Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio: To create jobs, overhaul higher education ‘cartel’

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks Tuesday at 1871, an entrepreneurial hub for digital start-ups in Chicago.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks Tuesday at 1871, an entrepreneurial hub for digital start-ups in Chicago. AP

Marco Rubio sought to portray himself as the candidate of fresh economic ideas Tuesday in a Chicago speech that focused on job creation through fostering innovation and overhauling the country’s higher-education system.

The Miami Republican — who began teaching politics at Florida International University as an adjunct professor in 2008 — derided existing colleges and universities as running a “cartel” more concerned with blocking new competitors than embracing low-cost ways to teach students. As president, Rubio pledged, “within my first 100 days, we will bust this cartel by establishing a new accreditation process that welcomes low-cost, innovative providers.”

Since his 2016 presidential campaign launch in April, Rubio has kept a schedule heavy on fund-raisers and meetings with potential political donors. His first fund-raising quarter as a formal candidate ended June 30. His campaign has yet to reveal how much money it’s collected. A political non-profit formed by Rubio allies that can keep its contributors secret said Monday it has raised $15.8 million since its creation last year.

Rubio’s remarks Tuesday at 1871, a downtown Chicago tech incubator, kicked off a new round of public events for the candidate, who will spend the next three days campaigning in Iowa.

Most of his proposals were staples of his campaign, including a plan to require universities to tell students in advance how much money they might make with a given degree and another to allow corporations to pay for a student’s tuition in return for a portion of their future earnings. Rubio also advocated for his tax plan — which would cut the corporate-tax rate to 25 percent but has been slammed by some conservatives as doing little to spur the economy — and for rewriting immigration laws to give priority to workers needed in the economy rather than to family reunification.

Critics were quick to point out that Rubio has not been able to pass any of them as law — and in some cases hasn’t even tried — in the Senate. Still, Rubio used the speech as an opportunity to again try to cast the presidential race as one between the past and the future — a contrast that sets the 44-year-old Cuban American apart from Democrat Hillary Clinton and other Republicans, including his one-time mentor Jeb Bush.

“The race for the future will never be won by going backward,” Rubio said. “It will never be won by hopping in Hillary Clinton’s time machine to yesterday.”

He later referred to the “narrow and shortsighted” ideas of Clinton “and other outdated leaders” he didn't identify — but Bush and his former-presidents father and brother may have been in mind. “We have learned, painfully, that the old ways no longer work — that Washington cannot pretend the world is the same as it was in the ’80s. It cannot raise taxes like it did in the ’90s. And it cannot grow government like it did in the 2000s,” Rubio said.

In a statement, Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Holly Shulman referred to him as “Retro Rubio” over his policies.

“Rubio continues to peddle the same failed Republican policies that cripple the economy and squeeze the middle class,” she said.

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