The following is a transcript of Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio's speech at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30, 2012.
RUBIO: Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you.
I think I just drank Clint Eastwood's water. Thank you.
Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me here
today and thank you so much for doing this convention here in
Florida. Before I begin --
Before I begin this is such an important night for my
Thank you so mucch -- thank you so much for having
me here today, and thank you so much for doing this convention
here in Florida.
You know, before I begin -- yes, thank you -- before I
being, this is such an important night for my country. I want
to begin -- with your permission -- 80 seconds, to talk about
another country. A country located just a few hundred miles
away from this city, the country of my parents birth.
There is no freedom or liberty in Cuba, and tonight, I ask
for your prayers that soon freedom and liberty will be there as
It -- this is a big honor for me. Not so long ago I was
just a underdog candidate. The only people who thought I could
win all live in my house.
Four of them were under the age of 10.
But this is incredible when I was asked to introduce
Governor Romney, who will hear from in just a moment, he is
backstage, ready to go.
So, I called a few people, and asked them, ``What should I
say?'' And they had a lot of different opinions, but the one
thing they all said was, ``Don't mess it up.'' So, I thought the
best way to introduce Mitt Romney tonight, the next president of
the United States...
... is to talk about what this election is about. And I'm
so honored to do this here in Florida at the Republican national
convention in front of all you patriots.
I watched my first convention in 1980 with my grandfather.
My grandfather was born to a farming family in rural Cuba.
Childhood polio left him permanently disabled. Because he
couldn't work the farm, his family sent him to school. He was
the only one in his family that knew how to read. He was a huge
influence on the growing up. As a boy, I sat on the porch of my
house and listen to his stories about history and politics and
baseball, as he would talk on one of its three daily (inaudible)
cigars. Now, I don't remember, it has been three decades since
we last sat on that porch. I don't rember all the things he
talked to me about. But the one thing I rember is the one thing
he wanted me never to forget. That the dreams he had when he
was young became impossible to achieve . But there was no limit
to how far I could go, because I was an American.
Now for those of us -- here's why I say that -- here's why
I say that. Because for those of us who were born and raised in
this country, sometimes it becomes easy to forget how special
America is. But my grandfather understood how different America
was from the rest of the world because he knew life outside
Tonight, you will hear from another man who understands
what makes America exceptional.
Mitt Romney knows America's prosperity did not happen
because our government simply spent more money. It happened
because our people use their own money to open a business. And
when they succeed, they hire more people, who invest or spend
their money in the economy, helping others start a business or
Now tonight, we have heard for a long time now about Mitt
Romney's success in business. It is well known. But we've also
learned he is so much more than that. Mitt Romney is a devoted
husband, a father, a grandfather, a generous member of his
community and church, a role model for younger Americans like
myself. Everywhere he has been, he has volunteered his time and
talent to make things better for those around him. And we are
blessed that a man like this will soon be the president of these
Now, let me be clear so that no one misunderstands. Our
problem with President Obama is not he is a bad person. By all
accounts, he too is a good husband, a good father, and thanks to
lots of practice, a good golfer.
Our problem is not that he is a bad person. Our problem is
that he is a bad president.
Do you think he's watching tonight? Because his new slogan
is the word, forward. Forward. A government that spends $1
trillion more than it takes in? An $800 billion stimulus that
treated more debt than jobs? A government intervention into
healthcare paid for with higher taxes and cuts to Medicare,
scores of new rules and regulations. These ideas to not move us
forward. These ideas move us backwards.
These are tired and old big government ideas that have
failed every time and everywhere they have been tried. These
are ideas that people come to America to get away from.
These -- these are ideas that threaten to make America more
like the rest of the world instead of helping the rest of the
world become more like America.
As for his old slogan, under Barack Obama, the only change
is that hope is hard to find.
Now, sadly, millions of Americans are insecure about their
future. Instead of inspiring us by reminding us of what makes a
special, he divides us against each other.
He tells Americans that they're worse off because others
are better off, that richer people got rich by making other
people poor. Hope and change has become divide and conquer.
But in the end of this election, it doesn't matter how you
feel about President Obama. This election is about your future,
not about his.
And -- and this election is not simply a choice between a
Democrat and Republican. It is a choice about what kind of
country you want America to be.
And as we prepare to make this choice, we should remember
what made a special. -- remember what made us special . You
see, for most of our human history, almost everybody was poor.
Power and wealth only belonged to a few. Your rights are
whatever your rulers allowed you to have, your future was
determined by your past. If your parents were poor, so would
you be. If you were born without opportunities, so were your
But America was founded on the idea that every person has
God given rights.
Founded on the belief that power belongs to the people,
that government exists to protect our rights and serve our
interests, and that no one should be trapped in the
circumstances of their birth. We should be free to go as far as
our talents and our work can take us.
And we're special -- we're special because we are united --
we're united not as a common race or ethnicity, we are bound
together by common values. The family is the most important
institution in society.
And that almighty God is the source of all we have.
We are special. We are special because we have never made
the mistake of believing we are so smart that we can rely solely
on our leaders or on our government. Our national motto, ``in
God we trust'', reminding us that faith in our creator is the
most important American value of them all.
And we are special -- we're special because we've always
understood the scriptural admonition, that for everyone to whom
much is given, from him much will be required.
Well, my fellow Americans, we are a uniquely blessed
people, and we have honored those blessings with the enduring
example of an exceptional America.
I know for many of you watching at home tonight, the last
few years have tested your faith in the promise of America.
Maybe you are at an age when you thought you would be entering
retirement, but now because your savings and investments are
wiped out your future is uncertain.
Maybe after years of hard work this was the time you
expected to be your prime earnings years, but instead, you've
been laid off and your house is worth less than your mortgage.
Maybe you did everything you were told to do to get ahead.
You studied hard and finished school, but now you owe thousands
of dollars in student loans, you can't find a job in your field,
and you've had to move back in with your parents. You want to
believe we're still that special place where anything is
possible. You just do not seem -- things not seen to be getting
any better, and you wonder if things will ever be the same
Yes, we live in a troubled time, but the story of those who
came before us reminds us that America has always been about new
beginnings, and Mitt Romney is running for president because he
knows, if we are willing to do for our children what our parents
did for us, life in America can be better than it has ever been.
My mother was one of seven girls who parents often went to
bed hungry so their children wouldn't. My father lost his
mother when he was nine. He had to leave school and to go to
work, and he would work for the next 70 years of his life. They
immigrated to America with little more than the hope of a better
life. My dad was a bartender. My mom was a cashier, a hotel
maid, a stock clerk at Kmart. They never made it big. They
were never rich, and yet they were successful, because just a
few decades removed from hopelessness, they made possible for us
all the things that have been impossible for them.
Many nights growing up I would hear my father's keys at the
door as he came home after another 16-hour day. Many mornings,
I woke up just as my mother got home from the overnight shift at
Kmart. When you're young and in a hurry, the meaning of moments
like this escape you. Now, as my children get older, I
understand it better. My dad used to tell us -- (SPEAKING IN
SPANISH) -- in this country, you'll be able to accomplish all
the things we never could.
A few years ago, I noticed a bartender behind the portable
bar in the back of the ballroom. I remembered my father, who
worked as many years as a banquet bartender. He was grateful
for the work he had, but that's not like he wanted for us. You
see, he stood behind the ball all those years so that one day I
could stand behind a podium, in the front of a room.
That journey -- that journey, from behind that bar to
behind this podium, goes to the essence of the American miracle.
That we're exceptional, not because we have more rich people
here. We are special because dreams that are impossible
anywhere else, they come true here.
But that is not just my story. That's your story. That's
our story. That's the story of your mothers, who struggled to
give you what they never had. That's the story of your father
who worked two jobs so that the doors that had been closed to
them will be open for you. That's the story of that teacher or
that coach who taught the lessons that may do for you are today.
And it's the story of a man who was born into an uncertain
story in a foreign country, whose family came to escape
revolution. They struggled through poverty and the Great
Depression, and yet he rose to be an admired businessman and
public servant. And in November, his son Mitt Romney, will be
elected president of these United States.
In America, we are all just a generation or two removed
from somebody who made our future the purpose of their lives.
RUBIO: America is the story of everyday people who did
extraordinary things, a story woven deep into the fabric of our
society. Their stories may never be famous, but in the lives
they lived, you will find the essence of America's greatness.
And to make sure that America is still a place where
tomorrow is always better than yesterday, that is what our
politics should be about. And that is what we are deciding in
We decide, do we want our children to inherit our hopes and
dreams? Or do we want to inherit our problems? Because if Mitt
Romney believes, if we succeed in changing the direction of our
country, our children and grandchildren will be the most
prosperous generation ever, and their achievements will astonish
The story of our time will be written by Americans who
haven't yet even been born. Let us make sure the right that we
did our part. That, in the early years of this new century, we
lived in an uncertain time, but we did not allow fear to make us
abandon what made us special.
We chose more government instead of more freedom. We chose
the principles of our founding to solve the challenges of our
time. We chose a special man to lead us In a special time. We
chose Mitt Romney to lead our nation and, because we did, the
American miracle lived on for another generation to inherit.
My fellow Republicans, my fellow Americans, I am proud to
introduce to you, the next president of the united states of
America, Mitt Romney.
The least interesting thing Marco Rubio said on Tuesday was about Hillary Clinton.
In a speech detailing his jobs plan, Rubio took a quick dig at the Democratic frontrunner. "The race for the future will never be won by going backward," he said. "It will never be won by hopping in Hillary Clinton’s time machine to yesterday."
Because presidential campaigns are finely tuned to make Americans hate politics, this was the bit of Rubio's speech that got amplified — including by Democrats. "Let’s be real," replied Holly Shulman, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, in a statement emailed to reporters. "Retro Rubio is the only one here who is attempting to master time travel. Rubio continues to peddle the same failed Republican policies that cripple the economy and squeeze the middle class."
"Hillary Clinton’s time machine to yesterday." "Retro Rubio."
Kill me now.
Rubio's theory of the economy: It's not about Obama
But the rest of Rubio's speech was worth reading. It laid out, in detail, Rubio's theory of the economy — and, in somewhat less detail, his vision of how to fix it.
And make no mistake: Rubio does have a theory of our economic problems. Better yet, it's an apolitical theory of our economic problems. Of late, Republicans have fallen into the trap of believing, or pretending to believe, that the central driver of America's economic problems is Barack Obama. These lazy, partisan analyses have led to lazy, partisan, policy proposals.
But Rubio's diagnosis has nothing to do with Obama — indeed, he doesn't even mention Obama. Nor is it about Democrats. Hell, it's not even about recent decisions made by American policymakers. It's about technology and globalization.
"The path to the middle class is narrower today than it has been for generations, and the American dream so many achieved in the last century is in peril," he says.
There are two primary forces behind this transformation. The first is radical technological progress – including the development of the internet, information technologies, wireless and mobile capabilities, robotics, and more. The second has risen partly from the first, and that is globalization. From where you sit, you can sell a product to someone on the other side of the world almost as easily as to the person on your left or right. This has pulled us into competition with dozens of other nations for businesses, jobs, talent, and innovation.
Rubio goes on to say that the task is "to ensure the rise of the machines will not be the fall of the worker."
His solutions, for the most part, fall into two groups: massive corporate cuts and some pretty sweeping reforms to how higher education works.
But what's as interesting as the solutions Rubio includes is the solution he doesn't: deficit reduction. And there's a good reason Rubio doesn't mention deficit reduction: His policies, at least as currently composed, will blow a huge hole in the deficit.
Rubio vs. Harvard
Let's take Rubio's higher ed reforms first, as they're by far the most interesting, and unusual, part of Rubio's agenda:
The problems with higher education are many, but the ideas from Hillary Clinton and other outdated leaders are narrow and shortsighted. We do not need timid tweaks to the old system; we need a holistic overhaul – we need to change how we provide degrees, how those degrees are accessed, how much that access costs, how those costs are paid, and even how those payments are determined.
As president, I will begin with a powerful but simple reform. Our higher education system is controlled by what amounts to a cartel of existing colleges and universities, which use their power over the accreditation process to block innovative, low-cost competitors from entering the market.
Within my first 100 days, I will bust this cartel by establishing a new accreditation process that welcomes low-cost, innovative providers. This would expose higher education to the market forces of choice and competition, which would prompt a revolution driven by the needs of students – just as the needs of consumers drive the progress of every other industry in our economy.
The technical term here, I believe, is #shotsfired. But the shots being fired aren't really at Hillary Clinton. They're at the higher ed system, full stop. Rubio is basically going full-on MOOC: he's trying to rebuild accreditation in a way that makes it much easier for radical new forms of college to qualify as, well, college.
There's danger here. Many of the low-cost, for-profit "innovations" we've seen in recent years have proven to be huge scams. The needs of consumers often come second to the needs of salesmen trying to sign up new consumers. The result is a lot of excitement, a lot of eager applicants, a lot of student debt, and a lot of disaster. In June, for instance, the federal government forgave hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to students who went to Corinthian Colleges, because Corinthian Colleges turned out to be a rip-off.
Rubio doesn't say much about how to separate the wheat from the chaff, or what to do for students who end up being part of the innovations that fail.
But a hint comes in some of his other higher ed proposals, which seek to arm students with more knowledge and, in some cases, more protection from the consequences of student debt. He touts his "Student Right to Know Before You Go Act," which is legislation co-sponsored with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and "requires institutions to tell students how much they can expect to earn with a given degree before they take out the loans to pay for it."
He also proposes to "make student loans more manageable by making Income-Based Repayment automatic for all graduates, so the more they make, the faster they pay back their loans; and the less they make, the less strain their loans cause."
In sum, then, Rubio wants to sharply deregulate the higher education system, making way for new, low-cost, probably digital competitors to flood the space. He wants students to have more information on higher ed outcomes, and more protection if their loans don't lead to a high-paying job.
An interesting note on Rubio's higher ed plan: As the New York Times points out, much of it "sounded strikingly similar to policies that President Obama has called for during his time in office." It's a reminder that higher ed policy is, for now, much less polarized than most policy areas. The blockage here isn't partisanship so much as it is the power of the higher ed lobby and the difficulty of actually making these ideas work.
Corporate tax cuts and more corporate tax cuts
In a bizarre bit of hyperbole, Rubio warns that "to build the most innovation-friendly economy in the world, we must build the most business-friendly economy in the world. Right now we have, quite nearly, the exact opposite."
Erm, sure. For a slightly more reality-based perspective, the World Bank ranks the United States as seventh in the world for ease of doing business.
Rubio's rhetoric is really about America's statutory corporate tax rate, which, at 39.1 percent, is the highest among developed nations. What he doesn't mention is that few corporations pay it. America's effective corporate tax rate — the tax rate corporations, on average, actually pay — is quite a bit lower. A Congressional Research Service study put it at about 27 percent in 2008. A more recent study from the World Bank and the International Finance Commission pegged it at 27.9 percent. The Obama administration itself estimates the effective marginal tax rate on new investments is 29.2 percent.
Rubio wants to bring the statutory rate down to 25 percent (which would, presumably, bring the effective rate yet lower than that). In addition, he wants to move to a territorial tax system, which would mean American corporations wouldn't pay US taxes on oversea profits. Finally, he suggests "immediate, 100 percent expensing for businesses."
In short, Rubio is proposing a huge tax cut for corporations. This follows another Rubio proposal — oddly unmentioned in this speech — to deliver a huge tax cut to individuals. In a biting assessment of that plan, Jim Pethokoukis, an economic policy scholar at the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute, called Rubio's approach "the Oprah Winfrey theory of tax cuts. She was like ‘You get a car, you get a car.’ Well this is ‘You get a tax cut, you get a tax cut.’"
Together, these tax proposals would adds trillions to the deficit over the next decades. Notably, there's nothing anywhere in Rubio's speech about paying for all this. The only times he mentions debt is around student debt.
Elsewhere on Rubio's website, you can find some vague promises to balance the budget. You just won't find any details about how to balance the budget. And the fact that he doesn't mention deficits in his jobs speech is telling evidence that Rubio's looking to run on a very different message than his recent predecessors.
The anti-deficit hawk
For the first time in a long time, the economic problems Republicans are beginning to obsess over are the right ones.
Rubio is presenting himself as something of a Republican Party modernizer. And one thing it's increasingly clear that he's trying to modernize is his party's economic argument. After eight years in which Republicans had trouble talking about anything but Obama and debt, Rubio's big jobs speech never mentions Obama or debt. Compare that with Mitt Romney's 2008 jobs plan, where the first paragraph of the introduction blasted Obama's decision "to borrow nearly a trillion dollars for his 'stimulus.'"
Which isn't to say Rubio is offering particularly new ideas. His tax cuts are standard in everything but their irresponsible size. His higher-ed proposals echo similar policies that the Obama administration has been pushing.
Rubio's larger dilemma is shared by candidates on both the left and the right. If the problem is Obama, then the answer is to elect someone who isn't Obama. But no one really knows what to do about the twin forces of technology and globalization. If there was a simple fix to software eating jobs, someone would have come up with it already. If there were an easy answer to jobs being shipped all over the world, someone would have passed it into law. These are hard problems, but presidential campaigns rarely reward rhetoric that admits their difficulty.
Even Rubio's best ideas are untested, and could possibly backfire. Reforming higher education is great in theory, but tough in practice — so far, there's little evidence that online learning is much good for anyone but the people so motivated they didn't really need it in the first place, and there's plenty of evidence that sharp deregulation will lead to a profusion of scam colleges and failed experiments. That isn't to say it shouldn't be done — I'm probably on Rubio's side of the debate here — but there's little reason to be confident it'll solve the economy's problems.
It's one thing to modernize the Republican Party's message. It's another thing to modernize the economy itself.
But for now, Rubio's task is to win the Republican primary. So perhaps modernizing the party's message will be enough. While Rubio's digs at Clinton were ridiculous, the speech was evidence that he's the Republican the Clinton camp should fear most: He's working his way toward a message that wraps his campaign in the problems and solutions of the future — and that's notably unrestrained by the mistakes of the GOP's recent past. That's exactly the kind of candidate an establishment figure like Clinton should worry about.
Marco Rubio is what Republicans hope the future looks like