Does Rubio Get Credit for the Positions He Has Abandoned?

At TNR today Brian Beutler takes a point we are all making about Marco Rubio a bit farther. The way I put it this morning is that Rubio is the symbol of a willingness to change in the GOP that the party isn’t quite ready to execute. Beutler plausibly goes right on and calls the man a fraud.

Rubio has rather obviously abandoned his politically damaging commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. But he’s also pre-abandoned his commitment to a genuine conservative anti-poverty strategy, as Brian points out in detail:

Nothing captures Rubio’s irreconcilable commitments quite like the evolution of his plan to reform the tax code. From the outset, Rubio never intended to sideline the interests of the wealthy. As originally conceived, his tax plan would’ve paired modest middle class benefits with very large tax cuts for high earners, much like George W. Bush’s first big tax cut in 2001. But when conservatives voiced dissatisfaction with that particular distribution, Rubio responded not by telling them to buzz off, or by eliminating the middle-income benefits and plying the savings into further high-end tax cuts. He kept the benefits, and layered hugely regressive additional tax cuts for the wealthy on top of an already unaffordable plan. What once would have increased deficits by $2.4 trillion over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center, would now increase them by trillions more. The beneficiaries would be investors, who would no longer pay any tax on capital gains and dividends, and wealthy families, whose enormous bequests would be subject to no tax either.

Unbelievably, this play to have it both ways still doesn’t satisfy supply-siders. “This business side of the plan is pretty darn good and I like it,” Larry Kudlow told Politico’s Ben White. “The personal side of it is a mess and will be politically and economically indefensible and he is going to take tremendous criticism for it and my guess is he will have to back off it very fast.”

So Rubio has already surrendered to the status quo to the extent that he packages an even larger boon to the wealthy than other Republicans in order to but acceptance for some “family-friendly tax credits.” But conservatives are demanding more, and there are no indications as of yet that Rubio will deny them.

All this dubious maneuvering actually looks worse when you contrast it to Rubio’s impressive lack of nuance when it comes to foreign policy, where he’s a full-on champion of every Neocon position. No matter where you stand on domestic or foreign policy, you get the sense that’s what makes Young Marco’s heart go pitty-pat. Those who are impressed by the heterodoxy of positions he’s already abandoned might want to think about that more carefully.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.