Fabiola Santiago

Tax bill vote proves Marco Rubio is no ‘longtime champion of the working class’

Sen. Marco Rubio on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on October 25, 2017, during a session about the importance of the child tax credit.
Sen. Marco Rubio on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on October 25, 2017, during a session about the importance of the child tax credit. Abaca Press/TNS

In the aftermath of his high-profile Senate vote in favor of a tax code rewrite that lowers taxes for corporations and the wealthiest people in America while nickel-and-diming the working class, Marco Rubio tweeted a Bible proverb.

“Better poor and walk in integrity than rich and crooked in one’s ways,” the senator preached to his 3.35 million followers.

The audacity of quoting that particular proverb after voting one more time to stick it to the poor, who will endure service cuts to pay for this lavish GOP gift to rich donors, is cringeworthy. But I have to applaud one dimension of Rubio’s latest political dance. The charmer sure knows how to play his constituents — and the media, too.

His ostensibly gallant vow that he wouldn’t vote for the $1.5 trillion tax cut unless there was an expansion of the Child Tax Credit earned him lots of riveting headlines — and incredibly so, in a New York Times article, the title of “longtime champion of the working class.”

Now that reminds me of a more on-point proverb popular in the Spanish-speaking world: El papel aguanta todo lo que le pongan. The literal translation: Paper holds everything you put on it. But it refers to reputation or legend made by publishing untruths.

The ultra-conservative senator and tea party darling is known for his stance against what he and the GOP call “entitlements” although they’re actually working-class protections we pay. That would be Social Security and Medicare payments that come out of our paychecks for a lifetime, and in the case of Medicare, for which we pay with a premium in retirement after 65. Then, there’s the medical coverage available to the most poor and elderly, Medicaid, and the affordable insurance for all plans of Obamacare, which the tax bill Rubio just voted for partially repeals.

No, Rubio’s script hasn’t changed since he ran a presidential campaign in which his target audience turned out to be Donald Trump’s voter base (they abandoned him). But Rubio should get plenty of credit for finessing the art of seeming to cater to a more moderate audience, and in the process, garnering lots of good press.

Under the brash light of abrasive and outrageous President Donald Trump, however, it’s not so hard to earn points for small acts of good behavior in Washington.

The senator’s last-minute threat to vote no on the tax bill and block it with the backing of others unless Republicans agreed to expand the Child Tax Credit might seem a heroic move to come to the aid of lower- and moderate-income families.

But what he did, folks, was obtain a $300 concession on a cap.

Instead of the child tax credit being capped at $1,100, the nod to Rubio set it at $1,400.

Meanwhile, there’s another crushing blow to ordinary Americans that went uncontested: homeownership. The deductions homeowners take on their property has been capped at $10,000. In a place like Miami with rising home values and investors with second homes, that means higher taxes for a lot of people.

In return for his $300 win, Rubio gave Republicans — who had only narrowly passed an earlier version of the tax bill with a 51-49 vote — the certainty that this sweeping legislation with damaging ramifications for years to come is enacted into law and signed by embattled Trump, for whom this is his first big win.

And, as if the tax bill weren’t bad enough, Rubio has repeatedly said that this is only the beginning of more reforms to come. They’ll have grave consequences not only for us but for future generations. But Rubio still has in his sights on doing away with all the protections the working class has counted on to keep them above the poverty line when they’re too old to work.

This bill, which adds a trillion-plus to the deficit, sets the stage for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Floridians — and Miamians in particular, where 58 percent of the households struggle to make ends meet — ought to be mad as hell at their senator. Once again, he had the opportunity to act in the best interest of his constituents, but after a dramatic little dance aimed at staging opposition, he helps pass policy that negatively affects most of them.

The New York Times sorely miscast Rubio.

He helped his political party, President Trump, his wealthy donors — and himself.

He’s a champion at faking leadership to fulfill political ambitions.