Responding to President Obama's State of the Union address on behalf of the Republican Party, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tonight made the case that the president's calls for government investments are misguided and potentially destructive.
While agreeing with the president on some issues and taking an optimistic tone for the future, Rubio sought to offer a conservative alternative to the president's agenda, one which takes decision-making out of Washington.
Opportunity, Rubio said, "it isn't bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business."
In his address before a joint session of Congress, Mr. Obama told lawmakers, "We need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them." The president laid out a series of actions Washington can take to revive the economy, including investments in the private sector.
Rubio, however, charged tonight that Mr. Obama considers a free enterprise economy as "the cause of our problems."
"His solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more," Rubio said of the president. "And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers - that's an old idea that's failed every time it's been tried. More government isn't going to help you get ahead. It's going to hold you back. More government isn't going to create more opportunities. It's going to limit them."
The president did reiterate his insistence that economic growth requires "everybody doing their fair share," alluding to tax reforms. Mr. Obama also insisted, "It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth." He said none of his proposals would increase the deficit.
The president did, however, suggest specific government investments, such as a "Fix-It-First" program to put people back to work repairing infrastructure across the country. He also suggested initiatives such as working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Such investments would pay off financially in the future, he said.
Rubio addressed areas in which Republicans believe government should act, such as energy policy: "Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio," he said. "But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called 'clean energy' companies like Solyndra, let's open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration."