On yesterday’s anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the failed War on Poverty, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced that he will pursue a number of conservative ideas designed to help free Americans to take advantage of the opportunities the American economy affords. 

Rubio indicated that he wants a tax code that supports economic growth, fewer burdensome regulations, less national debt, a growing energy sector, policies that support marriage and families, and a shift of power out of the federal government and back toward the states, localities, and the people.  To help achieve these important conservative goals, Senator Rubio proposed a number of steps for the federal government to take.

On the creation of jobs in a growing economy, Rubio said:

 “. . . we need policies that make our country the easiest and best place in the world to create jobs.  This means removing the uncertainty created by a dangerous and growing national debt, enacting a simple and affordable tax code that incentivizes investment, and eliminating regulations that prevent employers from expanding and our energy sector from growing.”

Importantly, he noted that allowing the free enterprise system to flourish is vital, but is not enough by itself.  He said that America must also work to lift cultural impediments imposed on Americans seeking to move upward.  He emphasized the need to encourage marriage and stable families — a foundation of a strong society and a major contributor to a sound economy with upward mobility.  He also pointed out the importance of a free market in high-quality education attuned to the needs of people and the economy, including not only those who need advanced university degrees for research and management jobs but also those who need skills training and certification for skilled-labor jobs.

Rubio recognized that success in uniting America behind policies that help provide the opportunity for Americans to achieve a better life depends in part upon shifting power out of the hands of the federal government and back toward the states, localities, and the people.  The Senator from Florida said:

It’s wrong for Washington to tell Tallahassee what programs are right for the people of Florida — but it’s particularly wrong for it to say that what’s right for Tallahassee is the same thing that’s right for Topeka and Sacramento and Detroit and Manhattan and every other town, city and state in the country.”

The Senator raised the idea of a “Flex Fund,” under which the federal government would continue to collect taxes for welfare programs, but would then send that revenue to the states to carry out their own state-designed welfare plans. While the idea would start to move welfare policy toward the states, some states will fail to pursue conservative policies, such as requiring welfare recipients to work or prepare for work, or will profligately spend revenues from federal taxes that state officials escaped the political responsibility to impose. In any event, the idea contributes to the debate on how to encourage upward mobility in a manner consistent with the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual freedom.

Above all, Rubio’s remarks on equal opportunity and upward mobility identified the key importance of Americans having free rein to exercise their God-given right recognized by the Declaration of Independence to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Conservatives continue to work toward the objective of ensuring that every American can exercise that God-given right.

David S. Addington is the Group Vice President for Research.