UNION LEADER: Rubio talks Medicare, job training, immigration at St. A’s As originally appearing in Union Leader
By CASSIDY SWANSON
Union Leader Correspondent
GOFFSTOWN — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has three priorities for moving America forward in the 21st century: making the U.S. economy “the healthiest on the planet,” enabling people to learn the skills to succeed in modern careers, and “making America the strongest participant on the global stage.”
“If we do the three things I’ve outlined here today … then the 21st century will be the most prosperous era we’ve ever known as a people,” Rubio said during a Politics & Eggs breakfast event on Tuesday morning at Saint Anselm College’s New England Institute of Politics. The event was sponsored by the New England Council. “If we fail, you and I will be the first Americans to leave the next generation worse off. And to me, to all of us, that should be an unacceptable outcome.”
Rubio was asked how he would fund programs to train people for in-demand jobs. He replied that accredited schools and programs “can’t be the only system that we have” for getting people into careers.
“I’m arguing that we have an alternative to the accrediting system that allows people to package learning from various sources into the equivalent of a degree,” he said, acknowledging that some institutions have such programs in place. “If you work 10 years at a law firm, that’s worth 15 credit hours. They have to ensure you picked up some knowledge in that period of time, but they would give you credit for all of your learning.”
Former State House speaker Donna Sytek asked Rubio how he would handle entitlement reform as president. While quick to point out that he would not do away with programs like Medicare or Social Security — both of which is mother relies on, he said — Rubio said that entitlement programs needed restructuring.
“I’ve accepted, and my generation needs to accept, that our Social Security and Medicare is still going to be the best thing in the world, but it’s going to be different than (that of) our parents’,” he said.
Rubio said the country needs “executive leadership” to reform entitlement programs for the 21st century.
“This president has never invested any political capital in reforming those programs,” he said, adding that President Obama’s response to Sen. Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal was to “attack Republicans.”
Rubio said he had been discussing Medicare and Social Security reform since campaigning for his Senate seat for Florida, which has a high population of residents receiving both services.
“If you can succeed politically in Florida talking about it, I believe you can succeed anywhere talking about it,” Rubio said.
During an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Rubio said he wouldn’t make a decision until the spring about running for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination.
“America doesn’t owe me anything; I owe America everything. … It literally changed the course of my family’s life, so I want to repay it,” he said. “And the question is, where is the best place for me to continue to do that?”
If that role is as Commander-in-Chief, Rubio said his priority would be to help the country “make the transition to the 21st century.”
“We’ve very proud of our history,” he said. “We should be proud of what we’ve achieved in the 20th century, but the 20th century is over. The 21st century is here, and it provides both challenges and opportunities. And I think only a president can lead America in that transition.”
Rubio believe his political career has given him the experience needed for success ase president.
“Florida is a large and diverse state, and many of the national issues are confronted there as well,” he said. “But ultimately, my role in the Senate has helped me to crystalize in my mind where our country needs to go and how we can get there.”
Rubio has received criticism from conservatives who feel his immigration reform platform is too liberal.
He said he has no plans to back down from his ideas.
“We have a 20th century immigration system that’s based more on family than on merit, and we have to change that,” he said. “We have 12 million human beings living here, who have been here for longer than a decade, who have not otherwise violated the law, most of them, who are going to be here for the rest of their lives, and it behooves our country to deal with that.”