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ICYMI: Rubio Joins 13th & Park

Sep 12, 2023 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined 13th & Park to discuss the current state of America, the decline of the American dream, confronting China, football, and more. See below for highlights and listen to the full interview here.

On Hurricane Idalia:

“There’s no such thing as a good hurricane. Good hurricanes are the ones that never touch land and stay out at sea. But if you compare [Hurricane Idalia] to some of the other events we’ve had, it has been less destructive, for a couple of reasons. The first is it moved very quickly through, and [the second is] it hit areas of the state that were not as heavily populated or developed. That said, there are still people and property there, and they were damaged. And for them, this is a 100 percent storm. It had a 100 percent impact. So we continue to work through that. 

“The federal role really is to do two things. [The first is to] come in and help the state government immediately with things the state government doesn’t have at this point, because of experience, years of having to do it. Florida’s as good as any jurisdiction in the country in preparing ahead of time and responding to storms after the fact, and that includes our utility sector. I think power is now up to 98 percent. That’s a pretty quick power restoration. 

“[The second part of the federal role is] in the long term. Depending on the disaster declaration the president makes, if you’re a local government, particularly a small county or municipality, you have to put a bunch of police officers and everybody else on overtime. There are costs associated with the cleanup that you have to take on. The disaster fund is there to help reimburse 90 percent, 80 percent of those costs, whatever is agreed upon. But that process takes years. There are still jurisdictions waiting for reimbursements for [cleanup work from] three or four years ago. A bigger county or city can absorb it. Smaller counties and municipalities really struggle. Some of them actually take out lines of credit to make those payments. You’ve got to pay the debris cleanup company today, and then you’re counting on the reimbursement money coming from the federal government. That could take five years. 

“Then there’s the individual assistance for those who are displaced and need temporary housing, for those that didn’t have flood insurance. That calculation also comes into play. That’s part of the immediate response. [We] generally dodged the bullet in terms of the scale and scope of [Idalia]. 

“Nonetheless, there are people that have been impacted by it, and we will continue to do everything we can and be on top of it to make sure that the federal part of it is well done. At this point, we have the best disaster response [at the state level]. People in the world really build from years of unfortunate experience having to do this stuff.”

On the direction America is headed:

“We, like the rest of the world, are in the middle of this dramatic tectonic shift, a real change in the way the world looks. When I got here 12 years ago, China was a thing. People knew it was [an] emerging [threat]. But it didn’t become the central focus of our work. We still very much lived in a world where America was a unipolar power. Our economy was transitioning, but I don’t think we fully appreciated what that would mean up and down the economy, in terms of all these new industries, the way markets were changing, the nature of the economy, how you made a living. All of that was changing, but it was coming really fast. 

“You fast forward to today, particularly beginning in about 2015 or 2016, and you start to realize America now faces, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, a near-peer adversary, meaning another great power who is competing with us economically, technologically, militarily, across the board, in China. Not only do we have a geopolitical adversary now, we have a competitor. We have certainly the strongest one we’ve ever had. From a comprehensive point of view, China is much stronger, much richer, much more powerful, and has much more capability and potential than the Soviet Union ever had. 

“But our politics moves very slowly. Our system of government moves very slowly. And most of the people in charge of things, whether it’s in the congressional branch, the executive branch, you name it, even in the commentary class or in the think tanks, are products of a world that no longer exists. That doesn’t mean some of those people can’t readjust or realign. But generally speaking, when you are born, raised, and nurtured in a world defined by the Cold War and then the post-Cold War era, America is the only superpower. We can do whatever we want. We think everyone’s going to become a democracy. Free enterprise at a global scale will answer everything. It’s very difficult to transition to a world where you realize, hold on a second, that’s not the way it’s playing out. 

“I believe in the free market 100 percent. I despise socialism. But sometimes the free market outcome is bad for America. What do I mean? The free market says it’s cheaper to make medicine in China, but it is not in our national interest to depend on China for 88 percent of our active ingredients. You talk about these rare earth minerals, these metals and other things you dig out of the ground. We don’t see it, but they’re embedded in everything from the iPad to our defense contractors. China controls 80-something percent of the global market in terms of [these minerals]. 

“If tomorrow, China decides, we are going to deny U.S. defense contractors these five rare earth elements, it would shut down defense contractors. No matter how much money we spent, we would not be able to make the things to defend our country. That is the kind of leverage that China now has on us. We still live in a country where there are a lot of people in charge that don’t fully appreciate how vulnerable this reliance on the global market has left our country, on some key components. 

“I would add one more thing. You have to have an economy that produces. Half of our people do not go to college. Half the people in the United States have a high school diploma or less. You have to have an economy that creates jobs that allow people like that to earn a living and raise a family and be a part of a community. Our national interest is served not just by creating jobs, but creating enough of those kinds of jobs, at a time in which technology and automation are making us more efficient. 

“You can now open a factory, but instead of 50 workers, you only need 10, because the technology, equipment, machinery, and automation make those employees a lot more efficient. We never adjusted to that. We saw all the benefits that free trade and globalization were going to bring. We never took seriously the downside of it, the people that would be left behind and displaced, the industries we would lose. We’re paying a price for that as well.”

On how to counteract China’s aggression:

“One of the things that you could probably unite everybody in Washington around is, we got to get tougher on China. You would get 90 percent of members of Congress [united on that]. Everybody’s for it. The problem is we’re not just talking about being tactically tougher, like let’s go after China for this or this that. We have to have a strategic approach to it. 

“I hate the Chinese Communist Party. I think it’s evil. But from a Chinese perspective, the Chinese government is acting in the national interest of China — not the human rights violations, but from an economic and geopolitical point of view, they are doing what we would do if we were in their position, and that is trying to build up their country. If that comes at our expense, even better, that’s what they’re doing. We have to wake up to that reality. We got to stop the silly talk of, we need a win-win situation and cooperation. 

“China is willing to cooperate with the United States only to the extent that it’s good for them and, conversely, bad for us. Their preference is to avoid direct conflict with the U.S. as long as possible, until they’re strong enough, so that conflicts are not necessary because they’re clearly the winner. You have to wake up to that reality. And then you have to make it part of your public policy. That will require you to reexamine the way you do things now. 

“One of the tough challenges we have is everybody says, ‘I want to be tough on China’ … Then when you say, ‘all right, here’s the first thing we have to do,’ immediately someone will say, ‘we can’t do that, because that company is headquartered in my state’, or because that company has hired the right lobbyist to influence my public policy, or whatever. We’re willing to talk tough, but when it comes time to do it, if you’re going to make a change in how we approach it, there are going to be things that are uncomfortable that we’re going to have to do. 

“This whole thing with TikTok is a perfect example…. I think the TikTok thing is a big problem and a serious threat, but it is not in the top 10…. The reason why I really focused on that is because I felt, and I still feel, if we as a society cannot bring ourselves to control a social media app because people like it, they like the videos, how are we going to do any of these other more difficult things that are required in order to recalibrate that relationship? 

“Understand that I approach this from the following point of view: China is going to be a rich, powerful country on Earth for the rest of my lifetime and yours. This is not about making them weak and poor or anything of that nature. This is about having balance in that relationship, not one in which they are more powerful than us. Because if that were to happen, the world’s going to change, but there’s going to be a conflict. That’s what you need to avoid. That imbalance is what would encourage the Chinese to act against us…. 

“What do we need to be doing differently? I think we have to be willing to do the things we have to do to readjust our public policy to the 21st century. Some of those things are uncomfortable, because it will require us in the short term to disrupt things we’ve been doing for 20 years, that there’s been a lot of support based on, whether it’s political support, economic support, or the like. But the hard things that are necessary, we either do it, or we’ll pay the price down the road.”

On the partnership between North Korea and Russia:

“A couple of things about North Korea. Evil leader. No economy. People starving. Some of the sickest, most depraved things you can imagine. A really bizarre place, a hermit kingdom, completely closed off from the world…. It is certainly not a place I ever intend to vacation to, much less recommend anyone to live in. That said, they’re not an expansionist power. The goal of North Korea is not to dominate the Pacific. The goal of North Korea is to be able to keep Kim Jong Un in power for the rest of his life, and then whoever succeeds him for the rest of their life. 

“You’re talking about [an] early 40s, late 30s dictator who has to figure out, how do I hang on and survive for the rest of my life and not end up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi? He says, well, why did Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein get overthrown? Because they couldn’t threaten the West, they couldn’t threaten the United States. So I have to be able to threaten them. His view is, if Muammar Gaddafi had nuclear weapons, and Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, they never could have been invaded and overthrown. 

“So he now spends all his time working to make sure that we know that he could potentially strike us, because it limits our options in what we do…. He wants the world to just accept [North Korea] as a nuclear power…. That doesn’t mean that once he gets that, he won’t turn into some expansionist power that tries to take over South Korea or whatever…. 

“The deeper threat, though, is this guy is not your most stable person. This is a guy who possesses and controls the ability to launch weapons that could kill millions of people in one strike. I don’t know the guy very well. I don’t know the guy at all. But he clearly is a strange dude. This guy has nuclear weapons arsenals. 

“We are concerned because this is not like the [Cold War], where there are these generals and this hotline and this system [for defusing tension]. We don’t know anything about their command and control. We don’t know anything about his psychology. We don’t know anything about what a 50 or 60-year-old Kim Jong Un might decide is a threat. All that is worrisome. 

“In the case of the Russians, the Russians are in a full-scale war and do not have the industrial capacity to produce munitions. They have to buy them, and they’re being sanctioned. They have to buy from the Iranians. They have to buy them from the black market. They have to get what they can from the Chinese, who are going to try to hide it, but nonetheless sell them things. North Korea can make weapons, [so the Russians will] buy them from them in exchange for nuclear submarines. 

“I would imagine that North Korea wants to continue to expand its capabilities to threaten the United States, primarily for the purpose of regime security. That’s what I read into it. But again, the more capability that guy has, [the more dangerous the situation is]. We don’t know who his successor is going to be. More importantly, we don’t know what he’s going to be like in 10, 15, 20 years.”

On the state of working (and non-working) American men:

“[When I was] running for president, in one of the debates, I said something like, we need more welders and less philosophers. I’m not anti-philosophy. I think it has its place in the world. But we do need more welders and all kinds of other workers. 

“There’s a sociological component to this. I’m not a sociologist, so I would not speak on that as if I’m an expert on it. But clearly there is something happening in society and in culture. Do we not all know in our own lives, whether it’s family, friends, neighbors, or what have you, 25, 29, 30-year-old males that are not in the workforce? We all know [them]… This is not a caricature. It exists. Everything behind that sociologically, what’s happened in our culture that’s led to that, is a crisis. It’s one that I can’t speak to you [about] today, saying I figured it out, or I know why. But I do know one of the contributors to it. And I do know the impact it’s having on the country writ large. 

“Number one is…that not everyone can, wants to be, or should be able to write code or be a software engineer or have an advanced degree in mathematics and science, not because they’re dumb, but because that’s not where their skills are in life. We continue to have people who will find success in life and fulfillment in life and hopefully dignified work from working [blue-collar] jobs…in construction and the trades and manufacturing and so forth.

“The second, though, is you have to have an economy that produces that kind of work. When you make a decision as a society [that] we are going to be a country that no longer has these dirty jobs, as it was termed back then – we’re going to be a society that no longer is going to need factory workers. We’re no longer going to need people that go out there and do the jobs where you have to take a shower after work instead of before work. If you have that kind of job now, don’t worry, that job is going to leave. It’s going to go to China or Vietnam or some other country, and we’re going to replace it with a job that pays three times as much, but you’re going to have to go to school and learn how to write code, even if you’re 45, have three kids, and live in Ohio or somewhere in the Rust Belt – that’s just not realistic. But that happened, and people got left behind. 

“Outside of government and some other sectors, where are we creating [blue-collar] jobs for men? Where did these men used to work 25, 30, 40 years ago? They worked at an auto factory. They worked in construction. They worked in a trade. Today, those opportunities are less than they’ve ever been. That’s a real factor that’s at play here. It’s leading a lot of people to say, ‘The only job available for me is to go out and work as a server at a restaurant making X number of bucks an hour, and I just don’t really want to do that.’ 

“I can get into a lot of anecdotal tales about small business owners that talk about, I hired a guy on Monday, he showed up on Tuesday, came in late on Wednesday, I never heard from him again after Thursday, he didn’t want to work eight or nine hours…. But I think for us as policymakers, we have to understand that it is in our national interest to have industry in our country, for two reasons. Number one, because it allows us to be less dependent on the rest of the world and other countries and therefore less vulnerable, whether it’s a pandemic, a war, [or] a geopolitical conflict [that threatens us]. And number two, because it creates jobs for millions of people, particularly millions of men….

“Many of the people that are in power today and write in some of our editorial boards, [they] have the purest market mentality. Their solution to the problem is, it’s all right, those bad jobs, as they call them, will go somewhere else. Better jobs will replace them, and it’ll take some time to transition. To the extent that we need people to work construction and all that, what we’ll do is just open the border and allow people to come in and do that work, and that labor will be filled by that. It’s been this collusion of mass immigration, legal and illegal, combined with these economic decisions that have left us vulnerable economically and socially.

“They point to the traditional numbers – look at the unemployment rate, the unemployment rate is low. The unemployment rate is not telling you everything you need to know about the health of your economy. That’s like looking at one medical test. Your blood work came back and it looks good, all right. But what about that massive growth on the chest x-ray? That has to be addressed, and we’re not looking at that. 

“We’re just looking at these traditional economic numbers without understanding that the unemployment rate is a measure of the percentage of people actively looking for work that cannot find it. It does not measure how many people are not looking for work at all, and it does not measure the type of work that is being created. Is it steady work? Is it work that pays enough to be able to afford certain things? I would ask everybody this, because I think this is a big problem moving forward. 

“One of the things I used to say all the time was, we are on the verge of becoming the first generation of Americans to leave our kids worse off than we’ve been. I think we can now say that’s happened. The generation that followed mine is clearly at least a decade behind where mine was, in terms of everything from steady career path to home ownership to career opportunities to children to family formation. I know it anecdotally, and I see it in the numbers. We used to be arguing about what we needed to do to prevent [this]. Now we have to work on how to fix it. 

“One of the key things that has to happen is,…do we agree or disagree American public policy should first and foremost be about furthering the national interest of the United States of America, domestic and international? I think most people would say, of course. If that’s the case, then…we have to accept that part of our economic national interest is not simply economic growth, not simply GDP, because you can be a very rich country and be unbalanced. I think we have to accept it’s not just how much your economy grows… but it’s also, how is it growing? Is it growing in a way that creates steady, sustainable, dignified work for as many Americans as possible? 

“That has to be in our national interest, the creation of employment for Americans that allow them to sustain community and family. If we don’t accept that that is as important to our national interest as how Wall Street closes today or GDP growth, then I think we’re not going to be able to solve these problems, and we’re not there yet.”

On the precarious state of the American Dream:

“I think about my own parents. My dad worked in the service sector. He was a bartender at hotels, worked banquets, weddings, bar mitzvahs, you name it. My mom was a service sector worker. She worked on everything from factories, when we used to have them in Hialeah, Florida, all the way to a cashier and a stock clerk at Kmart…. If you took my parents out of 1985 and moved them to 2023 with those jobs, we would not own a home. Our life would be completely different, and my opportunities would have been very different. That’s reality…. Some of that is a function of economic change that was normal, was going to happen. But I just think, what would my dad have done for dignified work outside the service sector? What could he have possibly done? He would have had a very different life…. 

“I grew up in that era. I graduated from high school in ’89. I’m in college right at the end of the Cold War. I grew up in this era, and there was a pretty clear formula. You go to college, you get a degree, in my case, you go to law school, and you’ll find a job. You may not become a billionaire or even a millionaire, but if you have those degrees, it guarantees you’ll find a job that allows you to sustain a family and a certain standard of living, assuming you work hard and do all the right things. What is that formula today? 

“I want my kids to go to college. All of them have or are [in college now], except for the one who’s in high school, obviously. But…can you guarantee an 18-year-old today that if they go and they finish that degree, even if they borrow money for it, that when they graduate with that degree, they may not have their dream job, but they will have a job that will allow them to live the way I lived when I was 24 or 25 years old? 

“The answer is we can’t say that to them with a straight face, because America today is littered and filled with people that have four-year degrees in business administration, in philosophy – not to pick on the philosophers – who graduated, have a degree, and what’s the next move? They’re in their early 30s and still can’t find a career path. I think that that all has to be re-examined. That’s a reality, and no one’s talking about it. 

“We still push people into college, which is fine, but without an understanding at the end of that path, where does it lead you to? Because if these degrees are not producing employable skills, and our economy is not producing the jobs, then we’ve got a mismatch that needs to be fixed, or we’re going to have more people, not just men, but more people overall falling underneath those cracks and leading to that lack of faith in the future, in the American dream, and the promise of our country.”

On the senator’s catch of Dan Marino’s bullet pass: 

“You usually bring these guys in for a ceremonial toss…. [But] there’s a picture of [this moment] where [Marino’s] tie is flying back, because he really put some heat on it. You know who was really happy I caught it was the House clerk standing right behind me. If I had not caught it, she probably would [have received] a very severe concussion.” 

On the value of American football:

“It remains one of the few places left, particularly college football, where people who have big differences have a common experience. On any given Saturday or even Friday night in this country, a bunch of people will come together to cheer on the same side for a team, even though they have come from different parts of the world, have very different points of view. We have less and less places like that left, because politics has infiltrated every aspect of our society – music, culture, entertainment, everything – even sports has become infused by politics. I get upset about political messaging in sports more than anything else,…because I think it’s denying us those places where people can share a unifying and common experience outside of politics, which is important for a country. 

“The other thing about football is, and it’s not for everyone, but I can tell you for young men, it is a great preparation for life. It requires you to do a number of things which I think are critical to success. It allows you to give up something in order to be successful. You can’t be on the football team and be good at it and also live the same life as other people do, because you’re going to have to be at practice the next day at 6:30 in the morning. It teaches you to do things you may not want to do, but you’re doing it because other people are counting on you, accountability to others. It teaches you to fight through adversity. 

“So a game didn’t go the way you wanted it to go, or your performance didn’t. What do you do about it? Do you go hide under a rock? Do you blame somebody else? Do you blame the refs? Do you blame your coaches? Or do you go out and work to improve? It teaches you the formula that opportunity plus work equals success, even though that success may not be immediate. It teaches you to do things that are uncomfortable, that you may not want to do, but you have to do. I think all those things are really important to learn as early as possible. 

“You can read all the books, and you can attend all the great lectures, and you can talk about it as much as you want. That’s not something you can teach by listening. You got to teach by doing. If you, early in life, learn to get up in the morning, show up on time, and do what’s expected of you because other people are counting on you, and accept the fact that you can’t have it all – you can’t be really good at something and not work at it and live the same life as other people, you’re going to have to give up something to get something – if you can learn that when you’re 16, 17 or 18, it’s a huge advantage in life. I think football is a great teacher of that.”

On the greatest challenges facing America:

“Because we are a free country, and we debate everything, it takes time to work through our differences before we can go to consensus and then action…. Traditionally, it hasn’t been a problem for America, because these issues move slowly too…. Now our challenge is that the process is messier than ever, louder than ever. Those fights, some of them are artificial. The consensus is harder to reach because there are people that don’t want there to be consensus, because they make their money off conflict. 

“Then the action piece takes time, because our republic is not efficient. It wasn’t designed to be efficient. It still moves very slowly, maybe slower than before. But the threats and the challenges are moving faster than ever. That’s why I chuckle sometimes when I hear people say, we’re going to do something about AI. That is developing so fast. I don’t know how you develop public policy in our system fast enough to respond to that. So that’s a huge challenge…. Do I think we’re more aware today? Is there more of a conversation today about these challenges vis a vis China, the economy, and the like than there was 5 or 6 years ago? There is. Are we moving fast enough to address it? We’re not. Are we taking it seriously? We’re not. 

“At the end of the day, no matter [how much] we want to talk about these things, we’re going to spend the next four weeks here in Washington just trying to keep the government open and [deciding] whether McCarthy’s going to be removed as speaker, as some people are threatening, and so forth…. We’re going to be focused on the short term. There’s a huge media interest in the short term, because it drives ratings and revenue.”

On hip hop music:

“We just [celebrated] the 50th anniversary of hip hop, because it began in the early 70s. Even before Sugarhill Gang and all those other [groups] people talk about, hip hop had already started, primarily in the East Coast. But one of the unique things about hip hop is these were not people that were central casting, some music producer went out and discovered you playing at some bar. These were people who were coming out of real life and putting into song, or into word song, their life experiences. They were narrators of their reality. 

“Hip hop took a strong turn in the late ’80s with NWA out of the West Coast talking about the police experiences in LA. [It] increased through the East Coast as well, with some of the artists that arose during that period of time. One of the unique things about hip hop and one of the unique things about…Eminem is he was talking about his experience coming from white suburban poverty and the experience and the challenges he faced. 

“You don’t have to like the person. They don’t have to like you. You don’t have to agree on public policy issues or what have you. But I do think there are messages embedded in hip hop, throughout its evolution, that have largely been people taking messages from real life and expressing it through music, and an authenticity there that I think was unique as a music form and ahead of its time. That continues to be the case.”