Marco Rubio Needs to Travel More. Seriously. [Updated and lightly edited.]

Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.
– Marco Rubio, last night.

I lifted that quote from a Politico article by Jonathan Martin that went on to say that Rubio left school with more than $100,000 in student-loan debt, which he finished paying off only a few months ago. Presumably, those loans were government-sponsored.  Although maybe at the age of 18, he had some collateral to offer the bank.

Rubio’s parents, like so many of his working-class neighbors now, emigrated from Cuba before 2001, when the first of the two sets of Bush tax cuts were passed.  Apparently, he hasn’t checked the federal income tax rates on individuals and corporations when his parents and his neighbors came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.  Because, best as I can tell, that comment about immigrants from countries where the government dominated the economy was intended as a warning about Obama’s and the congressional Democrats’ plans to have the government dominate the economy.  

So I’d like some specifics.  What policies and programs, current and proposed, does he have in mind?  Exactly?  Maybe next time he’s interviewed by some high-profile journalist, he’ll be asked that.  And maybe he’ll answer.  But I doubt it.

Anyway, for now, I’m left to speculate that he means raising tax rates to Clinton-era tax levels for people with non-investment incomes above $250,000 a year, and on corporations, and on investment income.  He also might mean Obamacare, but that’s questionable unless he thinks that only people who qualify for Medicare get cancer or other serious illnesses, because he also said this last night:

[Medicare] 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.

But the title of this post suggests that Rubio travel more.  Both within this country and outside of it. First he should visit communities where immigrants from, say, Pakistan and Central America live.  People who came here to escape poverty but whose homeland governments did not, and do not, dominate the economy.*  

Then, if he has a passport, he might consider traveling outside the United States.  Maybe to Canada, or Germany, or Sweden, or Holland, or Australia.  Or France. Or, for that matter, Singapore.  Or Taiwan.  Or he could save the plane fare and just use the Internet to check the rates of poverty in those countries, the tax rates there, the social safety nets there, the education systems there, the healthcare systems there.

I didn’t watch the Rubio Show last night, so I missed the reaching-for-a-water-bottle-but-wishing-it-were-a-Vodka-bottle-instead moment.  I wish I’d watched, but I didn’t.  So I’m relying on tidbits reported by others.  And Paul Krugman provides one that, unlike the quotes above, have not garnered much attention.  It’s this:

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

Krugman points out that numerous studies, as well as observation by, say, ordinary folks, dispel that claim. Specifically, Krugman writes:

OK, leave on one side the caricature of Obama, with the usual mirror-image fallacy (we want smaller government, therefore liberals just want bigger government, never mind what it does); there we go with the “Barney Frank did it” story. Deregulation, the explosive growth of virtually unregulated shadow banking, lax lending standards by loan originators who sold their loans off as soon as they were made, had nothing to do with it — it was all the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie, and Freddie.
Look, this is one of the most thoroughly researched topics out there, and every piece of the government-did-it thesis has been refuted; see Mike Konczal for a summary. No, the CRA wasn’t responsible for the epidemic of bad lending; no, Fannie and Freddie didn’t cause the housing bubble; no, the “high-risk” loans of the GSEs weren’t remotely as risky as subprime.

So I guess I was wrong when I said above that Rubio must have had only tax rates and Obamacare in mind.  He apparently also had finance-industry regulation in mind, too. And on this he was specific.

But on this too, I suggest some overseas travel–either physically, or virtually, on the Internet. He’d learn that Spain, Ireland and Iceland must have had a Fannie Mae and a Freddie Mac. Not to mention a Barney Frank. Because those countries’ current and recent fiscal and economic woes were caused entirely by a housing bubbles virtually identical to, or worse than, ours, spurred by Deregulation, the explosive growth of virtually unregulated shadow banking, lax lending standards by loan originators who sold their loans off as soon as they were made.

Then Rubio might consider returning to Canada and Germany, physically or virtually, and checking out why those countries had little or no such bubble.  And before he leaves, or after he returns, he should travel to Texas.  Yes, Texas, of all states.  It had almost no housing bubble.  Something to do with government involvement in the economy, i.e., legislation regulating the mortgage industry, post-savings-and-loan debacle, circa 1989.  State government, in this case.

What is the national debt of Canada and Germany?  And the poverty levels and standards of living in those countries?  

The Politico article, by the way, is called “Marco Rubio as the anti-Romney.”  The title of Krugman’s post indicates disagreement with that assessment. It’s called “Marco Rubio Has Learned Nothing.”  

But a majority of Americans, I think, have.  They’ve learned that you can’t judge a book by it’s jacket cover. And that ideology can’t substitute for fact.

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UPDATE:  Oh, dear. As I said, I didn’t watch Rubio last night.  I also haven’t read a transcript of his speech.  And I didn’t know until just now, when I read Jazzbumpa’s post below, that Rubio said that proposals to deal with climate change, including trying to slow its progression, are attempts to have the government “control the weather.”

Um.  Yeah.  That’s the idea.  

Yikes.

Why do I think Chris Christie is the happiest person in America today?

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UPDATE II: I’m getting the strong feeling that there are a lot of people who are downright dumbfounded by that speech last night–that this guy who’s being touted as the Republican savior went on national television and established himself as stunningly stupid.

We’re going to elect a global warming denier as president in 2016?  We’re going to elect as president someone who is unaware of such things as financial derivatives, and the role they played in the financial meltdown?  We’re going to elect as president someone who seems not to know that student loans and Medicare are government programs–or at least what it means that they are?  We’re going to elect as president someone who thinks Clinton-era tax rates are a government-dominated economy?

I’ll certainly agree that he’s no Romney.  Romney isn’t stupid, by any stretch.  He just pretended to be.  With Rubio, it’s apparently no act.

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*Paragraph edited for clarity. 2/14. (I figured that since this post is getting a decent number of “hits” and Google+ links, it should be edited so that typos and such are corrected.)

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