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Marco Rubio's Impressive Response to Obama's State of the Union Address

February 13, 2013

By Avik Roy

I’ll get to President Obama’s unremarkable State of the Union address in a moment. But first I want to discuss the first major televised address of the man who very well may be the next President of the United States: Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Sen. Rubio forthrightly addressed in both English and Spanish the principal domestic challenge of our time—the health care-driven budget deficit—while President Obama dishonestly insisted that Medicare reform was being held hostage by "special interest tax breaks."

"Obamacare," said Rubio, "was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that: they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers."

In that one paragraph, Sen. Rubio captured the fundamental flaw in the so-called Affordable Care Act: it makes health insurance more expensive, in turn making hiring more expensive, and our health-care entitlements more expensive. But what Rubio did better than any recent GOP respondent to the President’s State of the Union address is to express, in relatable language that appealed to people who don’t already vote Republican.

"The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget," he continued, "are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now. I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it."

"Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it."

Obamacare expanded health-care entitlements

In fairness to the President, he did sign into law $716 billion in Medicare cuts over the next ten years—but he’s using those cuts to partially fund $1.9 trillion in additional health spending for others over the same period. And liberal wags on Twitter argued last night that Rubio’s successful performance was more an indictment of the previous SOTU respondents than a statement of Rubio’s eloquence.

I don’t agree. Paul Ryan and Mitch Daniels, in particular, effectively critiqued the President’s policies in their SOTU responses. But Rubio went a step further, largely because he could speak so persuasively of his own journey as the son of immigrants in a middle-class Miami neighborhood.

President Obama, for his part, agreed that "the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms—otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations. But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and more powerful."

Why does Obama want us to pay for Warren Buffett’s health care?

But here’s the rub: For President Obama, "asking something from the wealthiest" translates into raising taxes on economically productive businesses, instead of reducing federal spending on the wealthy. If we gradually raised the Medicare eligibility age, for example, the net effect would be to prevent taxpayers from subsidizing the health care of wealthy retirees, because the means-tested exchanges would gradually replace the universal Medicare program.

But Obama is enamored of the opposite approach: raising taxes and hurting economic growth, so as to ensure that the federal government can continue to support health spending on people who don’t need the government’s help. Obama once again brought up the canard about Warren Buffett’s secretary having a lower tax rate than Warren Buffett, but he was silent on the question of why a secretary pays taxes to fund Buffett’s health coverage.

If you think I’m putting words into the President’s mouth, yesterday, his press secretary, Jay Carney, said that Obama "has made clear that we don’t believe that that’s the right policy to take." Obama supported raising the retirement age in concert with tax hikes, but not as a replacement for cuts to discretionary federal spending.

For the next two years, President Obama’s main goal is to help Democrats retake the House of Representatives, so that the remainder of his term can be devoted to a broad range of progressive policy objectives. Republicans will only be able to withstand Democrats’ barrage with sound policy and an effective spokesman. In Marco Rubio, they clearly have the spokesman.

Original Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2013/02/13/marco-rubios-impressive-response-to-obamas-state-of-the-union-address/

 

 
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