Marco Rubio at CPAC 2015Photo credit: Dave Davidson - Prezography.com
Marco Rubio at CPAC 2015
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced his candidacy for President of the United States last night at the Freedom Tower in Miami, FL.  Watching his speech last night it was clear there will be a lot of energy and enthusiasm behind his campaign.  Rubio also has a compelling story and charisma which will be assets for the junior senator from Florida on the stump.

What will this “new American century” look like according to Rubio?  Here is a snapshot from his speech.

If we reform our tax code, reduce regulations, control spending, modernize our immigration laws and repeal and replace ObamaCare, the American people will create millions of better-paying modern jobs.

If we create a 21st century system of higher education that provides working Americans the chance to acquire the skills they need, that no longer graduates students with mountains of debt and degrees that do not lead to jobs, and that graduates more students from high school ready to work, then our people will be prepared to seize their opportunities in the new economy.

If we remember that family – not government – is the most important institution in society, that all life deserves protection, and that all parents deserve to choose the education that’s right for their children, then we will have a strong people and a strong nation.

And if America accepts the mantle of global leadership, by abandoning this administration’s dangerous concessions to Iran, and its hostility to Israel; by reversing the hollowing out of our military; by giving our men and women in uniform the resources, care and gratitude they deserve; by no longer being passive in the face of Chinese and Russian aggression; and by ending the near total disregard for the erosion of democracy and human rights around the world; then our nation will be safer, the world more stable, and our people more prosperous.

We see four policy priorities.

1. The creation of modern jobs.  Rubio links this with tax and regulatory reform, but what will this look like?  He wants to modernize immigration laws which is incredibly vague.  He has backtracked on his previous support of the “Gang of 8” immigration reform package and has said that he was wrong, but does this modernization look like?  In his recent speech at CPAC he indicated what may be a priority – border security.

You have 10 or 12 million people in this country, many of whom have lived here for longer than a decade, have not otherwise violated our law other than immigration laws, I get all that,” Rubio said. “But what I’ve learned is you can’t even have a conversation about that until people believe and know, not just believe but it’s proven to them that future illegal immigration will be controlled.”

“You can’t just tell people you’re going to secure the border, we’re going to do E-Verify, you have to do that, they have to see it, they have to see it working, and then they’re going to have a reasonable conversation with you about the other parts, but they’re not going to even want to talk about that until that’s done first. And what’s happened over the last two years, the migratory crisis this summer, the two executive orders, that’s even more true than it’s been,” Rubio added.

The conversation that takes place after border security is achieved is uncertain.

It is good to see that repealing Obamacare is on the agenda still.  He outlines his 3-point “replacement” strategy here.

First, we should provide an advanceable, refundable tax credit that all Americans can use to purchase health insurance. The value of these credits should increase every year, and we should set the tax preference for employer-sponsored insurance on a glide path to ensure that it will equal the level of the credits at the end of the decade. This will prevent large-scale disruptions and reform one of the most significant distortions in our tax system.

Second, we must reform insurance regulations to encourage innovation. Americans with pre-existing conditions should be able to find coverage through their state’s federally-supported, actuarially-sound high risk pools. Americans living in high-cost states should have the opportunity to purchase coverage across state lines. Consumer-centered products like health savings accounts should be expanded. And under no circumstances should taxpayers be asked to bail out an insurance company that loses money, as is currently the case under Obamacare.

Third, we must save Medicare and Medicaid by placing them on fiscally sustainable paths. Without reforms, these programs will eventually cease to be available for those that need them. I believe we must move Medicaid into a per-capita cap system, preserving funding for Medicaid’s unique populations while freeing states from Washington mandates. Medicare, meanwhile, should be transitioned into a premium support system, empowering seniors with choice and market competition, just like Medicare Advantage and Part D already do.

He misses out by not discussing wage stagnation.  The working poor have been hit hard as the value of the dollar plummets and the cost of living has increased as a result.

2. Create a 21st century system of higher education.  This lacks details and his issues page doesn’t address it yet.  On his Senate website he offers the transcript of a speech he gave in February at Miami-Dade College on the subject.

First, we must recognize that it is no longer enough to merely get a degree. If you want to improve your chances of finding a good paying job, it is vital that you get the right degree geared toward the right industry.

Not all college majors have the same success rate when it comes to connecting students with good jobs. Nationally, majors such as business, liberal arts, and hospitality have underemployment rates at or above 50%. There are simply more graduates than jobs in these industries. Meanwhile, engineering, health services and education all have underemployment rates less than 25%.

Students and their families need to be equipped with the information necessary to make well-informed decisions about which majors at which institutions are likely to yield the best return on investment. This is why I, along with Senator Ron Wyden, proposed the “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act,” which aims to give students reliable data on how much they can expect to make versus how much they can expect to owe.

Second, we must make the burden of student loans more manageable. To do so, I propose that we make an “Income-Based Repayment System” the automatic repayment method for student loans. Under this system, graduates would make loan payments in proportion to how much they earn. So the more you make in a given month, the more you would pay back. The less you make, the less your monthly payment will be.

We have various Income-Based Repayment programs already in place, but they are terribly insufficient and replete with unintended consequences. Many graduates don’t even know the programs exist, making them extremely underutilized. And perhaps it’s no great surprise that those who do attempt to use them often get tangled in a slow and frustrating federal bureaucracy. Making income-based repayment the universal repayment method would end this confusion.

And finally, we must create alternatives to our current system of accessing and paying for higher education. And there are several things we can do to foster more choice and more innovation.

For example, what if in addition to traditional loans, we could give students the option of paying for their education without acquiring any student loans at all?

Let’s say you are a student who needs $10,000 to pay for your last year of school. Instead of taking this money out in the form of a loan, you could apply for a “Student Investment Plan” from an approved and certified private investment group. In short, these investors would pay your $10,000 tuition in return for a percentage of your income for a set period of time after graduation – let’s say, for example, 4% a year for 10 years.

This group would look at factors such as your major, the institution you’re attending, your record in school – and use this to make a determination about the likelihood of you finding a good job and paying them back.

Unlike with loans, you would be under no legal obligation to pay back that entire $10,000. Your only obligation would be to pay that 4% of your income per year for 10 years, regardless of whether that ends up amounting to more or less than $10,000.

We also need policies that recognize that many Americans don’t have the money, time or inclination to spend four to six years on a campus. Maybe you are a single parent who needs to work full time to raise your children, so you cannot just drop everything to go back to school. Or maybe you are a high school student who wants to fix airplane engines as a career, but you lose interest in your schoolwork because it seems geared only toward college bound students.

3. A strong nation and society through promoting the family.  I agree that the family is definitely a more important institution than government.  He provides a strong pro-life statement here when he said, “all life deserves protection.”  He also addresses this on his issues page.  It is encouraging to see that the issue of life will be one of his primary issues.  His website states:

Protecting life defines who we want to be as a society. All life is worthy of protection, and all life enjoys God’s love.

I believe that Roe v. Wade was not only morally wrong, but it was a poorly decided legal precedent and should be overturned.

I have a record of supporting pro-life policies, and will continue to do so in public and private life.

I believe that as a nation we must always come down on the side of life. We must speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

He also highlights school choice.  What will this look like?  Will there be any strings attached to private schools?  Will this be in the form of block grants to the states?  Education savings accounts?  Vouchers?  I applaud that he recognizes the parent’s responsibility and right to choose when it comes to their children’s education.  Rubio did miss an opportunity to discuss the current federal role in education and how it might change under a Rubio administration.  We do have an idea where he lands on this, but I personally would like have seen it mentioned as a priority.  This could be wrapped up in his school choice plan, but that is not listed on his website yet.

Also missing from his speech is the topic of religious liberty, but in his interview with NPR he addressed it when he was asked about Indiana’s law.

Well, to be fair, I haven’t read the change in detail to give you an opinion on it specifically, but I’ll tell you where I stand. I don’t believe you can discriminate against people. So I don’t believe it’s right for a florist to say, I’m not going to provide you flowers because you’re gay. I think there’s a difference between not providing services to a person because of their identity, who they are or who they love, and saying, I’m not going to participate in an event, a same-sex wedding, because that violates my religious beliefs. There’s a distinction between those two things. So, certainly, you can’t not — it’s immoral and wrong to say, I’m not going to allow someone who’s gay or lesbian to use my restaurant, stay in my hotel, or provide photography service to them because they’re gay. The difference here is, we’re not talking about discriminating against a person because of who they are, we’re talking about someone who’s saying — what I’m talking about, anyway, is someone who’s saying, I just don’t want to participate as a vendor for an event, a specific event that violates the tenets of my faith.

He was later asked whether or not he supported an inn-keeper denying service to a gay couple after the wedding.

That’s not part of an event. Again, I mean, that’s, there’s a difference between saying, we’re not going to allow you to stay in our hotel, common lodging establishment where people have a right to shelter, food, medical care, and saying we’re not going to, what we’re not going to do is provide services to an event, to an actual event, which is the wedding itself. And I think that’s the distinction point that people have been pointing to, and, because mainstream Christianity teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman. People feel very strongly about that. And to ask someone to individually provide services to something of that nature, I think violates their religious liberty.

Rubio was asked the same NPR interview what grounds to people who oppose same-sex marriage have left to stand on since recent polls indicate a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.

First of all, if the majority of Americans support gay marriage, then you’ll see it reflected in changes in state law, which has always regulated marriage. And so at the end of the day, if a majority of people in any given state in this country petition their legislature to change the definition of marriage to include the marriage of two people of the same sex, that’ll be the law of the land. And that is what it is. Separate from that, there’s a constitutional protection of religious liberty that allows people to live by the tenets of their faith both in their public and in private life. That doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to go in and disrupt a gay wedding. But by the same token, it doesn’t mean that someone’s allowed to come to you and force you to be a participant in a ceremony that violates the tenets of your faith. And to be honest, in the real world, 99.9% of the time, a same-sex couple doesn’t want a florist or a photographer at their wedding that doesn’t agree with the choice that they’ve made. So we’re really talking about an issue that in large part is really not going to manifest itself in daily life, but in the instances that it does, there are individuals that don’t want to be compelled by force of law to participate in an event that puts them in the position of violating their religious faith. There’s a difference between that and discriminating against an individual because of who they are.

Rubio did not highlight the issue of protecting marriage, but has said he believes it is a state’s decision.  He also signed an amicus brief sent by several U.S. Senators to the Supreme Court asking them to rule in favor of state marriage laws and amendments protecting marriage.

4. America reestablishing itself as a global leader.  Foreign policy is going to be a huge issue in the 2016 campaign, and it is an issue that Hillary Clinton has a lot of baggage.  Rubio provides some more detail on this point.  Revoking any deal made with Iran, reemphasizing support of Israel, building our military back up, showing strength toward Russia and China, and addressing the erosion of democracy and (more importantly) human rights.  I was looking to see if he would address the threat posed by radical Islam.  He didn’t in his annoucement speech, but he did during his speech to the NRA.

“He still refused to mention radical Islam. Instead, he took the first chance he got to tell Christians not to get on their high horse in condemning it,” said son of Cuban immigrants.

“Let me be clear about something. When we talk about radical Islam, we are talking about an ideology that millions of peace-loving Muslims join us in condemning. We are talking about an ideology that causes children to be buried alive, and women to be enslaved, and young girls to be ritually abused, and innocent people to be executed at their desks for having the audacity to exercise the human right of free speech.

“And so Mr. President if condemning that puts us on a high horse, I say that we saddle up,” he said to cheers from the NRA crowd.

On his issues page he fleshes out his foreign policy positions a little more.

Rubio spells out his position on Iran:

Once again, President Obama has negotiated from a position of weakness – this time with Iran. And once again, America’s safety and security are threatened because of this president’s unserious approach to foreign policy.

Let me be clear – I stand with Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on any nuclear agreement with Iran containing an unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

We must negotiate from a position of strength with Iran, and be very clear with them: until the regime chooses a different path, the United States will continue to isolate Iran and impose pressure.

He addresses President Obama’s relationship with Israel.

We have a national security interest in making sure Israel is strong, and we have a moral obligation to keep the promise made in the wake of the Holocaust for a safe and secure nation for the Jewish people.

Sadly, under the current Administration, that commitment to Israel has been lacking.

The list of ways in which the President has failed to stand with Israel is long and embarrassing, culminating in it taking him days to congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his electoral victory this year – after having made it a point to call Vladimir Putin, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Iranian President after winning their “elections.”

Israel is exactly what America wants and needs as an ally, especially in the Middle East. They are a strong free-market democracy, something we desperately need more of in the region.

Israel deserves our support and respect. If we are perceived as not standing with Israel, what realistically could any of our other allies expect from us? It’s time to reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s continued strength and prosperity.

He has been a one of President Obama’s chief critics on his decision to reestablish relations with Cuba.  He addresses it here.

Cuba’s government is an enemy of the United States, and here’s why it should matter to every American.

Cuba’s government opposes American interests at every turn. They are proven state sponsors of terrorism. They are ruled by a dictator – by acknowledging his legitimacy, President Obama has sent a terrible message to the world.

That’s why President Obama’s one-sided concessions to Cuba are flat out dangerous.

Cuba’s economy is controlled by a holding company, that is in turn controlled by their military. Money flowing into Cuba as a result of Obama’s new policies is going straight to their government – a regime that has actively worked against U.S. interests at every turn.

Obama made concessions, with nothing in return – giving Cuba’s government more resources to continue its dangerous actions toward the U.S. and against freedom-loving people throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Conclusion: Overall this was an excellent, concise speech.  It provided an introduction to his family’s story.  It gave an overview of what would be his administration’s priorities.  There were some gaps, but with a short speech not every topic can be covered.  He’ll be required to fill in any gaps while on the stump.

You can watch his speech here or below if you missed it.

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