Marco Rubio is pushing a series of changes to the nation’s tax, immigration and education systems that the Republican presidential candidate contends will better prepare Americans for an economy driven by rapid technological innovation.

The ideas outlined by the Florida senator in a speech on Tuesday, which was delivered at a co-working space for tech start-ups in Chicago, come as other presidential candidates are also trying to court the tech community’s vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have all met with technology executives and enthusiasts in Silicon Valley in recent months, hoping to mine the wealthy sector for potential donors and voices of support.

Sign up for The Daily 202, The Washington Post’s new political tipsheet

With that audience in mind, Rubio’s speech focused largely on policy issues that are front of mind in tech circles, such as finding ways to get more highly skilled immigrants into the country and overhauling the tax code.

“Today’s Technological Revolution carries extraordinary opportunities – even more, I believe, than the Industrial Revolution ever did. But we have not yet seized these opportunities, nor is it guaranteed that we will,” Rubio said. “Whether we do or do not will depend on the actions we take, the leaders we choose, and the reforms we adopt.”

What follows are five takeaways from the policy pitch Rubio delivered on Tuesday.


Rubio did not outline a comprehensive plan to address existing undocumented immigrants, but said the system should prioritize those immigrants who possess the skills and education that many American employers desire.

“This requires reforming our legal immigration system to make it skill- and merit-based rather than family-based, which will protect American workers and attract more talent to grow our economy and create jobs,” Rubio said.

That position should be well received among technology companies, which have long pushed for visas to be made more readily available to immigrants with science, technology, engineering and math degrees. Companies contend there aren’t enough American workers who possess those skills, and existing laws make it expensive and difficult to recruit talent from overseas.


Rubio also set his political sights on the U.S. higher education system, which he said is “controlled by what amounts to a cartel of existing colleges and universities, which use their power over the accreditation process to block innovative, low-cost competitors from entering the market.”

He vowed to establish a new accreditation process within his first 100 days in office that would be more welcoming to new players. Rubio also reiterated support for the “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act,” which would inform students how much money they can expect to earn from a given degree prior taking out student loans.

Student Loans

The cloud of debt that follows many students after college prevents many from pursuing a higher education, Rubio told the audience. That’s especially true for low-income individuals and single parents, who most stand to benefit from a degree.

Rubio said he plans to implement income-based repayment of student loans, meaning those who earn more money are expected to repay their loans faster. He also called for the creation of Student Investment Plans that would allow wealthy individuals to invest in a young person’s education in exchange for a cut of their future salary.

Finally, he called for an expansion of vocational training and apprenticeship programs so that students who don’t pursue a college education at least graduate from high school with certifications for technical jobs, such as as mechanics, electricians or welders.


Rubio criticized the country’s current tax system for being unfavorable to large corporations and small businesses alike, a factor that he said contributes to companies shifting their employees and headquarters overseas.

He pledged, if elected president, to make the corporate tax rate “competitive” with the 25 percent average found in other developed countries. He also proposed eliminating tax rules that allow the United States to levy taxes on money that companies earned overseas.

“We have a tax code that punishes American companies for competing in the global economy, and a regulatory system that prevents small businesses – the primary engines of innovation and job creation – from competing against established players,” he said.

Hillary Clinton

Rubio’s speech wasn’t devoid of politics. Amid the policy proposals were several jabs at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, whom Rubio repeatedly referred to as a sort of political relic who is too entrenched in the old ways of  Washington.

“The race for the future will never be won by going backward. It will never be won by hopping in Hillary Clinton’s time machine to yesterday,” Rubio said. “She seems to believe pumping more of today’s money into yesterday’s programs will bring prosperity tomorrow. It will not.”