Marco Rubio blames an intern for his own anti-Trump comments, gets blasted by Monica Lewinsky

Marco Rubio keeps attacking the GOP tax bill he voted into law

Published May 4, 2018 9:12AM (EDT)

Marco Rubio (AP/Susan Walsh)
Marco Rubio (AP/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has recently been critical of President Donald Trump's tax reform bill — a bill he voted for — but as soon as he got pushback for his criticism, he decided to place all the blame on a lowly intern.

The intern in question, Quint Forgey, wrote a piece at Politico on Wednesday that compared Rubio's positions on the Trump tax cuts in both an interview with The Economist and an editorial in National Review. Here are the main passages that Forgey used to compare and contrast Rubio's Economist arguments with those he made in National Review:

"There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers," Rubio told The Economist. "In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker."

And this:

"On the whole, the tax cut bill helps workers. It’s just not massive tax cuts to multinational corporations that do it," Rubio wrote in an op-ed for National Review published Wednesday.

"Overall, the Republican tax-cut bill has been good for Americans. That is why I voted for it," he added. "But it could have been even better for American workers and their families."

It's worth noting that, in Rubio's interview with The Economist, he advocated for liberal economic positions that were at sharp odds with his previously preferred Reaganite policies. The Florida senator was clearly making a concerted effort to present himself as more moderate than he had been in the past.

The details of Mr Rubio’s new programme are unclear, but he suggests they will involve more interventions such as the increased child tax credit he inserted into the tax reform passed last year, and a provision for paid family leave he is working on now. He mulls the need for more public spending on technological research and for education reform, to prioritise vocational skills. He advocates a more flexible benefit system, to help the retraining of disrupted workers. Against the magnitude of America’s income inequality, such measures might seem modest. Yet from the lips of an orthodox Republican leader, they imply a serious reconsideration of the pre-eminent conservative ideals: a minimal government role in the economy and a related view of liberty as "freedom from" government interference. "Government has an essential role to play in buffering this transition," he says. "If we basically say everyone is on their own and the market’s going to take care of it, we will rip the country apart, because millions of good hardworking people lack the means to adapt." Economic liberty, in this retelling, becomes something the government is required to guarantee. It is the freedom to enjoy "the dignity of work", says Mr Rubio. "There needs to be a conservative movement that addresses these realities."

Although Rubio reiterated his support for the Trump tax cuts in his editorial for National Review, he still insisted that they hadn't done enough to focus on the interests of ordinary Americans. His criticism — namely, that the tax bill focused too much on helping large corporations and not enough on the interests of ordinary Americans — was repeated in that piece.

Big companies today aren’t what they were in the old economy. The cash windfall of a corporate tax cut can drive investment in multinational corporations’ foreign supply chains just as easily as it can to go to American factories and warehouses. And stock buybacks, by increasing the share value of foreign shareholders and driving new investment to its most productive use regardless of where or what that use might be, isn’t guaranteed to go fully to Americans’ paychecks. When this happens, it can encourage arbitrage, not American productivity.

We in the conservative movement need to stop viewing big companies like they’re all General Motors in the 1950s.

Rubio made this same point in a tweet from his official account in which he promoted his piece for National Review.

As Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post pointed out, Rubio was also correct in his Economist interview when he observed that companies which had received large tax cuts had not reinvested it back into the economy. Instead, they had "bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker."

That’s all true, of course.

Apple, for instance, bought back $22.8 billion of its stock in the first quarter, a record for any U.S. company. For context, it’s bigger than the entire market capitalizations of 275 different companies in Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

In total, companies are projected to repurchase about $800 billion of their own stock this year, according to JPMorgan Chase analysts, a greater than 50 percent increase from last year. Dividend payouts are likewise expected to rise 10 percent.

Meanwhile, worker pay has barely budged.

This, by the way, was all wholly predictable when Rubio himself voted for the bill.

All of which makes it clear that Rubio, despite arguing that his positions had been misrepresented in Politico, is really just trying to save face with his conservative base. He is doing so through one of the oldest tricks in the political book — blaming an intern. One of the most famous wrongly blamed interns in American history even drew attention to this fact.

Trump and Rubio have a long history of feuding, one that traces all the way back to the early days of the 2016 presidential election. Trump took shots at Rubio for being a "lightweight," for sweating excessively, for lacking any kind of record to run on. Rubio in return tried to depict Trump as a con man who went on the attack against anyone who got close to catching up with him in the polls because he had no political substance otherwise.

While Rubio has refrained from explicitly characterizing his new policy positions as a deliberate break from both Trump and Trump-ism, they at the very least constitute an effort on his part to become more moderate at a time when the president is pushing the Republican Party increasingly to the right. As his attempt to backpedal demonstrates, he clearly is concerned about doing that too aggressively or too soon.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Gop Tax Reform Bill Marco Rubio Paul Ryan