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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Having tried and failed to reinvent himself as a GOP leader on foreign policy, the federal budget, and immigration reform, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is now attempting a pivot to another new identity: Anti-poverty warrior.

The freshman senator will deliver a major speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Friday, marking the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of the “War on Poverty.” Based on a video released on Monday, Rubio is (unsurprisingly) not a big fan of the Great Society.

“After 50 years, isn’t it time to declare big government’s war on poverty a failure?” Rubio asks. (Actually, as Michael Tomasky points out at The Daily Beast, the answer is pretty clearly “no.”)

Rubio goes on to lay out his vision for combating the scourge of poverty (sort of):

What our nation needs is a real agenda that helps people acquire the skills they need to lift themselves out of poverty and to pursue the American dream. This agenda would create an economy with more good-paying middle class jobs, and a government with less debt. It would repeal Obamacare and it would replace it with more affordable health care options. It would save and strengthen our retirement programs for future generations. It would be an agenda to create a new opportunity society in America, so that all of our citizens can have the real opportunity to achieve the American dream.

The problem, of course, is that — aside from repealing the Affordable Care Act, and replacing it with a still-undefined alternative — Rubio does not lay out a single actual policy recommendation (he instead promises to detail “many” of his ideas in the coming months).

As a sitting senator, however, Rubio can’t completely avoid interacting with policy. His recent work shows just how committed to fighting poverty he really is — and may have ended his latest pivot before it even began in earnest.

On Tuesday morning, Rubio joined 36 of his Republican colleagues in voting against even opening debate on extending Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Although the Republican minority in the Senate was unsuccessful in its attempt to block the legislation, it will get another chance when the bill faces final passage. And even if the bill does survive the Senate, it is almost certainly dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Considering that unemployment insurance kept 2.5 million people — including 600,000 children — out of poverty in 2012, Rubio’s vote doesn’t exactly line up with his new image.

It does line up well with the rest of his record, though. Rubio has also voted against the farm bill, joining Republicans who insisted on deep cuts to food stamps — aid that kept 4.9 million Americans above the poverty line — and strongly opposes raising the minimum wage, which could lift nearly 5 million out of poverty. If a policy involves the dreaded “big government,” Rubio opposes it — no matter how many struggling Americans it will help.

Much like his fellow “compassionate conservative” and 2016 contender, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rubio appears to recognize the need to confront inequality issues head-on, but is unwilling to divert from Republican orthodoxy that exacerbates the problem. But unlike the politically nimble Ryan, Rubio has struggled to convince Republican voters (or a skeptical media) that his motives are genuine. There’s no reason to believe that this latest pivot will be any different.

It’s possible that Rubio will shock the world on Wednesday and propose a serious plan to combat poverty in America. But it’s far more likely that his highly anticipated speech will serve as another chapter in the story of his rapid transformation from GOP savior to Tea Party troll.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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  • Lynda Groom

    Rubio is just a wind sock. Which ever way the wind is blowing directs the man and his view of policies. Thanks again to the good folks of Florida for sending this light-weigh to the Senate. Perhaps he should have gone to junior house first to learn a little about the process of government…then again the House may have not been the best location either. What a putz!

    • Michael Ross

      The wind sock determines what direction Marco Rubio claims to be going, not which way he actually is. This is the same song and dance he has been giving since he first came to office with a new label slapped on it.

      But as Obama said, if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. Rubio can promise to fight poverty until he’s blue in the face, but the pundits and the voters will always be looking at his voting record instead.

  • adler56

    Rubio is a typical far right hypocrite. He needs to go back to Cuba and save his own people (like he gives a damn for the poor) and stay out of

  • latebloomingrandma

    Rubio has been such a disappointment. Coming on the scene, I think the Republicans looked to him as their answer to Obama. Too bad he ended up as a panderer to the tea party. His “ideas” seem to be only platitudes as to how to acquire the American dream. Yeah–we all know those. What are the specifics for those living in places where gun fire and drugs are common; where parents are drunk or stoned and don’t feed their children. The answer is to get rid of Obamacare and food stamps? Huh?
    I think the Catholic Christians in congress better pay more attention to Pope Francis.
    I just finished a book about him. One thing he said (paraphrasing) was that economic systems can’t be stacked to keep people out and depend on philanthropy to pick up the entire slack. We have so many non-profits and churches and organizations in America that help the poor, and still we have poverty. The government and its policies have to have a major role–all part of the general welfare. Having people ill nourished, and poorly educated exacerbates the problem.
    Education-education-education. Even Malala knows this is the answer and risked her life for it. We need to inspire our children to look to her as a role model instead of the Miley Cyruses and Kardashians. I’ve had enough of the dumbing down of America. Let’s try a smartening up program. Make being smart really cool for a change.

    • RNPRN

      I am a retired nurse of 45 years. I worked with the impoverished. Most were elderly and disabled. How can you take away someones $16 a month food stamps, that just buys milk for the month. I saw VERY little fraud. On the few occasions I saw it, it was investigated and reported.

  • jointerjohn

    He is joining all the other disingenuous republicans who are now attempting to deflect the need to restore long-term unemployment benefits with a call for job training. All of a sudden these assholes are pretending to care about skill development in American workers. What we know is they don’t care, it’s just something they can say to blunt the callousness of their denial of unemployment insurance. Their historic votes against student loans, Pell Grants, and other skill development initiatives is firmly documented. They survive off of the short attention span and lousy memory of the American voter. They can say or do absolutely anything and within ninety days the magic “etch-a-sketch” is wiped clean. As long as the voting public remains so absent minded and distracted by brainless, sophomoric amusements they will continue to get away with it.

    • ohbillsav

      Your statement is sad,but true.I am 59 yrs. old and have always been upset by the lack of attention that is paid to the running of our country.I am convinced it is getting worse.I went to a social club that my neighbor belongs to recently.The vast majority of members were between 30 and 45 yrs. old.Someone started talking politics and everyone chimed in.The general consesus was that things are “messed up” and it must be Obamas fault.I live in Ohio,so I thought I might ask these young titans of industry a few questions about their OWN STATE.They knew nothing.Two guys in a crowd of 30 people knew who our congressman is.No one,let me repeat NO ONE,knew either of our Senators! One answered “Capri Cafaro”,who is our state sen. When I told him that,he asked “whats the difference”? People get their news in snipets and the most they hear come from Fox,due to FOX being the only News that is on ALL basic cable.Plesae don’t retort about MSNBC.Fox calls themselves “Americas Newsroom”.They call themselves “Fair and Balanced” Neither are true.MSNBC calls themselves “The place for politics or lean forward.MSNBC also has AL SHARPTON on during the prime time 6 to 7 time slot.They are being UP-front about being LIBERAL.Fox passes its self off as the “Holders of all Truth.In a world with a 15 sec. attention span,they have helped with the dumbing down of Americans mis-understanding of reality.

  • jmprint

    Has anybody ever noticed this guys eyes are always bloodshot and his mouth is always dry, maybe we should make him get a drug test. Or maybe that’s the first step to becoming puppets.

  • midway54

    This contemptible, opportunistic scoundrel needs to be thrown out of office in his next election date. He is polluting the Senate thanks to the large community of ignorant Teabagger dupes and redneck yahoos in Florida. He may thereafter become a lobbyist for the plutocrats to whom is devoted and toward whom he obviously genuflects when one of their lobbyist stooges enters his office. In that post-election role, he can continue to help in the war against the middle class and the poor through, inter alia, shredding the safety net programs. Moreover, he may appear at Fox “News” with his political soulmate, Allen West whom Floridians threw out of office after just one term, after West’s district was reshaped and fortunately brought in more sensible and sane voters.


    Just another Republican bowing to the tea baggers base coated with teflon.