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Rubio Calls for a ‘Pro-American Industrial Policy’ to Challenge China in Followup to ‘Common Good Capitalism’ Speech

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) on Capitol Hill, December 13, 2018 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Marco Rubio continued his recent crusade against market “fundamentalism” in a Tuesday speech at the National Defense University, positing a “call for a 21st century pro-American industrial policy” in the face of a rising China.

“The market may say short-term profits justify adhering to the requirements China places on our companies. But policymakers must take into account that long-term surrendering our productive capacity to China is reckless,” Rubio stated.

He went on to say that “this isn’t a call to socialism or a rejection of capitalism; it’s a call to policymakers to remember that the national interest, not economic growth, is our central obligation.”

In previewing the speech, Rubio told the Washington Examiner that he is not proposing a shift away from a market economy, and that his focus is broader than simple economic policy. The Examiner also reported that a draft of the speech did not lay out specific measures to address the China threat, save for Rubio’s bill to boost the U.S. rare-earth minerals industry.

“There are moments in which the market produces an efficient outcome that doesn’t reflect our national interest, and in those moments, it is the job of policymakers to ensure the national interest is protected,” Rubio said.

During the speech, Rubio decried the current economic debate as offering “an archaic and false choice.”

“The left wants more government programs, and more taxes on everything, and everyone to pay for them — often advocating incentives and punishments on private industry that stoke identity politics and culture wars, but ignore and even undermine our national security and job creation,” Rubio said. “The market fundamentalists on the right want more record-setting days in the stock market above all else. Even if it means our dependence on and losses to China continue expanding to American industries higher up the value chain.”

Last month, the Florida Republican referenced the rise of China in a speech on “common good capitalism” at the Catholic University of America, saying “as Robert F. Kennedy did in 1968, we must once again accept the indivisible tie between culture and economics.”

Rubio’s recent philosophical shift has sparked a debate over economics in conservative circles, with critics arguing that the senator misunderstands the role of the federal government, while proponents claim that Rubio correctly identifies the need for public policy to make value judgements in markets.

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