Marco Rubio told a crowd of about 200 at the Carson City Community Center on Tuesday all of America’s problems can be solved and the American Dream restored if the country rejects the path both parties have taken it down in recent years.
He said that includes immigration, the economy, education, the weakening of our military and health care, among others.
“If we continue down the road we are on right now, we will lose what makes America special,” Rubio said.
He said millions of Americans are “starting to doubt that the American Dream is still possible” because they’ve had the same job for 20 years but are now living paycheck to paycheck after jobs have been outsourced to other countries or they are newly graduated, weighed down by thousands in student loan debt and still without a job.
He said the current leadership in both parties doesn’t know what to do.
“We have a political class in America that does not understand why this is happening or what to do about it,” Rubio said.
He said their ideas are outdated and they don’t understand “what it‘s like to live paycheck to paycheck.”
“The result is a tone-deaf policy that hasn’t solved any major issue in this country,” he said. “We can fix every single one of these things.”
But Rubio said if the nation doesn’t start down a different path in the coming election, “we will be the first generation in our 230 year history that leaves our children worse off than we were,” he said.
The Republican senator from Florida said the U.S. needs economic policies that make the nation competitive, starting with lowering the highest business tax rate on the planet. He said regulations need to be brought under control by calculating what new regulations would cost business before passing them.
He said the health care law must be repealed because it has raised costs while lowering quality of the insurance people are receiving.
That means “putting every American in charge of their own health care spending,” allowing them to buy policies across state lines from any company willing to sell.
He said the higher education system needs to be dramatically reformed because, “many of the best jobs in the 21st century will need more education than high school but less than four years in college.”
Rubio said colleges now have control of a system.
“They are the only ones that can give a degree so they can charge anything they want and they do. We need more innovative competitors allowed into the space.”
He said those colleges also should be required to tell students more about the degrees they are seeking, including their prospects for actually getting a job and what it would pay.
He said he opposes the Common Core standards that attempt to make all states meet the same K-12 educational metrics. But he said he supports education reform but it, “should be done at the state and local level.”
“I honestly don’t think we need a (federal) Department of Education,” he said. “We don’t’ need a national school board.”
He said immigration reform must deal with the fact 40 percent of those in the country illegally came here legally, then just stayed after their visas expired.
He said the current system allows immigration based on family ties. Instead, he said it should be based on an immigrant’s skills, ability to contribute to the country.
Rubio called for more spending on national defense saying other nations are gaining on the U.S.
He added, “the national debt is not being driven by defense spending. It’s being driven by Social Security and Medicare.”
He said those programs must be protected but have to change — including people his age (44) working longer before getting benefits.
On defense, he said China is modernizing and expanding its military while hacking into U.S. computer systems, there’s “a gangster” in charge in Moscow trying to divide Europe and a “lunatic” in North Korea while President Obama’s Iran deal “almost guarantees Iran will possess a nuclear weapon.”
“There has never been a time in our history when we didn’t have challenges,” he said citing the Civil War, two World Wars, the Cold War and the turbulent 1960s.
“And in the 1970s we survived disco music,” he joked.
Nearly half the crowd in Carson City was two government classes form Carson High School. Most of the rest of the crowd was significantly older.
Carson Supervisor Lori Bagwell and GOP activist Carol Howell both said they attended because they are “testing the waters.”
“I am not committing,” said Howell adding she plans to attend all the presidential events in the capital this year.
“I am listening and learning all the candidates,” Bagwell said.
Sandy Markoe, past president of the Carson City Republicans, said she’s thankful candidates are coming to town and “I just want to hear what they say.”
Their comments reflected the majority of those attending.
Mitch Clemons said he has attended three Carson GOP meetings to hear what they say but doesn’t really expect them to do what they say.
“Mostly I come and watch the politicians talk out of their butt,” he said.
Rubio is on a tour of different parts of western Nevada this week. He was in Reno Monday evening and Carson City Tuesday morning. He went to Yerington and then Fallon later Tuesday.
While in Carson City, Republican Rubio met with Gov. Brian Sandoval, but the two didn’t discuss an endorsement.
Rubio said he visited the Republican governor Tuesday morning, before his Carson City stop. Rubio said the two talked about “normal stuff” including how the campaign was going. Rubio said he’s known Sandoval for a little while and likes him very much.
Sandoval told the Las Vegas Sun that Rubio is an “impressive guy” and that he didn’t seek an endorsement. The newspaper reported their meeting took place at the Governor’s Mansion and lasted 90 minutes.
Sandoval previously met with Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush in Nevada.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.