-granting organizations that distribute private school scholarship to needy children so they aren’t stuck in government schools.
• Tax reform to make America a more attractive place to invest.
• Regulatory reform to encourage innovation.
• An alternative to student loans called Student Investment Plans whereby private companies would pay for a student’s education in return for a percentage of the student’s salary for a set number of years.
• Allowing small business owners to fully expense every investment they make in their company.
• Repealing Obamacare and replacing it with market-centered reforms.
• Opening the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan—which is like a 401K only with lower costs and generally better returns—to all Americans who lack access to an employer plan.
Rubio has doubtless regained lost ground with conservatives, and some of the items on yesterday’s political laundry list may boost him further with the voters he must have to be nominated. There’s probably something in this list to stir many a heart, even if no one can remember every item in the catalogue.