Marco Rubio’s official Republican response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech was the best-yet opportunity for millions of Americans nationwide to start sizing up the heavily rumored 2016 presidential candidate for themselves.
Given a new Time Magazine cover story labeling Florida's 41-year-old first-term U.S. Senator as GOP “savior”, and his virtual anointment by political and media elites alike as the party’s best hope of recapturing the White House, plenty of Americans outside the Sunshine State have heard of Marco Rubio.
But seeing through the cover story, if you will, knowing what he stands for and what his specific policy positions are...that’s another story, a story that millions of working poor and middle class Americans need to be careful to read between the lines of.
Because much like Ronald Reagan, whose name, popularity and political philosophy he loves to invoke, Rubio hides his own inherently unfair and anti-middle class approach to American economic policy under layer upon layer of carefully calculated diversionary rhetoric.
Case in point? Although President Obama won a 2012 middle class victory when Republicans agreed to generate some desperately needed revenue and reduce the deficit by letting temporary "Bush tax cuts" for America's wealthiest 2-percent expire, Rubio said this in his response remarks:
"The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle-class families."
Although the president has in fact fought to raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits, improve health care and other employment benefits, and protect collective bargaining and union organizing rights for all American workers, Rubio doubled down on his first false statement by adding this:
"It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs."
And then - by way of responding to our tough president's policy of rebuffing Republican efforts to turn Medicare into a private "voucher" system and rejecting blatant distortions about any need to "save" (as in cut and/or privatize) our secure Social Security system - Senator Rubio went for a freakishly awkward trifecta of untruth by saying:
"And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security"
Like Reagan’s “Morning In America” theme of decades ago, Rubio uses an “American Exceptionalism” theme today to distract working people from all the distortions and outright untruth, using his exceptional communication skills and personal powers of persuasion to convince them that he is somehow still on their side.
Rubio makes an art of telling his Cuban-American family story over and over again, drawing in and engaging even doubting Democrats as he talks of his parents’ humble struggles to pursue “The American Dream” after emigrating to the USA and settling in Florida. He weaves his compelling personal stories together with thematic statements carefully calculated to appeal to working families chasing that same dream today, but with far less success. Here’s an example from a recent speech:
“The existence of a large and vibrant American middle class goes to the very essence of America’s exceptional identity…And our challenge and opportunity now is to create the conditions that allow it not just to survive, but to grow.”
Nobody is going to argue with that. And for a lot of Americans, hearing that message from a smart, handsome, charismatic son of immigrants, that will only give it more credibility.
But it shouldn't. For as many times as Marco Rubio mouths the words "middle class" during speaking engagements, talk is still, as they say, cheap; too cheap to be worthy of buying credibility with hundreds of millions of Americans on the wrong end of today’s record-breaking income inequality scale - an economic gap that has sucked up and spit out a large chunk of what was once the “large and vibrant American middle class” that Rubio referred to.
Note how in another quote from that same speech, Rubio avoids using the word “economic” to describe the unfairness systematically built into our economic system for decades now:
“But today, there is a growing opportunity gap developing. And millions of Americans worry that they may never achieve middle class prosperity and stability...”
The fact that over the last thirty-plus years the vast majority of our country’s wealth has funneled to the very top 2-3 percent, that apparently is an “opportunity gap”. Call it what you will, but know that it exists because superstar political performers like Marco Rubio work their speechifying magic on behalf some of the nation’s wealthiest, most powerful corporations and individuals; turning millions of working people against their own government's capacity for creating and enforcing higher levels of economic fairness, and opportunity.
Interesting, how the GOP “Big Government” line of attack used by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and carried on by Rubio in the 2013 State of the Union Republican response coincides completely with historically surging levels of American income inequality - or, uh, the "growing opportunity gap" - and with the the inability of so many hard-working Americans to "achieve middle class prosperity and stability".
And ironic, that when Rubio attacks President Obama and the Democratic Party's middle class-first philosophy as being "Big Government", he's in fact attacking the very bedrocks of what has become "America's exceptional identity" - huge, lifesaving federal programs like Social Security and Medicare, both pushed into existence by the Democratic Party.
Anyone who makes an effort to get past all the diversionary talk about "Big Government" and dig a little deeper into Rubio's specific policy positions will find harsh realities like these:
- Rubio opposes higher taxes on the top 2-percent richest of Americans - like those in effect when the middle class grew and thrived most, in the 1950s.
- Rubio opposes making corporations give up overseas tax-dodging "havens".
- Rubio supports tax breaks for corporations that outsource American jobs.
- Rubio supports taking funding out of our public schools and diverting it to private and for-profit charter schools.
- Rubio supports individual “Flexible Savings Accounts” as the best way for uninsured workers to handle skyrocketing health care costs.
- Rubio opposed and helped defeat numerous U.S. Senate initiatives specifically designed to help the middle class, including the American Jobs Act of 2011, the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Turns out - just behind the lightning in a bottle Marco Rubio hopes he has with his dual theme of recapturing "American Exceptionalism" by limiting "Big Government" - there's a scary cauldron full of anti-middle class policies to take exception to.