Marco Rubio probably will not be the next Republican nominee for president. However, at forty-three, he likely has a long political career ahead of him. And, as a senator from Florida, a state with twenty-nine electoral votes, Rubio may be a contender for the vice-president slot. So it’s worth getting to know him.
His campaign announcement is a good place to start. A positive is that Rubio chose the symbolism of freedom as his backdrop:
I chose to make this announcement at [Miami’s] Freedom Tower because it is a symbol of our nation’s identity as the land of opportunity. . . . For almost all of human history, power and wealth belonged only to a select few. Most people who have ever lived were trapped by the circumstances of their birth, destined to live the life their parents had. But America is different. Here, we are the children and grandchildren of people who refused to accept this.
Rubio’s speech was short on policy details, but he did offer a broad outline of some of his main goals: He wants to “reform our tax code, reduce regulations, control spending, modernize our immigration laws and repeal and replace ObamaCare.”
Refreshingly, Rubio does not toe the anti-immigrant line so common among conservatives. Instead, he favors legislation that, although flawed, would move in the direction of a rights-respecting immigration policy.
Regarding taxes, as James Pethokoukis points out, Rubio would modestly cut the “top tax rate on labor income . . . to 35 percent from 40 percent” and expand tax credits; however, I’ve seen no indication that he’d get serious about cutting federal spending.
On health care, with what would Rubio “replace” ObamaCare? As Forbes summarizes, Rubio would (among other things) expand tax credits for health insurance, repeal the mandate that insurance companies provide coverage to those with preexisting conditions, and replace that mandate with a “subsidized high-risk pools for those who can’t find coverage elsewhere.” In some respects Rubio’s plan moves slightly closer to a free market; in other respects it expands federal health-care welfare. In any event, Rubio’s plan is a far cry from the ideal.
Rubio made grand and vague promises about creating “a 21st century system of higher education.” U.S. News & World Report fills in some of the details of his plans in this area, which involve tweaks to federal student loans and other minor changes. But why is higher education even a federal issue? Why is it even a government issue? Apparently Rubio is far too conventional to raise such questions.
The most disturbing aspect of Rubio’s announcement is his deference to religious conservatives. (Rubio is a Catholic and was a Mormon during his childhood.) Rubio explained the “American miracle” by people being “united by a common faith in their God given right to go as far as their talent and work would take them.” In other words, Rubio does not believe that rights are objective principles grounded in reality and grasped through reason; he holds that rights are divine commands handed down from a mystical realm and grasped through faith. He thus implies that rights are not rationally defensible, which is, to put it mildly, not a strong defense of rights.
Nor was Rubio merely pandering to religious conservatives with his remarks. Consider his 2012 remarks regarding abortion delivered at an event organized by the seriously religious Susan B. Anthony List:
This is an issue that, especially for those that enter the public arena and refuse to leave our faith behind, speaks to more than just our politics. It speaks to what we want to do with the opportunity we have been given in our life, to serve and to glorify our Creator. . . . Virtually every faith condemns the practice of abortion, recognizes that life is a gift from the Creator and compels followers to believe that as well, as a basic tenet of their faith.
Religion is not merely a sideline to Rubio’s political career and ambitions; it is, by his own account, his central motivation.
My read is that, as president, Rubio would halfheartedly seek to modestly rein in taxes and (some) regulations while energetically devoting his energies to advancing his faith-based agenda. For advocates of reason, rights, and liberty, that is a bad mix.