Marco Rubio: 'We Cannot Give Up on the American Dream'
Around the State
The following is the full text of the address U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., gave Thursday on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
With all this focus on the fighting that’s going on in Washington these days, I think we are losing focus on the biggest issue that faces our country. And that’s the pervasive and growing sense that we’re losing control of our country, that we are losing the American dream.
Why do people feel this way? Because millions of them have been out of a job for months and maybe even years. Because millions more find themselves stuck with jobs that don’t pay enough for them to live on, or certainly for them to live like they used to. When people hear the news that the economy is recovering, that unemployment is down by 0.1 percent this week or this month, that the stock market is up and that the recession is over, it makes people angry. And rightfully so, because the recession might be over on Wall Street, but it’s not over for the millions of people who are out of work or stuck with jobs that do not pay enough to live off.
This is what millions of people across the country are feeling these days. That maybe the American dream -- that if you work hard you can improve your life -- that maybe that dream isn’t what it used to be. That maybe the American dream is actually even slipping away.
‘Why is this happening? Whose fault is this?’ is the normal reaction that some people have. Well, there are a few reasons why this is happening: One is that the economy has changed. The nature of our economy has changed. Globalization, for example, has sent thousands of middle-class jobs overseas. Information, technology and advances have replaced many of our middle class jobs with machines. Now the reason is simply too many of our people never got the education or skills needed for the better paying jobs that the new economy is creating. And we can’t ignore, for example, the breakdown of our culture and our families and what it’s doing. It’s trapping people in a cycle of poverty and of dependence. These are all contributors to what we face today. But one of the major reasons why this is happening -- why so many people are trapped in dead-end jobs, why so many people have been unemployed for so long -- ... is because our economy is not creating enough jobs that you can live off. And one of the reasons why that’s happening is because our country is headed for a debt crisis.
The real debt crisis is not the looming debt limit. The real debt crisis is that every year our government is spending more money than it takes in. And by the way, one day we’re not going to have to worry about raising the debt limit, because no one will want to lend us money anyway.
Now, too often around here, we talk about the national debt as if it’s simply an accounting problem. The national debt is a lot more than that. How does the economy create good jobs? It creates good jobs in two ways. No. 1 is through innovation, when people invent a new product or a new service. And the other is through investment, when people risk their money to start a new business or when a business reinvests their profits back into the business to grow.
But the fact that we are headed for a debt crisis, and that we have no serious long-term plan in place to address it, that is discouraging innovation and that is discouraging investment.
Who wants to innovate in an economy that is headed for a debt crisis? Who wants to risk their money to start a new business in an economy that is headed for a catastrophic disruption? Who wants to reinvest their profits to grow their business in a country where the government is going bankrupt? Having people trapped in low-paying jobs. Having people unemployed for months or years at a time. Having people unable to afford to get married or start a family. This doesn’t have to be the new normal. It doesn’t have to be this way forever.
We can turn this around. But to do so we have to stop chasing all these temporary gimmicks that promise us some sort of momentary boost to our economy. We have to stop ignoring the problems headed full-speed at us. And we have to return to the basics, to the basics that made us a prosperous nation.
Our national debt today stands at close to $17 trillion. In the last five and half years alone it has grown by over $6 trillion. So when you hear the president or the Democrats here in the Senate say they want us to pass what they call a “Clean Debt Limit Increase,” here is what they are really asking for: they are asking us to borrow another $1 trillion but not do anything meaningful to slow the growth of that debt. Why would we continue to do this? When are we finally going to get serious around here about putting in place a serious long-term plan to bring this debt under control?
In order to do that, the first thing we have to understand is what is causing this debt. Now look, we have a broken tax code. It’s full of all sorts of special interest loopholes. But the reason why we have this massive debt isn’t because rich people aren’t paying enough in taxes. Even if we taxed every millionaire every penny they made this year, it doesn’t even make a small dent on the debt. Yes, there’s some serious waste going on throughout our government. For example, we have to reverse the changes the Obama administration has made to these welfare programs that basically gut the work requirements and leave people dependent on government. We need to reform the way we give foreign aid.
We must and should do all of those things and even more. But even if we did all that, it’s still not enough. What is driving our debt is the way we spend money on two very important programs: Medicare, and Social Security. They are spending more money than they take in. And that gap is growing rapidly every single year.
Now anytime anyone talks about making changes to these programs, you get accused of trying to hurt the elderly. So speaking for myself personally let me set the record straight. I come from a state that has millions of people, millions of retirees that depend on these programs. One of them is my own mother. She worked hard for her entire life and paid into these programs so they would be there for her when she retired. I would never support any changes to these programs that hurt my mother. But these programs are going bankrupt. And anyone who’s in favor of doing nothing about them, is in favor of bankrupting them.
And the good news is this: ... we still have time to save Medicare and Social Security. And we still have time to do these changes without making any changes to the benefits of seniors like my mom. But to do so is going to require younger workers, like myself, to accept that when we retire our Medicare and our Social Security is going to be different than our parents’.
So instead of spending all of our time around here trying to figure out how to raise the debt limit, we need to spend more of our time trying to figure out what we can do to put in place a serious long-term plan to bring this debt under control. So that our economy can start creating more of those good paying middle-class jobs. So that people can start building for themselves the better future they always dreamed of. The American dream is under assault. That is the real crisis. When are we going to get serious about solving it?
You know this dream of earning a better life, it’s the universal hope of people everywhere. But we’re reminded that for much of human history, most people found themselves trapped by the circumstances of their birth. That meant that no matter how hard you worked, no matter how much talent you had, you’re only going to go as far as your family went. You could only do whatever it is your parents did. But one of the things that’s made America special is that here that’s been different. Here, through hard work and sacrifice, people from all walks of life, from every corner of the world, have had the real opportunity to earn for themselves a better life. This is what we call the American dream. As Americans, that’s our identity. It’s what holds us together as a nation. It’s what holds us together as a people. And it’s what has made us exceptional.
So I know that people are discouraged about how tough times are. I know that some people are very disappointed about the way the last election turned out. I know many people are angry and quite frankly disgusted by the way this process is working or failing to work these days. But no matter how bad things may seem, we cannot give up on America. And we cannot give up on the American dream.
We have to do everything we can to make sure this country remains a place where anyone, from anywhere, can accomplish anything.
And so, despite how ugly Washington looks like right now, I actually remain confident that in the end that is exactly what we are going to do. I have no doubt that in the end our children will grow up to be the most prosperous generation that has ever lived.
And I know that despite all the challenges we face right now, when all is said and done, I believe with all my heart that we will still go down in history as the generation that saved the American dream, and that left for our children what our parents left for us -- the single greatest nation in the history of the world.
U.S.Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was first elected to the Senate in 2010.