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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dan Gelber on exceptionalism and the old Marco Rubio

6

September

Dan Gelber has a Miami Herald op ed rebuttal to Marco Rubio's recent Reagan Library speech: In a recent speech at the Reagan Library — part of which was excerpted in these pages — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio asserts that the decision of America in this last century to collectively care for those that have fallen behind “actually weakened us as a people.” While his words may have been a dog whistle for the right wing, I took a double take.

gelberrubio.jpgWas this the same Marco Rubio who first ran on a platform of early childhood education and affordable housing for the elderly? Rubio’s thesis, packaged in lofty prose, is an extreme political view that parrots a bedrock tea party premise that America’s problems somehow stem from government doing too much for people from whom we expect too little.

These programs, Rubio argues, made our country weak, bankrupt and threatened the “exceptionalism” that defined us. There is nothing novel about blaming your problems on a boogeyman. Whether immigrants, or communists, or witches, or those that have been left behind or can’t fight back, the American experience suggests it can be an effective political strategy for at least the short term.

Of course, the notion that the social programs of the last century — namely Medicare and Social Security — fostered irresponsible behavior is patently absurd. No American became sicker or older because of the existence of these programs. Americans are living longer, healthier lives, in part due to the security they created.

No, it’s not that American Exceptionalism is being lost, it’s that Rubio and the tea party have lost sight of what makes America exceptional.

Our collective decision to make sure our weakest, oldest, and infirm are cared for is not a national failing — it is one of our greatest strengths. No, it has not been a wealthy few that defines us as exceptional — rather it has been our commitment to raising all boats in the harbor and supporting the middle class.

Full column here

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 10:59am]

    

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