Why Marco Rubio is the opposite of a moderate
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been crowned the new Republican establishment favorite, the last hope to block the insurgent Donald Trump and the despised Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) from the GOP presidential nomination. Rubio has garnered heavyweight endorsements, picked up deep-pocket donors and is now savaging Trump on the campaign trail.
For the GOP establishment, Rubio offers the possibility of uniting the fractious party. He was a Tea Party favorite in Florida who won the backing of then-Governor Jeb Bush. Rubio is a young, handsome Cuban-American, with an up-by-his-bootstraps backstory, offering the GOP establishment a reach into the Latino community it desperately needs. The effusive imagine him as the Republican John F. Kennedy. Rubio positions himself as the candidate of the future against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Though he has yet to win a primary or caucus, he’s perfected the art of turning defeat into a victory speech.
Even after trading blows with Trump in last Thursday’s GOP debate, it is far from clear that Rubio can slow Trump’s rush to the nomination — even with establishment support. That Rubio could be anointed the “establishment candidate” reveals how desperate the once-proud GOP leadership has become. That establishment once reflected a realist view on foreign policy; sober use of military force; a business perspective on domestic policy; a smaller, less regulatory government, and a political sense about coalition that sought to reach out to Latinos, not insult them. Rubio is a far remove from this sensibility.
He espouses an extremist agenda that makes former President George W. Bush look like a peacemaker and Ronald Reagan like a democratic socialist.
Similar to Cruz, Rubio hews rigorously to the right on social issues. But even here, he is at the far extreme. He isn’t only opposed to abortion; He’s against any exceptions — even for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. He’s voted against equal rights for gays and lesbians, and opposed LGBT adoption to protect children from “a social experiment.”
In addition, Rubio is a virtual poster boy for the National Rifle Association. He argues that human activity has nothing to do with global warming. He’s echoed Trump on building a wall on the Mexican border and outdoes him by calling for shutting down mosques and “anyplace Muslims gather for inspiration.”
Like so many Republicans, Rubio is righteously anti-Barack Obama. He promises to repeal Obamacare, and on his first day in office to revoke all the president’s executive orders. He has warned Obama not to try to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. If Obama dares to do so, Rubio vows to filibuster any nominee.
Notably, Rubio is most extreme — further right than either Trump or Cruz — on fundamental foreign and economic questions.
Foreign policy: Increasing tensions worldwide
Rubio is an unabashed hawk, the instrument of the neo-conservative revival. He’s surrounded himself with the same nabobs who advised President George W. Bush to drive the United States into Iraq and has adopted their unabashed bellicosity.
Rubio’s basic theme is that under Obama, America has been too timid. The U.S. military, despite spending more than the next eight countries combined, is too weak, he insists. The United States is fighting wars in four countries (counting Libya), yet Rubio argues Obama has been too cautious in the use of military force. He pledges to add $1 trillion to the military budget over 10 years.
With that money, Rubio is talking about doubling down on the endless wars in the Middle East. He’s unapologetic about his support for the war in Iraq and unstinting in his praise of Bush. He supported the intervention in Libya and criticized Obama for not doing enough.
He would escalate the U.S. role in Syria by establishing a no-fly zone, adding Special Operations forces, supplying more arms and supporting less-constrained bombing. He’d fight against both sides in the country’s civil war — Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But that’s not enough. Rubio pledges to rip up the nuclear agreement with Iran on his first day in office, though it has already resulted in Iran dismantling thousands of nuclear centrifuges. He says he would then slap even more severe sanctions on Tehran. He doesn’t explain why U.S. allies, invested in that pact, would be willing to go along.
Rubio would also escalate the emerging Cold War with Russia. He pledges to “reverse the annexation of Crimea” by Moscow – also without explaining how. He would bolster the Ukrainian government with aid, arms, military trainers and intelligence information, to escalate the war there. He’d also dispatch heavy weaponry to Central and Eastern Europe to build up North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces along Russia’s borders. He’d offer military training and assistance to non-NATO “frontline states,” including Georgia and Moldova. He favors bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, a step that would likely create a major crisis with Russia.
Rubio pledges to cease all diplomatic engagement with Moscow on issues not relating to resolving the Ukraine crisis. He favors no cooperation with the Russians against Islamic State until Assad is out of power in Syria. Somehow, contesting Russia for influence over Ukraine and Crimea is more important than working with Moscow to get rid of Islamic State.
Rubio would also raise tensions with China because he pledges to build up the U.S. military presence in the Pacific; escalate America’s challenge to Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea; “confront” Chinese cyberattacks with, if necessary, U.S. “offensive cyber operations;” challenge China’s military buildup, and highlight its internal repression while “warning” against any tightening of restrictions on U.S. companies doing business in China.
Rubio pledges as well to roll back Obama’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba and reinforce sanctions and the embargo. He doesn’t bother to explain why reviving a policy that failed for half a century makes sense.
Not surprisingly, the non-interventionist American Conservative gives him an “F” on foreign policy, a worse grade than both Trump and Cruz.
Domestic policy: George W. Bush on steroids
If Rubio’s foreign policy is reckless, his domestic policy seems preposterous. It offends decency and literally doesn’t add up.
Rubio calls for a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets without raising taxes. He signed Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise taxes. He advocates a tax cut that would cost $11 trillion over 10 years. His plan would end the estate tax, a generous gift to the richest 0.2 percent. The 318 wealthiest estates — all worth more than $50 million — would receive an average windfall of $20 million apiece. His plan would repeal all taxes on investment income — interest, dividends and capital gains — and would cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years.
Eliminating taxes on capital income, the Washington Post’s Matt O’Brien noted, would give middle-income Americans a $66 tax cut a year. The top 1 percent, however, would reap $60,000 a year, and the top 0.1 percent would rake in a cool $400,000.
Rubio would also lower income and corporate tax rates, while closing loopholes. He’d push for a territorial tax system, which would essentially turn the world into a tax haven for multinationals.
Rubio touts his plan for lowering taxes on everyone, and particularly for increasing the children’s tax credit. But an analysis of his total tax plan by Citizens for Tax Justice found that the richest 1 percent would pocket an annual tax cut of $223,783 — one-third of the total benefits of the Rubio plan. The middle 20 percent would get a tax break of $2,859, while the poorest 20 percent of Americans an average break of $2,168. With extreme inequality already headed to new heights, Rubio promises to make it worse.
Rubio also promises to preserve Social Security and Medicare for all those 55 and older. But for those younger, he vows to turn Medicare into a voucher program and raise the retirement age to collect Social Security.
To pay for his wish list — massive tax cuts, hikes in the military budget, preserving entitlement spending for 10 years and balancing the budget — Rubio would have to eliminate spending on everything else that government does. This would mean ending funding for everything from disease control to the FBI, from food stamps to environmental protection, from aid for public schools to nutrition programs for children.
Unlike Trump and Cruz, Rubio’s stump speech echoes Reagan’s sunny optimism. But the platform of this Tea Party senator is far darker and more far-right fringe than those of his rivals. He stands as the establishment’s extremist.