Marco Rubio's financial woes are a perfect microcosm for GOP hypocrisy

Marco Rubio's head-scratching financial habits come during an era when his party fetishizes business acumen

Published June 11, 2015 9:59AM (EDT)

Marco Rubio (AP/John Locher)
Marco Rubio (AP/John Locher)

The idea that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is running for president should be horrifying for a variety of reasons, but his personal financial habits are rapidly climbing to the top of his rap sheet. After reading a Tuesday report in The New York Times about Rubio's insane spending habits, given his debt and income, fiscal conservatives shouldn't be the only ones calling for the candidate to extricate himself from the overpopulated clown car that is the looming Republican primary lineup and out of the 2016 election for president.

Rubio's mismanagement of his money should be a super-colossal point of concern for everyone, especially those of us who endured the side effects of the Great Recession. Given how we're only a few years outside of the recession, a candidate like Rubio shouldn't be taken seriously as a contender for shepherding the American economy in a delicate post-recession world. The words "incompetent" and "dangerous" hardly begin to describe Rubio, but it's a start.

Let's recap what we know from the Times article:

  • Until around 2012, Rubio was deeply in debt -- mortgages (plural) and student debt totaling in the hundreds of thousands.
  • An $800,000 book deal was supposed to resolve the debt for Rubio and his family. Rubio even spoke publicly about this (at the time) responsible course of action.
  • Instead, Rubio purchased, among other things, an $80,000 boat. (The saying goes: Never buy a boat unless you can afford to buy 10 boats.)
  • Rubio used a state GOP credit card for personal vacation (he called this "an accident"), as well as a household renovation project (another "accident"?).
  • He paid $24,000 in taxes and early penalties for prematurely liquidating his retirement account, valued at $68,000.
  • Rubio sold a Tallahassee home, previously threatened with foreclosure, at a loss of $18,000.
  • He leased a 2015 Audi Q7 for $50,000, in spite of "significant debts."
  • Even when commanding greater income, he hardly set aside any money in savings.
  • Rubio used his personal credit card to pay for campaign expenses.
  • In his 2012 book, Rubio admits to his "lack of bookkeeping skills." Wow. Ya think?

Some of this can be chalked up to bad luck, I suppose, and frankly it's not too far outside the box of what's plagued many American households with serious debt and credit card issues. The problem is that Marco Rubio isn't an average American. He's a U.S. senator who's running for president. There's a scene from "Seinfeld" that keeps running through my head: George Costanza is sprawled on Jerry's floor with his pants around his ankles when Jerry walks into the room and says, "And you wanna be my latex salesman." Rubio is an admitted financial novice who's made a series of embarrassing blunders, and he wants to be a lot more than our latex salesman. Thank you, but no.

By the way, you might recall how the Republicans, and especially Mitt Romney four years ago, made a big deal over the fact that President Obama had very little private sector experience before running for president. Well, Rubio has even less. Specifically, none. Right out of the box, Rubio worked in state and local politics, unlike Obama who spent part of his career working for a law firm. While we're here, very few of the 2016 GOP hopefuls have more private sector experience than Obama had in 2008.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
No private sector experience.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Was an eye doctor for practices that were owned and operated by others.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.
Worked as a lawyer in public and private sector, no experience running a business.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
Worked as a lawyer in public and private sector. No experience running a business.

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis.
No experience running a business. Was an employee for IBM and the American Red Cross.

Mike Huckabee
Was a pastor, and later a TV host. Is this business experience? Perhaps. Executive experience as governor.

Rick Santorum
Law firm experience, and since leaving office established a 501(c)3 group called Patriot Voices.

Rick Perry
Farmed cotton with his dad.

So much for the GOP mandate for having private sector experience, though we'll continue to hear plenty of "community organizer" wisecracks between now and Election Day 2016. Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson, as well as Donald Trump, should he endow us with comedy gold by running, are really the only candidates with more private sector experience than Obama. All that said, it's not entirely relevant anyway, unless you're a Republican who wrongly believes that government should be run like a business. Anyone who's at all familiar with the U.S. government and the public sector knows that this is a false equivalence. But the Republicans invented the relationship between the two distinct arenas, so it's rather interesting that the party's 2016 field is so devoid of private sector heavyweights.

Fold into the mix Rubio's sketchy personal finances and it's a perfect storm of fiscal irresponsibility that should disqualify him for the White House tour, much less commandeering the Resolute Desk for up to eight years. In a sane and reasonable world, the Republicans themselves (as opposed to those of us on the other side of aisle, of course) would ejector-seat this clown from the car right now -- today, and months before the Iowa Caucus -- for being hilariously unqualified and an embarrassment. But this isn't a sane world, and the GOP has clearly fallen off the rails in so many ways, most visibly insofar as there isn't a single grown-up on the national stage with the heft, consistency or discipline to become our chief executive.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Elections Debt Gop Great Recession Marco Rubio