Rubio has emphasized that new structural problems threaten the American dream: technology displacing workers, globalization suppressing wages and the decline of marriage widening inequality.Brooks said very similar things about Mitt Romney four years ago; like many moderate conservatives, he chose to focus on Romney's overall record and mien, ignoring all the stuff he promised in his campaign.
His proposals reflect this awareness. At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities. Rubio talks specifically about targeting policies to boost middle- and lower-middle-class living standards.
I think this is a terrible mistake. Back in 2000, I thought W couldn't possibly be serious about his massive tax cut plan, because it was wildly unaffordable. He was serious, the cuts were passed, and the national debt ballooned by a trillion dollars. Just ask the voters of Kansas if wildly unaffordable tax cuts have gone out of style.
Even if it is true that Rubio really is focused on the macro-economic forces battering the middle class, that doesn't mean he has any clue what to do about it. Like most Republicans he remains committed to the belief that a regime of lower taxes and less regulation will magically jumpstart growth and reduce inequality. I freely admit that Democrats also have no clear plan for helping the middle class, but it seems to me that what all the Republicans are proposing has been tried in America since 1981. The result has been an amazing surge in billionaires and little if any improvement for the rest of us. Why would anybody think that more of the same would lead to a radically different result? How would cutting taxes and reducing regulation -- and so far Rubio has talked mainly about regulation of the energy sector -- help alleviate the pressures put on wages by globalization and robots?
Ever since Reagan, Republicans have been running on a platform of blaming the government. If changes in the economy are hurting your particular group, whoever you are, the solution is lower taxes and less regulation. It's an interesting case of the hammer/nail problem; when you are ideologically committed to hammers, every problem becomes a nail. Regardless of how many times you have banged away at the same board.
So I say, listen to what the candidates are saying. Pay attention to the details. If the campaign budget is based on a fantastic notion of what the world is like, then likely the administration will be, too. We had that under W and I don't know why we would want to do it again.