Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is regarded as one of the top potential Republican presidential candidates in 2016, delivered a major speech Wednesday afternoon outlining his economic policies at Hillsdale College in Washington D.C. He framed his platform as an effort to stop the "erosion of the American Dream" through "modern conservative reforms." Rubio began by discussing how he felt "privileged" despite a rather humble upbringing.
"I was privileged to be raised in a stable family. Privileged that my parents had jobs that allowed them to provide for their children. And I was privileged to be born in a land of equal opportunity, the one place on earth where the son of a bartender and maid could achieve the same things as a son of a president or a millionaire," Rubio said, according to a prepared version of his speech distributed by his office. "The American Dream is still attainable. But it has gotten increasingly difficult to achieve for far too many. Wages have stagnated; everyday costs have risen; industries that once flourished have dried up, their jobs shipped overseas or lost to automation; and millions go to sleep each night overcome with the sense that they are one bad break from financial ruin."
Rubio identified "three sets of Americans" that he said are having a particularly difficult time getting by; "single mothers," "recent college graduates," and "working class families." He attributed much of the blame for these economic woes to the federal government's failure to confront the "rapid and disruptive transformation of our economy driven by automation and globalization."
"Instead of adjusting to the realities of this new era, many of our institutions are failing us – and none more so than our federal government," Rubio declared.
He went on to outline the main ways in which he believes the government fell short of confronting economic challenges.
"Instead of attracting jobs to our shores through simplifying taxes and regulations, it imposes higher taxes and more regulations that push investment and innovation to other countries. Instead of anti-poverty programs that promote work and education so our people can emerge from poverty, we pump more money into programs that have failed us for a half century," said Rubio. "Instead of taking steps to make higher education more available and more affordable, we pour resources into a system that is expensive, inaccessible and is graduating too many people with unemployable degrees. And instead of modernizing our retirement programs to make them accessible to everyone, we put more money into unsustainable programs that were designed in the 1930s."
According to Rubio, this situation has caused "a growing number of people" to "feel completely alienated from our government and its leaders."
"They feel as if no one here in Washington understands what they are facing and no one here has answers to their challenges," he said.
Rubio also specifically criticized President Barack Obama's economic policy proposals.
"President Obama deserves credit for hosting a summit earlier this week focused on helping working families. But the ideas he offered are more symbolic than they are substantive. They do not go far enough," said Rubio. "Up to this point, his plan to restore the American Dream has been an old and familiar one: raise taxes, create more regulations, pour more money into government programs, and accuse anyone who doesn’t agree with him of not caring."
Rubio then proceeded to tell the stories of several specific individuals who belonged to each of these categories while detailing the policies he believed would improve their fortunes. He described this platform as "a new policy agenda designed specifically for the 21st century" and "a limited government and free enterprise movement that applies the principles of our founding to the challenges and opportunities facing Americans in their daily lives."
For single mothers, Rubio outlined four major proposals. He argued "replacing the flawed earned income tax credit with a wage enhancement credit" would help "boost" wages for people who are struggling. Secondly, he highlighted his efforts to establish "a new, independent accrediting process" for colleges as an initiative that would make higher education more accessible. Under the current system, Rubio claimed "established institutions control the accrediting process" and "the entrenched higher education cartel has the power to block out innovative, lower-cost competitors." Rubio also argued parents who are full-time students should be allowed to remain eligible for the childcare tax credit. Lastly, Rubio pointed to a series of "pro-family tax reforms" he proposed along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that he said would raise per-child tax credits and allow working parents to receive payments for the amount of money that wasn't saved as a result of their reduction in liability through these credits.
Rubio moved on to recent graduates next and pointed to three policies he said would help graduates deal with student debt. Firstly, Rubio cited a bill he backed with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that would "require schools to tell prospective students how much their graduates earn with a given degree." He also noted his support for establishing a student loan repayment system based on income that he said would remove "the risk of default." Finally, Rubio cited "an alternative to student loans" he has proposed called "Student Investment Plans."
"Students would be able to enter into an agreement with a private firm in which the firm pays for the student’s education in return for a percentage of their salary for a set number of years after graduation," Rubio explained.
Rubio concluded by expressing his belief the "American Dream" could survive if the country adopts his approaches to economic policy.
"The great cause of our time is to reclaim the American Dream for more of our people than ever before. And in doing so leave for our children what our parents left for us: the single greatest nation the world has ever known," said Rubio.
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