Marco Rubio Used to Believe in Small Government – What Changed?

An effort to guarantee paid leave for new parents is gaining steam among the right. Ivanka Trump, who has made the issue her pet project within her father’s administration, expressed her support on Twitter for a study by the AEI-Brookings Project on Paid Family Leave. The study was conducted by a working group of academics representing both ends of the political spectrum.

Paid family leave has become one of the common causes of the nanny-state government crowd in recent years. Along with the $15 dollar minimum wage, free college, and single-payer healthcare, it is often cited as yet another essential measure to create the ideal cradle to grave welfare state of Bernie Sanders’ dreams.

Indeed, Sanders has introduced his own plan. As did Hillary Clinton. And Kristen Gillebrand

It’s not hard to see why liberals love the idea. It is a centrally planned, top-down entitlement in the same mold as the Great Society or New Deal. Most proposals, including the AEI-Brookings plan, would assess a new payroll tax. This would work like Social Security and Medicare, which impose taxes on employers and employees alike. The tax would be mandated for all Americans, so even men and women well past their parenting years would pay into a system from which they would never benefit.

While precise costs are impossible to determine at this point, federal entitlements always miss projections and add to the deficit. For example, a 2013 report from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees found those programs are facing long-term deficits in the trillions of dollars. Anyone with concerns for the annual deficit or national debt should not be excited at the idea of a new entitlement. 

Liberals, of course, tend to dismiss history and fiscal realities. This time, they argue, we will get it right. And Trump, who referenced his support for paid family leave during his address to Congress earlier this year, is not governed by any particular ideology. It’s not surprising that he or his daughter would support such a big government effort.

But we should expect more from Marco Rubio, which is why his tweet on Wednesday supporting Ivanka Trump’s family leave initiative is so disappointing.

In America, no family should be forced to put off having children due to economic insecurity. @IvankaTrump is doing important work.”

Marco Rubio is one of the good guys. I supported him in 2016, and still think he would make a great president. 

But when a politician begins a sentence with the phrase, in America, no family should, you can bet we are about to hear an emotional plea for the progressive cause du jour.

Of course, we all wish that no family should be homeless, or live below the poverty line, or lack health coverage, or suffer from illiteracy, or struggle with the consequences of drug addiction. Those are all bad things, and no one wants their fellow citizens suffering through them. And yes, we all want new moms and dads to have the freedom to focus on their new child during the first weeks of his or her life.

Where conservatives differ from liberals, however, is in our skepticism that the federal government can effectively alleviate any of these burdens. Where liberals wish to implement one-size-fits-all solutions to diverse and difficult problems, conservatives emphasize mediating institutions like local government, the church, and family. Where liberals want to throw trillions of dollars at federal programs, conservatives point to decades of experience and trillions of spent tax dollars to show that previous efforts made problems worse.

Senator Rubio used to understand this.

To be fair, Rubio’ s soft spot for this issue dates back to at least 2015 when he announced his own plan for family medical leave. Instead of a new payroll tax, Rubio called for tax incentives to encourage businesses to offer paid parental leave to employees. While this framework is probably better than the one laid out by AEI-Brookings and endorsed by Ivanka Trump, it still embraces the idea that parental paid leave is a responsibility of, and could be successfully implemented by, the federal government.

I would remind Senator Rubio of the words uttered by a young, articulate conservative explaining why big government solutions never work:

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow. Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs. And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead.”

That was Senator Rubio in 2013. What’s changed?

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Andy Crawford

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