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Rubio again criticizes corporate tax cuts, but this time with a GOP-friendly twist

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio praised the Republican tax cuts but said they could have been done better. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday launched a fresh attack on Republicans' corporate tax cuts, but this time, he couched the criticisms in broader praise of the GOP tax law overall.

Writing in the conservative National Review, Rubio reiterated his skepticism that the corporate tax cuts alone would deliver large-scale benefits to workers — building out his comments from last week in which he said there was “no evidence whatsoever” that the cuts' benefits were significantly helping workers.

Rubio wrote that the law's changes to the corporate tax code should have done more to prioritize incentives for investment, which he said would translate to more jobs and bigger paychecks for workers.

The column followed controversy over comments from Rubio published last week in the Economist. “There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,” he said. “In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

Democrats touted Rubio's remarks as validation of their contention that the law was a giveaway to the wealthy, and an influential conservative group called on Rubio to back off the remarks.

“It’s disappointing to see Marco Rubio echo some of the false rhetoric of tax reform opponents, and we hope he clarifies his remarks,” said Brent Gardner, chief government affairs officer for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political advocacy group tied to the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

In his own writing Wednesday, Rubio declared his support for the law overall, striking a more positive tone than he conveyed in the Economist.

“Overall, the Republican tax-cut bill has been good for Americans. That is why I voted for it. But it could have been even better for American workers and their families,” Rubio wrote in the opening lines of the piece, which ran under the headline, “Two cheers for corporate tax cuts.”

Rubio's comments in the Economist ran counter of one of conservatives' central arguments if favor of the tax law: that its permanent reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent would substantially lift workers' wages.

While the law's immediate tax cuts are massively weighted toward corporations and the wealthy, proponents argue that, over time, the cuts will improve the situation for those farther down the economic ladder. During the tax debate, White House officials repeatedly said the corporate cuts would boost workers' wages by $4,000 — a figure met with skepticism from a broad range of independent economists.

Rubio, writing Wednesday, said that instead of focusing on cutting the rate, the law should have done more to let businesses deduct new investments from their taxes. That perk, he said, would do more for workers than simply cutting the rate.

“The comparison is instructive because it shows how the tax bill might have put less focus on cutting the statutory corporate tax rate, but been at least equally focused on investment, wages, and the American worker,” Rubio wrote. “Targeting corporate tax cuts at new investment in the United States, instead of mere stock-market presence, would be a better guarantee for high-growth American companies and their workers.”