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Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I wanted to come to the floor today because of the good news I have heard recently, that the Senate is going to spend the next couple of weeks, maybe the whole month, talking about tax policy. I think that is very encouraging, because this is one of the issues I was hoping we would deal with early on, when I got here last year. And I am, quite frankly, surprised it has taken this much time, a year and a half, to pivot to this issue. I am hopeful--I don't know if it has been determined yet--but I am hopeful on this legislation currently before the Senate, the minority will be given an opportunity
to introduce ideas. I think that is important for this place to work well.
I have read the history of this distinguished place and it only works well, it only functions when the ideas of both sides are allowed to be heard. I know we can count votes here, and from time to time we may have a chance to pass a few things, but when one is in the minority, as I am, it is harder to get ideas passed. But I would love to at least get a vote on some of these ideas we are hoping to push forward, and our hope is that will happen. So let's hope that works out.
What I want to remind us all about a little bit today is what our goal is. We can't arrive at the right solutions if we don't know exactly what it is we are trying to get to. Our goal, I believe--and there is a consensus now throughout this country, and it is actually something that unites both political parties--needs to be to grow the economy. That is our goal, to grow the economy. And what will result from growing the economy is that good will happen for everybody.
How does the economy grow is the first fundamental question we have to answer. The economy grows when two things happen: either someone starts a business or someone grows their existing business. That is what leads to economic growth. It is that simple. Someone starts a new business because they think they can make money at it or someone goes into their existing business and says, I think we can make more money, let's grow this thing. That is how the economy grows.
So the issue before us here as Federal policymakers has to be what can the Federal Government do to help that kind of growth. In essence, what the Federal Government can do is to encourage people and make it easier for people to either start a business or to grow their business. So if that is our goal, then every time a measure comes before this body--tax policy, regulatory policy--what we should ask ourselves is, does this make it easier or harder for someone to start a business? Does it make it easier or harder for someone to grow an existing business? Does this measure make it easier or harder for the economy to grow? Because if we are indeed united by this goal of growing the economy, that should be the measure of anything we take on. And it is through that lens that I want to examine some of what we are talking about right now. Because it seems to me, at least in some of the policies I have heard proposed this week, that maybe some folks have the goal wrong. Because if we closely examine some of these policies, it sounds as if the goal is, let's take a limited economy that isn't growing and let's divide it. And primarily it sounds like, let's take this limited economy that isn't growing and let's allow us to take money from people who are maybe making a little too much, give it to the government, and the government can then spend it on behalf of people who maybe aren't making enough.
I know that may sound appealing to the folks who are among those Americans who aren't making enough money, but I want you to know something: It never works. That idea never works. Here is why it never works. It actually never works because, first of all, the money doesn't get to you. When you give government money to spend, it invariably doesn't usually spend it very well. In fact, when you give government money to spend, the people who end up getting that money are the people who can afford to hire people to come to Washington and influence how the money is spent. So sometimes the money never even gets to you, if in fact you allow the government to do this.
But it is more complicated than that. It can actually cost people their jobs, and here is why. How you create businesses or how you expand an existing business is pretty straightforward. Someone is in business, someone makes some money or gets a hold of some money and they decide to take that money and invest it. They use the money they have made and they reinvest it in their business so the business grows or they use the money they have made to start a brandnew business. This stuff works. This is how the American economy has grown and how we became the most prosperous people on Earth.
I know this works not just because I read about it in a magazine. I know it works because I have lived it. As I have detailed and talked about in the past on this floor, my father was a bartender. He worked at a hotel as a bartender. My mother had a lot of different jobs, but for a while she worked as a maid in a hotel. The reason I talk about this is to explain how and why my mom and dad had a job that paid them money to raise us and give us a chance to do all the things my siblings and I were able to do. Someone made some money, they took that money and opened up this hotel. That is why my parents had a job. They didn't have a job because the President of the United States back in 1965 or 1975 gave them a job. They had a job because someone who made money took that money and used it to start a new business or to grow an existing business and hire them. They also had a job because other people who had money decided to use that money to go on vacation and they came to Miami Beach or to Las Vegas, when I lived in Las Vegas, and they spent that money at these hotels.
The point is, people had money, and they either invested it or spent it. And that allowed a bartender and a maid--my mother and father--to raise my siblings and me and to give us opportunity. That was true in the 1950s, in the 1960s, in the 1970s, in the 1980s, in the 1990s, and it is still true. That is what is needed to grow this economy. And the problem is, if we go after these people, if we go after the money they have made and give it to the government, maybe they will decide not to open that new business or maybe they will decide this is not the year to take that vacation or instead of taking the 5-day vacation, they take the 3-day vacation. And you know who gets hurt? The bartender and the maid and the people who work in these
places. Because money has to go somewhere. If you are taking it out of the hands of the people who invest it and spend it, they can't invest it or spend it, and it is people who are trying to make it--like my parents were--who get hurt by it.
So we have to get our goal right. Because if our goal is to grow the economy, we don't have to call trick plays. What we can do at the Federal level to grow the economy is pretty straightforward. All we have to do is talk to the people who grow the economy. If we go out and talk to the people who have a great idea and are trying to start a business, they will tell us what they are looking for. It is pretty straightforward stuff: tax reform.
What do we mean by tax reform? Simple. We want a Tax Code that is stable, predictable, and affordable. Of course we have to have taxes. Government needs revenue to be able to pay for what we all expect from government. But it has to be a predictable system and it has to be an affordable system. If taxes get too high, people may decide not to invest it in this country or to leave it in the bank, and that doesn't help anybody. So the point is we need to have a Tax Code that is stable, predictable, and affordable.
We need regulations that are the same: stable, affordable, and predictable. Look, we need regulations; right? I want this water to be clean. I don't want the water to poison me. We don't want to walk out on the street and breathe in air that will hurt us. There is a role for regulation. The problem is that most Federal regulations are set by bureaucrats who work for the government, and all they think about is can this regulation maybe help. They do not think at all about the impact of that regulation on businesses. That is not part of the equation. When they sit down and write a regulation, that is not part of the equation at all. So we end up having these regulations that may not even help that much but hurt a lot; that help wipe out entire industries, but the impact on helping the environment or whatever else is nebulous at best. So we have to change that.
That is why we need to pass a law here like the REINS Act, which says any regulation that has an economic impact beyond a certain amount of money should have to be approved by elected people, who are accountable, who have to measure both the effectiveness of the regulation but also whether it is going to cost jobs or wipe out an industry. Because that is important too. Protecting our industries and our sources of job creation is as important as some of these other things we are trying to protect through regulations and they have to be balanced against one another. We do not want to simply be making decisions in a vacuum.
Along those lines, something that is both a tax and a regulation is ObamaCare. Look, we have a health insurance problem in America. There is no denying that. But there are better ways to deal with it. The problem is this bill that passed has created a tremendous amount of uncertainty. For example, it says if you have more than 50 full-time employees, there are certain requirements you have to meet. So imagine if you are a company with 48 or 49 employees. This may not be the year to hire the 50th. And maybe you are going to be the 50th, but now you don't get hired or, worse, maybe you will decide this is the year to turn all your employees into part-time employees. That is not good for the workers. Yet that is the impact this law is having, not to mention the fact it is a tax increase.
That is what the IRS does. The IRS collects taxes. And guess who you have to prove you have insurance to. And not just any old insurance, but insurance they deem to be acceptable. The IRS. Millions of Americans now every year will have to prove to the IRS they have insurance or they will owe the IRS money. That is a tax, and that is not going to help job creation, especially if you are a small business.
I outlined this last week. Imagine a small business run by a husband and wife with two kids, and the business--not them, but their business--makes $95,000 a year. It will cost them between $4,000 to $6,000 to buy health insurance. If they do not, they will owe the IRS $2,000. Tell me that is good for that business. Or imagine if you are thinking about going into business and you realize this is what is going to happen to you and you decide not to go into business. That is not good for growth. That is why this law needs to be repealed and it needs to be replaced.
Something else we need in this country is a pro-American energy policy. Do people realize the American innovator has come up with this technology over the last 5 years that now has made us a very energy-rich country? I don't know if people fully understand how energy-rich America is. If you want a small glimpse of what it can mean to our future, go to North Dakota. They are having a jobs boom. They can't find enough people to work there.
Energy is important and we need to start behaving like an energy-rich country, with a true all-of-the-above strategy where the energies we choose are decided by the marketplace and not by politicians. When politicians decide which energy source to use, you know who wins? The people with the best lobbyists. The people with the best lobby. The people with the most political influence. That is how we got a Solyndra-type situation, where a company that was going to go bankrupt got all this money--your tax dollars--and meanwhile America is sitting on over 100-some-odd years of natural gas at our disposal and no concise national energy policy to utilize it.
Let me tell you why energy matters. If we can get energy costs down and stable and predictable, manufacturing will start coming back to America. That is one of the leading costs of manufacturing, energy. We are an energy-rich country. Some of those factories that closed, we can actually get them to come back here. Imagine what that would do for economic growth, not to mention the fact that America could potentially now begin to sell overseas as well, creating yet another industry and all the things that come with it.
How about free and fair trade? There is an emerging middle class all over the world now. One of the great things that has happened over the last 20 years is that all over the world there are now people who a decade ago were living in poverty and can now afford to buy the products we invent and build,
people all over the world, by the way, who can now afford to take vacations. And do you know where they want to come? To the United States of America. They want to come to Florida. They also want to come here.
I think that is fantastic, that now there are millions of people all over the world who can afford to visit the United States and leave their money at our hotels, at our restaurants, and at our amusement parks. That creates jobs, that creates growth, free and fair trade, that allows the American people to build things we can sell overseas to other places and lowers the cost of buying certain things here.
Last year, we ratified the free trade agreement with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. We are already seeing the economic benefits of that in south Florida. Imagine if we were able do that with more countries in a free and fair way. It has to be fair.
One last thing we could probably do to help grow this economy is deal with the long-term debt. And that is what it is, it is a long-term debt problem that hovers all over all of this conversation and creates uncertainty. People are afraid--especially people with lots of money are afraid--to invest in the American economy because they look at this debt problem, they look at this political process's inability to deal with it, and they think, Do you know what. That country is destined for confiscatory tax rates. They are going where Europe is going. We don't want to invest in a country that is going to wind up like Europe in 5 years. That is why we have to deal with the long-term debt, and the sooner the better.
To deal with the long-term debt, by the way, you have to deal with what is causing it. That is why it is so important we save Medicare. Medicare is a very important program. My mother is on Medicare. I would never support anything that hurts my mother or people like her. But people in my generation need to understand that if we want to keep Medicare the way it is for our parents and if we want Medicare to even exist when we retire, Medicare is going to have to look different for us, for 41-year-olds. We have to save Medicare. And to deal with the long-term debt, we have to deal with that. That is what is driving part of the debt. That is not being driven by foreign aid, which is less than 1 percent of our budget. The debt is not being driven by food stamp programs. The debt is not being driven by defense spending.
Look, if money is being misspent or wasted, it is never a good idea to do that. If there are ways to save money on foreign aid, we should save it. If there are ways to save money in the food stamp program, we should save it. If there are ways to save money in the defense budget, we should save it. But that is not what is driving our long-term debt. To pretend we are going to get 100 percent of our savings from 25 or 20 percent of our budget leads to the kind of catastrophic cuts we talk about in this town, because no one wants to touch the big issues that have to be dealt with.
What would happen if we did these six things? Let's say that tomorrow, overnight, magically these things happened: We got real tax reform, real regulatory reform, we repealed and replaced ObamaCare, we had a pro-American energy strategy, we expanded free and fair trade, and we had a plan in place that began to deal with the long-term debt in a serious and sustainable way. Let me tell you what would happen: explosive economic growth, primarily by the creation of jobs.
Do you know what more jobs means? It means, No. 1, more taxpayers. It means you can now generate revenue for government to pay for what we all want government to do, and you don't have to raise tax rates to do that. It means you have more taxpayers who are now paying into the tax system who give you the revenue you need to bring the debt under control. Everything gets easier if the economy grows. The debt gets easier, our budgets get easier.
Jobs also mean more customers for your business. If someone is unemployed, it is hard for them to spend money. It is hard for them to buy a house, much less the things that go in it. It is hard for them to take vacations. More jobs means more stability for your business or for the place you work in. More jobs means more taxpayers, it means more customers for your business. And, by the way, it means a more stable society, a place where hard work can earn them a decent wage so they can save money for their kids' college, so they can save money for their retirement, so they can buy a home and furnish it, so they can afford to take a couple weeks vacation a year with their families. Millions of Americans can't do that anymore.
Millions of Americans have done everything we have asked of them. They
went to school, they graduated. They were told if they did that, they could find a job that paid them a decent wage, and they are struggling to do that now.
By the way, all of the strategies for growth aren't at the Federal level. It is important that States take on the issue of education reform. It is important for us as parents to be honest with our kids. In the 21st century, it is going to be hard to find a job if all you have is a high school diploma. It is that simple.
If you look at the unemployment rate between people who have a college degree or a post-high school degree and those who don't, it is stunning. It is stunning. If you don't have more than a high school education, you are going to struggle to succeed in this new century. We have to let our kids understand that. It is our job as parents and as a community to do that.
By the way, it is important for us to work with the States, as I outlined earlier, to modernize our education system. Why have we stigmatized career education? Why can't we graduate kids from high school with both a diploma and an industry certification and a career? We need to begin to teach our kids to compete with the world, not just with other States. These are other things that have to happen as well.
The point I wanted to drive today is we need to remind ourselves of what the goal is here. The goal is growth. The goal is, What can we do at the Federal level to help grow the economy? Ultimately, the economy grows because of the private sector, because someone who has made some money takes that money and invests it by starting a new business or by growing their existing business. We should find ways to make that easier and encourage people to do that. That has to be our goal. It doesn't require trick plays; it doesn't require some complicated new gimmick. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. The American people haven't run out of good ideas. Americans haven't forgotten how to start businesses or even entire new industries. Even as I speak to you right now, I am 100 percent convinced that within walking distance of this building there is someone somewhere drawing up the great next American company business plan on the back of a napkin or a scrap piece of paper. And if we give them a chance to do it, they are going to do it.
We are still the same people we have always been. There is nothing wrong with the American people. They just need a little help from their government. I think if we get our goals right around here, we can do a few simple but important things that allow Americans to do, once again, what we do better than any country or any people in the history of the world, and that is create prosperity and create opportunity.
Madam President, I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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