Marco Rubio book review: American Dreams

A solutions-oriented book marred by some fatal flaws

Having reviewed books by Republican candidates Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump, I expected this book to be just like theirs. Those books were largely devoid of solutions and full of rhetoric designed to scare readers away from the Democrats. This book certainly contained its share of the latter, but it contained far more specific solutions that the other books did.

The first two and last two chapters of the book contain most of the anti-Democrat accusations, while the middle chapters focus more on solutions. I’ll highlight the most noteworthy solutions first and then address some of the political rhetoric for those who care to keep reading beyond the solutions.

GOOD SOLUTION: “The elimination of payroll taxes for those [who are working] past retirement age could be accomplished with little or no effect on Social Security revenues.”

GOOD SOLUTION: Lower taxes on business money overseas, so they bring it back to America (known as repatriation). (Bill Clinton suggested this in his book, “Back to Work.”)

GOOD SOLUTION: Reduce the corporate tax rate. (Obama called for lowering the rate to 25% a few years ago, but the Republicans in Congress refused to pass it.)

GOOD SOLUTION: His plan for a Wage Enhancement Tax Credit for low income earners sounds like an interesting replacement for the Earned Income Tax Credit. It’s paid to the worker regardless of whether or not they have children. Although his claim that this will lead more low income men to get married seems far-fetched, since few men make marriage decisions based on economics.

GOOD SOLUTION: He has interesting ideas on higher education reform, such as the Investing in Student Success Act in which investors pay for college and then get something like 4% of the students’ earnings in the post-college years, and the Student Right to Know Before You Go Database. The question is whether these programs will make enough of a difference. Regardless, our Republican-majority Congress could be passing these acts right now; but they’ve chosen not to, probably because Obama is in favor of some of the same solutions, as Rubio says (loc. 1412), “And to his credit, President Obama has also proposed changes to our higher education accrediting system.”

But just when the solutions make Rubio seem electable, then come the HORRENDOUS ideas:

HORRENDOUS: “The Lee-Rubio [tax] plan would also eliminate the double taxation of capital gains and dividends income.” Loc. 1517— Rubio mentions this in passing, without any further elaboration, and for good reason. This is the most evil part of the plan. He wants to eliminate capital gains and dividends, which is how the corporate wealthy earn almost all of their money (Calling it “double taxation” is to make it sound immoral). His plan lets BILLIONAIRES GO TAX-FREE!!! Someone like Donald Trump, who inherited $200 million, invests it in various companies and makes $10 billion, would pay no tax on what he makes, since he makes it from capital gains rather than from getting a paycheck. Meanwhile, WORKING CLASS AMERICANS make up the difference and bear ALL OF THE TAX BURDEN.

HORRENDOUS: His solution for Medicare: replace it with “a premium support system [a fancy word for “voucher”] that would give seniors a fixed amount of money with which to purchase health insurance.” Loc. 1926. — We already have a “support system” that gives college students “a fixed amount of money” to spend at colleges, and results are disastrously high-priced education. Why would health insurance be any different?

HORRENDOUS: “Modernize our legal immigration system toward a merit-based one. That would mean reassigning existing visas away from family-based immigration” loc. 747 — In Rubio’s system, those who can contribute the most to our economy (the wealthy) are welcome, while poor immigrants are criminalized. That might be good economics, but it’s lousy Christianity. We have more wealth to share than anyone, yet Republicans like Rubio are stingier than anyone.

HORRENDOUS: The National Regulatory Budget, which “would be an absolute dollar limit on what federal regulations could cost the economy in a year.” Loc. 594 —There are about 1000 new chemicals created every year. Rubio’s plan would allow unlimited exposure of them to workers, consumers and the environment, unless limitations on previously-regulated hazardous chemicals were lifted so that the new chemicals could be regulated. The more dangers and scams the corporations create, the more regulations we need to protect workers, consumers, and the environment from them.

Rubio misleads the reader into thinking money spent on regulations leaves the economy: “One study put the costs of regulation during the first 5 years of the Obama administration at an astounding $500 billion.” Loc. 574 — TRUTH: If a coal plant must retrofit its facilities, it must pay other companies to do that job, thus increasing the number of business to business transactions within the economy, which creates more jobs than if the corporate wealthy just sit on their money.

HORRENDOUS: Rubio ends the book with a disastrous chapter on how sexual immorality is the cause of poverty, as he cites various statistics on how children from single-parent homes have higher poverty. Rubio may be right that immorality might explain why a person is at the back of the jobs line, but it doesn’t explain why there aren’t enough jobs for everyone in that line. If there are 200 million workers and 180 million jobs, 20 million people have to be unemployed, even if everyone in America comes from a 2-parent home and has a PhD to boot. Until Rubio and other Republicans are willing to address this macro-economic reality, they will never improve poverty. In fact, when you consider that the last three times the Republicans have turned the White House over to a Democrat, the unemployment rate has never been below 7.3%, it’s clear the Republicans make poverty worse.


BAD: “And yet seven years into his presidency, struggling Americans are – by every measure, worse off today than they were before he took office” Loc. 94 — TRUTH: Unemployment, GDP, the DOW, and the annual deficit are just a few numbers that have improved since then.

BAD: “The economy shrank by the highest rate since the Great Recession on the 1st quarter of 2014” Loc. 94 — TRUTH: Here’s the GDP for that 5 quarter stretch: 3.0, 3.8, -0.9, 4.6, 4.3. The negative quarter was the result of ice storm paralysis in the east, where cities like Atlanta lost 6-9 days of productivity. That’s 1/10th of a 90 day quarter.

BAD: “President Obama told a campaign audience in Virginia, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” loc. 199 — TRUTH: Obama really said, “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

BAD: “I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about dealing with the Affordable Care Act Web site.” — TRUTH: I’ve used it every year, and it’s worked just fine. It worked about 100 times better than when I tried to install Kaspersky Anti-Virus, but Rubio wants to be extra tough on the ACA site, while not pointing out how corporate sites are often far worse.

BAD: Obamacare has been the single largest impediment to job creation in the United States for the past several years.” Loc. 585 — TRUTH: Yet the unemployment rate has fallen from 10% in 2009 to 4.9% in 2016.

BAD: “But if there’s one thing we learned from the Obama administration’s failed taxpayer subsidies of companies like Solyndra, it’s that the government is a lousy venture capitalist.” Loc. 623 — TRUTH: The money lost on Solyndra only represented 1/80th of the money Obama invested into clean energy. If a venture capitalist is right 79 times out of 80, he’ll soon be the richest man in the world.

BAD: “The army is set to be reduced to pre-WWII levels. The navy is at pre-WWI levels.” Loc. 2251 — TRUTH: We have 11 aircraft carrier fleets while no other country has more than one. And we spend over 600 billion a year on defense, which is more than the next 8 biggest spending countries combined. He’s apparently talking about the number of active troops (he never cites a source on this), not taking into account the fact that technology (like drones and missiles) reduces the need for troops.

GOOD RHETORIC: Rubio does sometimes share the other side of right-wing talking points. Here are a few examples:

GOOD: “the fact is poverty is more widespread in rural areas than in cities.” And then mentions that 85% of “persistently poor counties” are rural. This dispels the notion many Tea Partiers have that the poor “moocher class” are black and Hispanic.

GOOD: At least when talking about the decline in the workforce participation rate, he mentions that its largely due to baby boomers retiring. Most Republicans deceive their audiences by blaming it on welfare or claim those not in the workforce represent the “real unemployment rate.”

All in all, this book is a worthwhile read, but only if you balance it out with a book or two from the other side of the aisle. I recommend the book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.” It’s my favorite, but I have to admit I’m a bit biased on that one.