Marco Rubio’s Opening Speech Had a Goof (Updated)

Rubio speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Presidential Forum at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rubio speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Presidential Forum at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 13, 2015 at 10:09pm

Updated April 14, 11:00 a.m. | Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign announcement speech included inspirational parts of his life story, the outline of a governing agenda and one flat-out error that appears to be a clumsy Prince reference. “Too many leaders” are “busy looking backwards,” the Florida Republican said.  

“So they do not see how jobs and prosperity today depend on our ability to … compete in a global economy. And so our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing and borrowing and regulating like it was 1999.”  

The problem with the senator’s statement is that the government is neither taxing, nor borrowing, nor regulating like it did in 1999. In fact, in 1999 there was a surplus, shrinking the debt owned by the public.

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Taxes were much higher in 1999 — 19.2 percent of gross domestic product, versus 16.7 percent in 2013, with President Barack Obama agreeing to permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts for 99 percent of taxpayers at the end of 2012.  

As for regulating, 1999 was notable in part for repealing key sections of the Glass-Steagall Act.  

(Prince’s 1982 megahit “1999” features the line “party like it’s 1999.”)  

Later on Rubio, explicitly targets Democratic contender Hillary Rodham Clinton — and all of the older candidates in the GOP field too.

“Now, just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday. Yesterday is over. And we’re never going back. You see, we Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future, and before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America, but we can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past.

We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.”

That’s a statement that could have been made by Obama when he was running against Clinton in 2008.  

Rubio wouldn’t mind if it works against his fellow Floridian, Jeb Bush.  

This story has been updated to clarify that the surplus in 1999 shrank the debt owned by the public. There was a $1.9 billion “on-budget” surplus that year, excluding Social Security and a $125.6 billion total surplus per the Congressional Budget Office. Debt owned by the public dropped from $3.721 trillion to $3.632 trillion.
Gross federal debt still went up because of debt owed to federal government accounts, from $5.478 
trillion to $5.606 trillion, per Office of Management and Budget data.

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