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In Chicago, Marco Rubio gives his vision of job creation if elected president

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Marco Rubio has branded his candidacy as being all about the “New American Century,” and how he as a 44-year-old legislator has both the wisdom and the intelligence to be the man to lead us in these economically confusing and challenging times.

In a major domestic speech laden with ideas on job creation in the 21st Century given this morning in Chicago, Rubio got deeper into the themes of what the new economy means for America and American workers, and took a shot at Hillary Clinton in the process.

Speaking from 1871, an incubator for tech startups in Chicago, the Florida Republican went back to the future, saying that our concerns about automation, globalization and stagnant wages echo similar concerns voiced when the Industrial Revolution hit the United States in the late 18th Century.

“Like today, the beginning was rough: jobs were lost, wages were static, and new wealth was concentrated at the top. Doubts and fears about the future were widespread. But then something changed. When our children learn about the Industrial Revolution today, they learn it was a period of progress. Yes, jobs were lost – but even more were gained, and the middle class expanded, thrived, and laid the cornerstone of the American Century,” he said in his prepared remarks distributed to reporters.

Rubio said that today’s “Technological Revolution” provides even more opportunities than the Industrial Revolution ever did for Americans, but says that not only have we as a nation not seized on those opportunities, but that there is no guarantee that we will. “Whether we do or do not will depend on the actions we take, the leaders we choose, and the reforms we adopt,” he said.

He then took aim at Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, saying that “The race for the future will never be won by going backward. It will never be won by hopping in Hillary Clinton’s time machine to yesterday. She seems to believe pumping more of today’s money into yesterday’s programs will bring prosperity tomorrow. It will not. Nor will thinking small. Hiking the minimum wage by a few dollars will not save the American Dream; it will accelerate automation and outsourcing. Increasing taxes and regulations will not promote fairness or opportunity; it will snuff out innovation and crush small business.”

Rubio then laid out a series of specific proposals regarding taxes and education policy that he says will make the country and our workers more productive, and by championing corporations like Apple, he attempted to do it in a sunny, Ronald Reagan-like optimistic take on American ingenuity.

He said he would cut the U.S. corporate rate to 25 percent and that he would establish a territorial tax system.

“Today, when an American company earns money overseas, it is taxed once in the country it is earned in and again if it is brought back to America. We are the only G8 country that levies that second tax, and the understandable impact is that many companies choose never to bring their money back home. Apple, for example, has $171 billion sitting overseas. That money would be an immediate economic boost, but because Apple would be punished for bringing it back, they choose not to.”

He continued by saying that his tax plan would allow immediate, 100 percent expensing for businesses. “This means the more a company invests in creating jobs, the less they owe in taxes; and the more they pay their workers, the less they pay government.”

He said he will put a ceiling on the amount U.S. regulations “can cost our economy,” saying that such federal regulations have cost the economy $771 billion since 2008 (though his written speech at least did not mention the source of those numbers).

He referred to his bipartisan proposal with Delaware Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons to modernize the United States’ national lab system through targeted reforms, and he pledged as president to reallocate and expand the unlicensed spectrum on the Internet for public use.

Regarding education, Rubio said there will be 3.5 million manufacturing jobs created in the next decade, but said that unless our higher education system is changed, “two million of these jobs will be left unfilled.”

Once again criticizing Clinton for “narrow and shortsighted” ideas to fix higher education, he said now was not the time to be timid but go bold with 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,” he declared.

To counter what he called the higher education “cartel,” he would bust that by establishing a new accreditation process that “welcomes low-cost, innovative providers,” which he says would “expose” higher education to market forces of choice and competition.

He proposed the “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act,” which would require 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. In addition he would create an Income-Based Repayment automatic system for all college graduates, so the more money they make, the faster they would have to pay off their loans. A lower income would go under a less accelerated payment plan.

Another proposal was a Student Investment Plan, “Which would let students partner with investors who would pay their tuition in return for a percentage of their earnings for a few years after graduation. It may result in a profit for the investor or it may not – but unlike with loans, none of the risk lies with the student,” he said.

Rubio then finished up the speech on a higher, optimistic note, talking about the innovation already taking place across the nation, carefully making sure to include a data center being built by Apple in Nevada (which votes fourth in next year’s primaries) as well as Southern New Hampshire University, in addition to referring to Florida’s Space Coast and Boston’s Kendall Square.

“These examples are not outliers,” he said. “They are a pattern. Anyone who sees these things will understand: nothing has changed about our people. We are the inheritors of the American spirit, of the American Dream, of the American Century. In our veins flows the blood of men and women who refused to accept the burdens of their pasts, or to resign to the old ways of doing things.”

Not surprisingly, the Democratic National Committee was not impressed.

“Marco Rubio talked today about hopping on a ‘time machine to yesterday’ – but, let’s be real, Retro Rubio is the only one here who is attempting to master time travel,” said Holly Schulman, press secretary with the DNC. “Rubio continues to peddle the same failed Republican policies that cripple the economy and squeeze the middle class. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: he’s in favor of more tax cuts for the rich, deep cuts to public education and Pell Grants, and he continues to stand against net neutrality. With plans like that, Americans don’t want to go for a ride back in Marco Rubio’s DeLorean.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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