Marco Rubio, the freshman senator from Florida, has wowed conservatives with his candor and repeatedly been touted as a possible vice presidential choice. But Rubio has rebuffed this speculation, and is focusing instead on a message: America is more than big business versus big government, it's about individuals working, innovating and succeeding with a government system that encourages this success.
And for that message he found an eager audience at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington D.C. on Thursday, November 10th. The topic of the conference was “The Constitution of Small Government?”
Rubio began by criticizing the feisty land of Washington — saying that all this “fighting, bickering, and partisanship” is for show. Using the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as an example, the senator joked that there is no more crushing experience than a young fan of WWF going to an event and seeing two rivals having drinks afterwards. But that too is the way of Washington. “I see politicians when the lights aren’t on — and they don’t act like that. People get along.”
With that, Rubio abandoned the angle of partisanship and boiled his message down to a core principle: “The central issue behind all these issues is what should the government be doing and what should it not be doing,” He clarified that a step further, saying that the real debate is how to balance competing desires: how can we be a nation of both prosperity and compassion?
He admitted that for a free enterprise system to truly work — one where people can “reach for the stars” — there should be a net in case they fall, so they can pick themselves up again. But balancing this idea with reality, Rubio said that even America, the wealthiest and most prosperous country, can’t pay for the government it has crafted. That’s a problem. ‘It’s much harder to go to people and explain to them how the market works than explain how a new government program works — but we have to… What’s at stake is not only our prosperity but our economic freedom,” said Rubio.
Rubio, trying to break past political rhetoric and much of the distilled coverage of the Occupy protests, warned the audience that there is a false choice being perpetuated: big government or big business. “This absolutely ignores our legacy as a people,” he said.
“Neither Washington nor Wall Street is the source of our greatness. The source of our greatness is much more common, understated, and misunderstood,” he said, continuing, to say that greatness is “hardworking people, changing the world one day, block, and community at a time."
Rubio sees America’s future and strength in small business, innovative people and individuals. At one point he asked — “What form of government makes it easier to open a business out of the spare bedroom in your home?” He maintained that it’s these people, willing to take an idea and create a business, that are harmed by complicated tax codes and regulations. “Big business can deal with complicated tax codes,” he said, they can hire lobbyists and accountants to navigate the complication. But it’s the potential business owner or innovator that looks at the complexity and gets scared. They do not have the luxury of hiring help to traverse the red tape. That’s the real world impact, Rubio said. It hurts innovators.
He said that America is often called a nation of immigrants — but it is also a land of go-getters: “You can trace your lineage back to someone who came here and has fought to leave their children better off than themselves. They did it because they believed they were better than what the opportunities they had allowed them to become.”
Rubio added that improving our economic state properly is not only about maintaining a national identity — it has global implications. It’s also about “ensuring there is one place on earth where anyone can accomplish anything if they have the ability and the willingness to work for it.”
Senator Rubio ended by giving Americans a choice: “Do we still believe in ourselves, or have Americans run out of good ideas?”
Rubio contends that our feelings on this principle of individual capability and the role of government will determine policy choices, and by extension our place in history.
This post was written by Mary Crookston.
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