CHICAGO – Offering an economic message that jabs rivals in both parties, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday outlined a plan to lower corporate tax rates, loosen Internet regulation and broaden college accreditation, in his first major domestic policy speech as a presidential candidate.
“We need in this country a new president for a new age,” Rubio declared from the downtown Chicago offices of a digital startup.
The 44-year-old first-term senator condemned Democrats’ calls to raise the minimum wage and raise taxes on higher earners, charging that such moves would jeopardize U.S. jobs and “snuff out innovation.”
The nation would be better served, Rubio said, by embracing what he called the current “technological revolution.”
The forward-looking theme of Rubio’s address mirrors his campaign, which aims to distinguish him from leading competitors in both parties — Jeb Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton — whose families have been mainstays in American politics for decades.
He criticized Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, by name repeatedly in his remarks Tuesday.
“The race for the future will never be won by going backward,” Rubio said. “It will never be won by hopping in Hillary Clinton’s time machine to yesterday.”
And while not naming Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida, Rubio lashed out at the policies enacted when Bush’s father and brother served in the White House.
“We have learned, painfully, that the old ways no longer work — that Washington cannot pretend the world is the same as it was in the 1980s, it cannot raise taxes like it did in the ’90s and it cannot grow government like it did in the 2000s,” he said.
While his campaign billed the Chicago speech as a major address, most of the “innovation agenda” he outlined represents policies he has proposed previously.
Rubio called for changes to the tax code that would lower the corporate tax rate, establish a “territorial tax system” and allow “immediate, 100-per cent expensing,” which allows businesses to take deductions on capital investments all at once.
He previously released a detailed tax plan that would reduce all corporate taxes to 25 per cent and cut taxes on business investment.
Rubio also promoted a plan to modernize the national laboratory system in line with a proposal he introduced with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., earlier in the year. He reiterated his opposition to so-called net neutrality, which would prevent Internet service providers from setting different download speeds for different types of content.
And as he often does, Rubio said immigration reform is necessary “to protect American workers and attract more talent to grow our economy and create jobs.”
On higher education, Rubio vowed to “bust the cartel” of existing colleges and universities by creating a new accreditation process. His campaign said Rubio would allow lower-cost alternative education providers, such as the online Khan Academy, to earn accreditation.
Rubio is among more than a dozen candidates seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He is also one of the youngest candidates in the race, a distinction that offers political challenges and opportunities.
His appearance in Chicago comes hours before he launches his first extended campaign swing through an early voting state. He arrives in Iowa Tuesday afternoon and will campaign in the first-in-the-nation caucus state through Thursday.
“Today’s technological revolution carries extraordinary opportunities — even more, I believe, than the Industrial Revolution ever did,” Rubio said. “The race for the future will never be won by going backward.”
Follow Steve Peoples on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/sppeoples