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Rubio: Raise ladders of opportunity, not just the minimum wage

Over the last two decades, globalization and technological progress have transformed the very nature of the American economy, yet our nation’s policies and institutions have failed to adapt with them.

They are designed for a time before anyone had heard of the Internet. They are designed for a time when higher education was a luxury rather than a necessity. They are designed for a time when it took a trip on a jetliner to conduct business internationally rather than a tap on a smartphone.

As a result, the most radical age of innovation in history is resulting in hardship rather than prosperity. In order to move our nation into this century and restore the American Dream, we need ideas as big as our current crisis.

Let’s take the example of a single mom in Miami working at a fast food restaurant and making $8 an hour. What concrete things can we do to bring the transformational power of the American Dream within her reach?

Democrats will tell you the answer is to simply raise the minimum wage. But like nearly every other industry, food service is rapidly changing due to technological advances. Raising the minimum wage will only pressure this woman’s employer to move faster toward the inevitable step of replacing her position with a touchscreen or similar technology.

To truly transform this woman’s life, she needs the opportunity to go from making $8 an hour as a cashier to making $30 an hour in her restaurant’s corporate office, or in one of the many new industries emerging in this century.

To raise these ladders of opportunity, our leaders need to focus on three goals. First, we need to grow the economy and accelerate the creation of high-paying 21st century jobs. Second, we need to help her access the skills she needs for these jobs. And third, we need to assist her with the rising cost of living.

Addressing the first goal will require pro-growth economic policies aimed at spurring innovation, expanding emerging industries, and allowing businesses to access the hundreds of millions of international customers within their reach.

The second goal will require us to revolutionize higher education by making it more flexible, affordable, and accessible to all Americans.

For the third goal, instead of a counterproductive minimum wage hike, we should institute a wage enhancement credit that encourages work and provides relief to low-wage workers. We should also institute pro-family tax reforms such as a substantial increase in the child tax credit.

That’s just a quick overview of what must be a comprehensive and extensive set of reforms. I’ve spent this year proposing these and many other ideas that I believe will extend the American Dream my mother and father lived to every American.

Even though our country and our people are hurting today, we live in the country that remains the best positioned to access the prosperity of the 21st century. We live in a country that has risen to every challenge it has ever faced. We are the descendants of a people that have never yielded to hardship, and who will not do so today.

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