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Rubio Bashes GOP’s Trickle-Down Defense of Tax Reform

Senator Marco Rubio speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, March 14, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is challenging his fellow Republicans’ attachment to the tenets of “trickle-down economics,” explicitly disputing the notion that the GOP’s recently passed corporate-tax cut will benefit workers in the form of higher wages.

Rubio bemoaned the inadequacy of traditional conservative orthodoxy in the face of rising income inequality and described his plan for a new “reform conservative movement” in an interview published in last week’s print edition of The Economist .

“There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,” Rubio said. “In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

The Florida lawmaker encountered stiff opposition last year during the negotiation of the GOP’s historic tax-reform bill, which cut the corporate rate from 35 to 21 percent. He lobbied aggressively for the party to cut the corporate rate less dramatically and use the resulting revenue to double the child tax credit to $2,000 per family. In exchange for his vote, GOP leadership agreed to increase the existing $1,000 child tax credit by $300 for lower-middle class families but did not provide any increase for the poorest families.

Now, after his ambitions for a more family-friendly tax bill were overshadowed by corporate priorities, Rubio plans to lead a reform movement that places government in a more central role than traditional conservatism typically allows.

“Government has an essential role to play in buffering this transition,” he told The Economist. “If we basically say everyone is on their own and the market’s going to take care of it, we will rip the country apart, because millions of good hardworking people lack the means to adapt.”

The rate of technological advancement and the resulting economic disruption necessitate this reimagined conservatism, according to Rubio, who criticized his colleagues for continuing to recycle talking points about how deregulation and protectionism will lead to a resurgence in traditional American manufacturing.

“The future is going to happen,” he said. “I have no problem with bringing back American car-manufacturing facilities, but, whether they’re American robots or Mexican robots, they’re going to be highly automated.”

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