7. A growing consensus of liberals and conservatives agree that economic mobility in the United States has decreased and is a serious problem. (See here and here.) What can the federal government do to improve economic mobility for Americans struggling in the bottom half of the income distribution?
After spending trillions of dollars and using the same flawed policies for decades, big government has failed to alleviate poverty. Our approach must change. We must institute 21st Century policies to help our economy create better jobs, and improve the opportunities of those who are stuck in low paying jobs to move up to better paying jobs.
To successfully tackle poverty and encourage upward mobility, we must move away from a one-size fits all approach to poverty reduction because every state has its own unique obstacles that require tailored solutions. Instead of continuing under the current system, we should turn Washington's existing anti-poverty programs — and the trillions spent on them — over to the states by creating a "Flex Fund" that lets states innovate. We should also streamline the tax code to encourage work rather than dependence by replacing the Earned Income Tax Credit with a Wage Enhancement Credit.
Work and education are the engine of upward mobility. So in addition to the reforms above, we must also make our higher education system more affordable, higher quality, and more easily customizable to fit workers' and employers' needs. We also need to stop stigmatizing vocational education and essential, high-paying blue-collar work.
Government's model for addressing poverty or helping Americans learn new skills is sorely outdated. These reforms will reclaim the American Dream for the 21st Century.
8. At what point in a pregnancy, and under what circumstances, should abortion be illegal?
I personally and deeply believe that all human life is sacred and worthy of the protection of our laws. And I believe that irrespective of the conditions by which that life was conceived or anything else. Abortion is not a political issue for me, it is a human rights issue. To truly be a nation where all human beings are equal, we must defend life.
I believe that life begins at the moment of conception, and I am strongly pro-life. Therefore, I oppose abortion in all instances, except in cases in which the life of the mother is imperiled by the pregnancy. That said, I support measures that include broader exceptions, because they will reduce the number of abortions in our country. I am proud of my 100% rating from National Right to Life.
9. For those opposed to gay marriage as a matter of faith or conscience, to what extent should they be allowed to behave according to those beliefs now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared gay marriage is a fundamental right found in the U.S. Constitution?
In America, we have the freedom to live out our consciences and to follow God's commands for us. No one who holds traditional values should be coerced into living according to other values. And no religious institution should be discriminated against by the government because they uphold traditional marriage.
I support traditional marriage and strongly believe that religious liberty is a sacred right that must be protected. That's why I support the First Amendment Defense Act, which ensures the Federal Government never punishes anyone because of their beliefs about marriage.
10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation's natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation's energy needs?
To achieve our full energy potential in the 21st century, I will follow three guiding principles: optimizing America's resources, minimizing government bureaucracy, and maximizing private innovation.
In order to optimize America's energy resources, I will immediately approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, empower states and tribes to control energy development within their borders, expedite the approval of American natural gas exports, and take other steps to ensure that the United States's energy resources are the envy of the world.
To minimize government bureaucracy, I will stop the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which, if enacted, would have a devastating impact on affordable energy in exchange for little to no environmental benefit. I will also work to institute a National Regulatory Budget that will hold regulators accountable by limiting what federal regulations can cost, which will prevent future job-killing regulations.
Finally, in order to maximize private innovation in the energy sector I will reform our outdated higher education system to support the energy jobs of the future, facilitate private sector-led development of new technologies, and overhaul the tax code and cut taxes for business of all sizes.
11. How would you seek to change defense spending, Social Security, healthcare spending, or the tax code in order to slow the growth of deficit spending and tackle the nearly $18.3 trillion national debt and over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities?
Washington's addiction to irresponsible spending is the result not of necessity but of a stubborn resistance to reform. Our debt is not just a problem for government; it is a problem for the American people. It will hamper our economy today and limit the opportunities future generations will have to achieve the American Dream.
Tackling spending begins by reforming the two biggest drivers of our debt, which are a pair of vitally important programs: Social Security and Medicare. We need to reform Social Security and Medicare to save them for future seniors, and we need to do so without affecting the benefits of current seniors or those nearing retirement. We'll also need a balanced-budget amendment to compel Washington to live within its means.
The second solution to our national debt is vibrant economic growth. A growing economy will create more jobs, more taxpayers, and more prosperity. It is the only way to get the tax revenue we need to begin chipping away at the trillions we owe.
I have proposed a number of reforms to create growth; one of the most important is simplifying the tax code in a way that best encourages investment and provides relief for struggling middle-class families. I have put forth a tax plan that would do just that.
If we do not reduce federal spending and spur economic growth, we will not achieve financial stability, and the promise of this century will pass us by. We cannot let that happen.
12. What caused the Great Recession, and what should be done to ensure it doesn't happen again?
The Great Recession was not caused by government being too small. Teams of regulators were tasked with monitoring the financial system, but they failed to identify its biggest risks.
Despite all these failures, the government's response to the crisis has been to increase regulation through Dodd-Frank, rivaling only Obamacare on its size and scope. While the biggest Wall St. banks can afford to hire thousands of lawyers to deal with the onslaught of regulations, small community banks — the kind that lend to the communities and businesses hardest hit by the Great Recession — simply close their doors. We must repeal Dodd-Frank and end the burden it's putting on our economy.
As president I will end "Too Big to Fail," end taxpayer bailouts, and replace Dodd-Frank with clear but strict rules that protect our economy from another financial collapse.
Marco Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida. To learn more, his campaign website is MarcoRubio.com.