In the wake of the GOP’s electoral drubbing last November, many conservatives and their enablers in the media have been pretending that Republicans have learned their lesson and are presenting a new, more inclusive, and, to paraphrase Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), less stupid party. Perhaps the leading focus of this effort is rapidly raising the profile of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a young Latino first term Senator who Time Magazine recently labelled “The Republican Savior.” Last week, the GOP tried to raise Senator Rubio’s profile even higher by picking him to give the party’s nationally televised response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
While Senator Rubio certainly presented a younger and more diverse image of a Republican than most Americans are used to seeing, his actual speech showed us once again that the GOP has not really changed. Instead, Senator Rubio’s speech was marked by virtually the same set of reactionary policy ideas, flip-flopping, and out-of-touch attitude that the GOP’s most recent failed Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, subjected us to for the past year-and-a-half. Here are some examples:
Out of Touch
Romney, of course, showed how out of touch he was with average Americans when he told students trying to pay for college to just borrow money from their parents and complained to his wealthy donors about how 47% of Americans are supposedly freeloaders.
Rubio did the same thing when he said in his speech “I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in.” In reality, Rubio recently put his 2,700 square foot, four bedroom, four bathroom house on the market for $675,000. Only in the mind of a politician who is doing the bidding of the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us could a $675,000 house be considered working class.
Talking Out of Both Sides of His Mouth
Perhaps the defining characteristic of Romney during the Presidential campaign was that he was willing to say anything he thought would win him a few votes, even if it directly contradicted something Romney had said even a few hours beforehand.
Rubio demonstrated a similar propensity last week, as he talked out of both sides of his mouth in his speech. For example, Rubio spent much of his speech attacking government as a bad that needs to be shrunk, stating:
And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.
More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.
More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.
And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.
Yet then the Senator tried to inoculate himself against claims that he is anti-government by claiming that:
I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn’t have gone to college without it.
. . . .
One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.
Romney tried this bait-and-switch of being everything to everyone in last year’s Presidential election, and now Rubio is trying the same thing.
Ending Medicare as we Know It
Even as Rubio explained the importance of Medicare to his own parents, he signed onto the GOP’s “detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees.” That plan to “save” Medicare is, of course, the one developed by Paul Ryan and adopted by Mitt Romney that would end Medicare as a guaranteed universal program and replace it with inadequate vouchers for seniors to try to buy private insurance on their own. The plan is so politically unpopular that Republicans were unwilling to propose that it apply to anyone over the age of 55, yet last week Rubio was offering his support for that exact same plan.
Consistent with the orthodoxy that has overtaken the GOP, Romney last year disavowed his previous belief in climate change by echoing climate deniers’ false claim that “we don’t know what is causing climate change.”
Senator Rubio offered similar head-in-the-sand sentiments when he claimed that “When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather– he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.” Such dismissal of climate change as simply “weather” is a common tactic of climate deniers to downplay climate change.” and to cause people to question the scientific fact of climate change whenever the weather gets cold.
Mouthing Conservative Hobby Horses
Throughout the 2012 Presidential election, Romney – who many erroneously thought was a moderate at heart – showed an uncanny willingness to mouth virtually every false conservative talking point that came down the pike. Rubio’s speech was a tour de force of attempting to revive those same zombie lies.
For example, Rubio argued that the 2008 economic downturn was caused not by deregulation, but by “a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.” This statement was a nod towards the conservative theory that the mortgage crisis was caused by government policies, implemented by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of pushing bad loans, but that theory is factually unsupported and was rejected by the definitive report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.
Rubio echoed conservative attacks on the 2009 stimulus bill by false claiming that “every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs.” In fact, government spending, especially at a time of economic recession, undeniably creates job, with the 2009 stimulus alone having been estimated to create between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs by the Congressional Budget Office.
Rubio dragged out the conservative hobby horse of claiming that “uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.” In fact, economists and numerous business surveys show that a lack of demand caused by continuing high unemployment and stagnant wages, not uncertainty over taxes or fiscal matters, is what is causing the lack of corporate investment.
Rubio revived conservatives’ baseless attacks over federal clean energy development loans that went to Solyndra, stating that “Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration.” While conservatives have convinced themselves that the Solyndra loans somehow demonstrate corruption or at least a waste of money, numerous fact checkers have found otherwise, and it appears that the GOP’s attacks are motivated primarily by a desire to hobble the clean energy industry, not by a scandal or problem with the loan guarantee program.
If people tuned in to last week’s State of the Union rebuttal by Senator Rubio hoping to experience a new and improved GOP, they would have been sorely disappointed. Unfortunately, all Senator Rubio offered was a warmed over version of the exact same things that Mitt Romney spent eighteen months running on in a failed attempt to become President. Apparently, the GOP still hasn’t learned the lessons from that defeat.