Senator Marco Rubio Reminds Us Why He's Still Senator Marco Rubio
It’s frequently mentioned in this column that during the first eighteen years of Nike’s existence, co-founder Phil Knight spent nearly every evening worried the next day would be the company’s last. While he passionately believed in Nike, capital sources didn’t always share his passion.
What's important is that Knight's memories of Nike’s past struggles are hardly unique. Any successful entrepreneur will almost certainly have numerous stories of lean times that almost led to the dream’s early end. Such is life for the doers in the U.S. without whom we’d be a rather unremarkable country.
Which brings us to Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent op-ed for the New York Times, “Tax Reform Should Help Families.” While Rubio believes “Having kids is one of life’s greatest experiences,” he also thinks parenthood is a very demanding activity that is of national importance. As the rather dramatic Florida senator puts it, “working Americans face a challenge in the cost of raising children that threatens the health and vitality of our country.” In a lighter moment, Rubio might admit that he got a bit carried away.
Lest Rubio forget, parents have been raising children for millennia. Humans have evolved as a species uniquely prepared to raise children. This isn’t meant to minimize what is difficult, as much as it’s to say that Rubio is overstating his case.
He contends that the “increasing cost of childbearing” has led to a “consistent gap between intended and total fertility,” and his predictable solution to what he deems a problem is more government. It’s always more government; in this case an increase in the child tax credit. That’s too bad.
Figure that Rubio’s analysis is on its own a bit questionable. He’s seemingly forgotten that whatever the struggles of the American people today, they enjoy living standards that exceed those of the rest of the world by far. Rubio knows the previous truth intimately, as the happy migration of his penniless parents into the U.S. from Cuba would attest.
Contra Rubio’s analysis, American parents are delaying childbearing not because they can’t afford kids as much as they’re doing so because they worry they can’t presently afford them in fully dazzling, American-style fashion. There’s a big difference as American history clearly reminds us: in the past American families were bigger despite being exponentially poorer than the American families of today. The fertility “gap” that has Rubio concerned is an effect of parental choice regarding lifestyle (good, resplendent, or truly magnificent), as opposed to one informed by dire home economics.
All of which raises the obvious question about why the living standards of U.S. children are so high relative to the rest of the world, and why those living standards would still well exceed global norms even if Americans procreated at a level more acceptable to Rubio. The irony is that Rubio likely knows the answers to the questions: Americans live better than anyone simply because the U.S. has more Phil Knight-style entrepreneurs than any other country in the world. The prosperity that makes it possible to raise children in a fashion that’s the envy of the rest of the world is an effect of the talented being able to freely pursue that which amplifies their skills.
Still, and as Knight’s story reminds us, it’s extraordinarily difficult to turn a concept into a successful business. While there are lots of well-adjusted children, there are very few Nikes. As humans we can raise kids well, but multi-billion dollar companies that foster staggering advances in our quality of life are all too rare. That they are makes one marvel at Rubio’s assertion that “As Congress works on a tax reform package, families must be our priority.” Really? Rubio is too smart to believe what is plainly untrue.
What is true is that with any tax reform, the priority should always and everywhere be reducing the tax penalties foisted on those who achieve what is remarkable, along with the penalties levied on the investors who make it possible for innovators to achieve what is remarkable. Lest we forget, Nike almost died thanks to a lack of capital. Unknown are all the other companies that disappeared way too early thanks to a lack of funds. Unseen is how much better America’s youth would live today if, instead of making the tax code a monument to pander, Congress made reducing the burdens placed on innovators and the investors in the innovators their sole focus.
The above is plainly not Rubio’s focus. As opposed to a laudable pursuit of a reduced tax burden for those who pay the most, Rubio is seeking the falsehood known as a positive right for couples who choose to produce children. Rubio is striving to put those who do as he wishes on a pedestal, all on the backs of others. Basically he’d like the burden on people like Knight to grow, not shrink.
Importantly, Rubio isn’t hiding from his desire to create a new entitled class, care of others. As he explains it, “we have financial products that help families pursue the American dream. For buying a home, we have the 30-year mortgage. For going to college we have student loans. But for having a child, we have very little…” Readers can imagine where this is going, or where the Republican from Florida would like it to go. The outcome would not be a happy one, even for children and families.
After that, seemingly lost on Rubio is that the Constitution he swears allegiance to mentions nothing about economic growth, housing, student loans, “strong families,” or having kids despite children being “one of life’s greatest experiences.” Why would it? The Constitution is a document that protects the rights of individuals to do as they wish, including the pursuit of wealth, property, education, family, children, etc. Neither government nor tax-code favoritism is needed for any of what’s mentioned. What drives abundance that can include prosperous, "strong families" is freedom, not favoritism from the Commanding Heights.
Rubio concludes that “Raising children is the most important job we will ever have,” and while he again overstates the import of what we humans do naturally, his reasoning is backwards. If children are important, then economic growth is of the utmost importance.
Rubio’s proposed tax handouts would at best dampen growth as tax subsidies do, plus as federal meddling in housing and student loans already shows us in bright colors, what the federal government touches is never better for it. If Senator Rubio truly venerates childbearing, then he’ll keep the feds far away from it.