Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) makes no secret of his national ambitions, and in interviews and public appearances, the far-right Floridian has even started to make a specific pitch against Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The former Secretary of State, Rubio says, is “a 20th century candidate” whose agenda is stuck “in the past.”
And under the circumstances – a young and inexperienced senator running against an accomplished former cabinet official – that’s the kind of pitch we should expect to hear. But part of the problem with Rubio’s line is that it’s his own policy agenda that too often tries to turn back the clock.
In one of the week’s under-appreciated news stories, Rubio partnered with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to unveil a new tax-reform package. As msnbc’s Benjy Sarlin explained very well, the proposal is a reminder that it’s Rubio who’s “moving closer to reviving George W. Bush’s agenda than anyone else in the field.”
On Wednesday, Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee unveiled the blueprint for their long-awaited tax reform plan, which would cut taxes for individuals, families, businesses, and investors while eliminating a swath of deductions. Individual tax rates would be compressed into two brackets of 15% and 35% while the top corporate tax rate would shrink to 25% from 35%. The centerpiece of the plan, and a potential model for GOP policy in the age of stagnant wages, is a pricey new $2,500-per-child tax credit. It will undoubtedly play a central part in a Rubio presidential campaign should the Florida lawmaker take the plunge. […]There’s only one catch: Rubio’s plan would likely add trillions and trillions of dollars to the deficit. Sound familiar?
I will give Rubio credit for putting pen to paper. So often, we’re confronted with political figures who make grand boasts about what’s possible, but their vision is limited to bumper-sticker slogans and hollow, poll-tested catch phrases. Rubio and Lee went much further, presenting a relatively detailed package, complete with some specific figures, and to their credit, they invited real scrutiny.
That’s the good news. The bad news is, the scrutiny the Republican senators invited has left their plan looking quite ridiculous.
Consider the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities’ analysis of the Rubio/Lee plan.
[The senators’ new tax plan] creates something that’s even more tilted – outrageously so – in favor of the country’s highest-income people and likely much more fiscally irresponsible. And, like last year’s plan, it not only excludes most working-poor families from its new child tax credit but allows much of their existing child credit to disappear after 2017. […]The big losers under the Lee-Rubio plan, therefore, would be the working-poor people who feed and bathe the elderly, care for preschoolers, clean offices, and perform other essential tasks. The big winners would be the country’s highest-income 400 filers, at a cost of much higher deficits.
Jon Chait noted how absurd Lee’s original plan was before explaining that this new Rubio/Lee model makes matters “much, much, much worse.”
The new Rubio-Lee plan keeps most of its old structure, with its stingy treatment of low-income workers. It layers on top of that two changes: a far more generous treatment of business income, and a complete elimination of all taxes on capital gains and dividends. [Update: The plan would also, unbelievably, completely eliminate the tax on inherited estates, which for a married couple only begins to apply to inheritances above $10 million.] Both of these new features would lavish massive additional tax cuts on the rich, in addition to those already in the original version.The new Rubio-Lee plan would surpass anything George W. Bush or Mitt Romney ever proposed to do in its ambitions to relieve the richest Americans of their tax burdens.
For Rubio, Clinton is stuck in the past. Voters should instead go with a fresh young face – who believes in massive tax breaks for the rich, which will produce trickle-down prosperity for everyone else.
A variety of adjectives come to mind to describe such a vision, but “forward-thinking” isn’t one of them.