Marco Rubio is said to be the favorite presidential candidate of the Republican “establishment.” According to NPR, he has more endorsements from members of Congress than any other Republican nominee (Donald Trump has none). Rubio could well break from the pack if primary voters eventually decide that they can’t stomach either Trump or Cruz. So let’s take a look at his stances, particularly in so far as they might affect common-sense seniors.
The most important thing to understand about Rubio is that his proposed tax cuts and defense spending increases are going to cripple government. In our vision statement, we pointed out that seniors have an interest not only in government programs that benefit them directly, such as Social Security, Medicare, and medical research; but also in programs that strengthen education, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, and help those coming after us to prosper. If Rubio’s tax and spending plans were implemented, it’s difficult to see where the money for beneficial government programs would come from. Cuts would almost be certain.
Rubio’s tax proposals are nicely arranged to benefit the rich. He would slash tax rates for the wealthy and corporations, and eliminate taxes on capital gains as well as dividends. Former congressional budget expert Mike Lofgren, a self-described “recovering Republican,” noted recently in the New York Times that 79 percent of revenue generated by the capital gains and dividends taxes comes from the top 1 percent of earners. Just repealing the capital gains tax would cost the government $1 trillion over 10 years, according to Lofgren. Rubio would also abolish the estate tax, which falls only on the richest Americans. Just 5,400 estates owed federal tax in 2015.
Meanwhile, Rubio would open the floodgates on defense spending. He would give the Navy two additional aircraft carrier strike groups — we have ten already. Each group includes a carrier, costing $13.5 billion, with 44 strike-capable aircraft; accompanied by five destroyers and a fast-attack submarine. The Center for a New American Security points out that 6,700 men and women are needed to crew a carrier group, and operating costs come to $6.5 million per day.
The carrier groups are just the beginning of Rubio’s military spending dreams. He wants new amphibious assault ships, new ballistic missile submarines, nuclear weapons modernization, new long-range manned bombers, and a troop buildup in the Army and Marines.
But when it comes to programs that help seniors, Rubio is tightfisted. He wants to “transition” Medicare out of existence, replacing it with an annual fixed amount provided to seniors so they can purchase health insurance. Common-sense seniors would rather have guaranteed health care under Medicare than an insurance policy.
Some of Rubio’s Social Security ideas sound appealing at first glance, but don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, he would exempt workers over 65 from paying the payroll tax that funds the Social Security system. That might be a nice idea for those seniors who find themselves working as Walmart greeters, but in fact, many of those who continue to work past 65 are professionals — lawyers, doctors, judges, and college professors, not to mention hedge fund managers and business owners. Why should they be exempt from the payroll tax? And anyway, won’t this proposal tend to weaken Social Security rather than putting it on a sound financial footing? Rubio advocates raising the retirement age, which is just a way of cutting benefits. He does say that over the long term, he would reduce benefits for the wealthy. It would be interesting to see how that proposal would fare in Congress.
Many of Rubio’s other ideas also fail the common-sense test. He opposes the expansion of background checks for firearms purchasers, “And on Day One,” according to his website, “Marco will repeal President Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders that infringe on the Second Amendment.” Rubio would re-impose sanctions against Iran, again on “Day One” — a move that is sure to re-ignite Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.
Marco Rubio’s tax cuts and defense spending plans would hobble government. His Medicare and Social Security plans run contrary to the interests of seniors. He is not, in short, a candidate a common-sense senior should choose.