Home / Culture and Society / Marco Rubio Talks Big but Fails to Deliver on Tea Party Promises

Marco Rubio Talks Big but Fails to Deliver on Tea Party Promises

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There’s a lot of murmuring in the right-wing grassroots that the reform-minded Congressional freshmen elected by the Tea Party movement are not turning out to be nearly as principled or effective as many had hoped they would be. There’s a serious concern that they are selling out to establishment interests or were never really sincere in their beliefs and were just pandering to the activists in order to get elected.

The problem here is exemplified by the newly formed Tea Party Caucus in the House. A look at their membership list reveals many long-time incumbents, some of them with terrible voting records on fiscal issues and on reducing the size and intrusiveness of government. I need only point to two of the worst from my own state of Texas, Lamar Smith and Joe Barton, two of the worst pro-establishment, big-spenders in the House and ones who have been there a long time. In fact, both of them are likely to face Tea Party primary challengers in 2012. There are some good legislators and serious reformers on the list like Roscoe Bartlett, Louie Gohmert and Joe Wilson, but they’re all established incumbents. The problem is that nobody owns the Tea Party brand, so anyone can claim to represent them, no matter how ridiculous that claim is.

Some of the biggest names associated with the Tea Party have been among the most disappointing, particularly Allen West and Marco Rubio from FLorida, while a small number have stuck to their guns like Justin Amash, Rand Paul and Mike Lee. Rubio remains one of the darlings of the more mainstream Republican wing of the Tea Party, but he’s a long-time political insider in Florida politics and it’s clear from his latest press release that he really doesn’t get it.

In this press release Rubio talks about the obstructionism of Demcorats in the Senate in blocking passage of the proposed budget bill, while he acts as if what he and other House Republicans sent to the Senate  was actually a good bill full of meaningful cuts, which is far from the truth. Rubio writes:

“Democrats’ unwillingness to engage on this issue is leading us closer to a catastrophic debt spiral that will irreversibly damage our government, our economy and ultimately our country.”

Which makes a valid point about the utter irresponsibility of Senate Democrats in trying to pass a budget with only $4.7 billion in cuts, which Rubio points out is just the amount the government spends in 30 hours.   I also have to give Rubio a nod for great political rhetoric when he says “I did not come to the U.S. Senate to be part of some absurd political theatre.” The problem is that he is himself engaging in the most twisted act of political theatre on the national stage, the attempt to present the budget passed in the House as a meaningful cut in spending.

What Rubio does not mention here in his otherwise very positive sounding press release is that the Republican-authored budget bill which he was supporting only cuts $57 billion in spending, enormously less than is necessary — by his metric less than 2 weeks of government spending. He also fails to mention that he is as unwilling to touch war and defense spending as the Democrats are to touch entitlement spending. If he’s serious about being the fiscal conservative he promised to be then he should be just as angry with Congressional Republicans who failed to make more meaningful cuts or to make cuts which could get bipartisan support.

What Rubio demonstrates here is that he is willing to talk big and bash the Democrats but he and other Tea Party endorsees are unwilling to follow their big talk with meaningful action or creative solutions. Where are all those members of the Tea Party Caucus? Most of them voted for the bloated budget they sent on to the Senate and few of them made any effort to propose more substantive cuts, Rubio among them. They have left us no better off than we were before, because they have not offered substantial cuts which could also pass with bipartisan support in the Senate, and the only way to do that would have been to end the wars and cut military spending substantially in addition to more of the small cuts they did propose.

This problem goes beyond just the budget fiasco. During the last couple of weeks most of those Tea Party representatives also voted for the renewal of three key provisions of the Patriot Act which are widely opposed by the people who voted them into office. They are also doing nothing to block the implementation of the REAL ID bill which is also strongly opposed by the grassroots political right. Some of these failures can be dismissed as the result of inexperience, but surely the many seasoned legislators in the Tea Party Caucus are giving the newer members wise advice and guidance? I’m sure they are, and that advice is to not rock the boat, line their pockets and do nothing substantive.

Many in the Tea Party and many grassroots Republicans are feeling some buyer’s remorse right now and with 2012 coming around the corner this may lead to a renewed push for change and a movement which becomes more hostile to Republican incumbents as it pushes a second generation of insurgent candidates.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • shipley130

    It seems like Allan West is too busy traveling around, making speeches and appearing on TV. I think his noggin has swollen a few inches, too. I figured Rubio would be a RINO.

  • Dave,

    Really now, what do you people in the libertarian right expect? It seems that if a politician, despite having a reasonably solid voting record rooted in fiscal conservatism, chooses not to be an absolute dogmatist, he or she is dubbed a “RINO” and slated for primary defeat at your earliest convenience. The standards which so many of you have set for our newly elected congresspersons are, to put it rather mildly, quite unrealistic. Should you all continue down this absolutist path, disappointment will be inevitable. Remember, politics is the very art of compromise. Should there be no compromise, then there is no healthy political process; only a virtual dictatorship.

  • Joseph, all I asked for here is that he hold true to his promise of substantial budget cuts. That’s hardly dogmatic.


  • Baronius

    Exactly, Joseph. This is politics treated like pro wrestling. Yay! He’s a good guy! Go, good guy! Wait, he just voted for a $3B cut instead of a $8B cut! Boo! Bad guy! Who cares about the riders on the bills, or where they cut from, or when the cuts would be implemented, or which bill was facing a veto? Boo! Boo!

    The funny thing is, Dave’s a policy guy. He understands the Washington stuff better than I do. He’s the last guy who should fall into this kind of thinking.

  • Boeke

    All this budget cutting rhetoric is just political theater. Republicans have no more reason to be in favor of a reduced federal treasury than democrats. The corporations that Republicans support are adept at poaching on the federal treasury and have a vested interest in the Big Government that extracts money from citizens and dictates terms in case a mobilization, such as war, is needed.

  • Baronius

    Boeke, isn’t that a little one-dimensional? And even if it were true, wouldn’t the Republicans want to cut, say, social programs to transfer the money to the rich (or let the rich keep it)? So even your caricature Republicans would want to cut the budget.

  • Cannonshop

    None of them, not Democrats, not Republicans, has the stomach to risk the wrath of the Bureaucracy by actually cutting the budget.

  • Copperplate

    Hey, Dave, if you’re a font designer – shouldn’t you use one of your own fonts for your logo? Just asking.

  • Copperplate

    Or maybe that isn’t yours, sorry…

  • Talk about absurd political theater.

    Dave’s [purely rhetorical] insistence on much larger cuts in the current fiscal year’s budget, far larger than even the draconian House budget resolution, misses the point.

    Only by taking on defense and entitlement spending, long-term, will anyone be addressing the problem. Ideological foaming at the mouth about the small sliver of the budget that is domestic discretionary spending serves no useful purpose.

    The crisis/disaster, if those are even the right words, comes down the road. Huge cuts that immediately stop or cripple programs with wide public support would be a political disaster. Is this what Mr. Nalle wants?

    The kind of huge, immediate cuts that Dave calls for, or pretends to call for, and excoriates Rubio for not supporting, ain’t gonna happen. So why pretend?

  • Boeke

    #6: Not at all. The biggest beneficiaries of the forced-draft spending promoted by big government are the businesses that government spending and entitlement programs produce. E.g., Retirement home builders in Arizona would go broke without Social Security, guaranteed pensions and public employee pensions.

    The fact is, that as we grew the federal budget, after WW2, business boomed in the USA.

    It’s always that way. War brings economic growth because it causes enforced spending.

    Even republicans recognize these truths. When Bush was increasing the federal government and stoking up wars in the middle east, republicans of my acquaintance (maybe even some you know, and certainly TV republicans) constantly claimed that the war spending was a trifle compared to GDP, etc.

    IMO all this republican budget cutting talk is just showboating: they know they’ll never be able to do it but they pick up some votes on the margins.

  • Cannonshop

    Boeke, you’re obviously unfamiliar with both the concept of the post-war economic hangover, and with the story of the Continental Dollar. (not to mention the Confederate Dollar.) Unless your enforced spending generates more actual wealth generation than it consumes, all it does is provide good times in the short term, with a long-term penalty-assuming you don’t tank your currency in that short term by printing “Zimbabwe” or “Continental” dollars.

  • Cannonshop

    To further illustrate your own example, (since you chose WWII), that boom was largely the result of being the ‘last man standing’ industrially, selling goods to markets that had blown their own industrial bases back into the stone age, or who’d HAD their industrial bases and economies blown back into the stone age. When Western Europe recovered, that boom started faltering, and by the time Japan had caught up, it was well on its way out.

  • Boeke

    Your ‘last man standing’ notion is sort of silly. We had persistent negative import/export during the Eisenhower years; it was a big complaint of liberals like Kennedy, and yet the economy boomed. Frankly, exports were not an important factor to the USA: we were quite happy to import raw materials, make and consume goods, etc., and have a good time. Partly, this was facilitated by our very productive agriculture which freed us from worries of purchasing foreign subsistence materials, unlike Japan, for instance.

    The Ricardian notion of Relative Economic Advantage was regarded askance, in fact, Ricardians were considered dangerous bomb-throwing liberal radicals in those days, and now, suddenly, all conservative economists are Ricardians: it suits the interests of the new corporations.

    The ‘hangover’ you refer to was the consequence of FDR nationalizing US industry to fight WW2. He strongarmed industrialists into accepting very low profits (like $1 per airplane, $1 per ship, $1 per year salary for top execs, etc.) while ceasing much civilian production entirely (no new cars were built in the years 1942-1945 in spite of the tremendous increase in auto sales that occured in the 30s). Of course, the payoff for US industry was the tremendous increase in plant capacity and the heightened production technology, although these were widely considered problems in the late 40s: “how are we going to keep all those plants running now that the war is over?” Of course, the answer was to make consumer products, which had not occurred as a plausible desiderata by economists before then since they thought in traditional terms of dividing up a fixed size pie.

    Really, you should take a good lower division course in Econ at a local university or community college rather than getting your ideas from pop political books.

  • Cannonshop

    #14 Boeke, I took a lower-level Econ class (actually took two of them) and did fairly well. Well enough to note that the Whiskey Rebellion had a lot to do with the Continental Dollar (used to finance the Revolutionary War), that ‘Greenbacks’ by 1866 were worthless again, that there was very little boom in the economy generated by the war of 1812, that the Spanish-American war was the RESULT of a boom, not the generator of one, that the “Roaring Twenties” had more to do with transitional technological advances than with world war one (similar to the Silicon Boom of the 1980s), and that an infrastructure lead with a guaranteed market is usually a good sign of (short term) good times (world war two’s outcome).

    Competition has a tendency to balance out sides-moving from a massive competitive advantage (lots of industry with newer tooling and a lot of skilled workers) to a relative disadvantage (Industry hamstrung, dwindling capital, reduced percentage of skilled workers and a falling-behind in terms of industrial technology) HAPPENS. Newer plants with newer technology will tend to be more efficient and productive per acre than older plants running outdated systems. Going to war doesn’t change that, unless your war-plans include modernization and upgrading your industrial infrastructure.

    Central planning only works in the shortest of terms-when it works at all. Were this otherwise, the United States would have fallen to the Soviet Industrial Juggernaut, instead of the other way ’round.

    Though, to be fair, I have to give you credit- LBJ financed his “Great Society” by sending men, boots, bullets, guns, vehicles and other things to fight in Vietnam. The hangover from that hit in 1978 to 1980 and cost Jimmy Carter the Presidency-because when your war is over, if you didn’t upkeep your infrastructure or have some idea what to do with that spare capacity, you’re going to have problems.

    Still, it’s absurd to think you can have both guns AND butter directed from on-high.

  • Cannonshop

    Oh, and one more thing; if war is the great stimulator of economies, why was it that the Confederacy was unable to stimulate their economy into solvency, the forced demand should have generated hundereds of manufacturing jobs in the old Confederacy, as well as innovations to get around shortages (technological advancement), infrastructural improvements, etc.? After all, Jeff Davis WANTED to go to war…

  • RJ

    My feeling is, it was unrealistic to expect much “change” in government simply because the GOP took over the House. The Dems still control the Senate and, obviously, the White House.

    All the GOP takeover of the House accomplished was to prevent Obama and the Dems from passing any more radical “reforms.” This is a good thing, of course. But if one wants to see the size and scope of the federal government shrunk in a serious way, they are going to have to wait until January 2013, when hopefully the GOP will be in control of the Senate and a Republican will be president.