ORLANDO – Facing an overflow crowd at the Lake Eola Amphitheater, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio looked out at the faces before him and said he could see what was going to pull America out of its economic doldrums – not government, but the people themselves.
“What makes America great is not our government,” Rubio said. “What makes our government great is not our politicians. What makes America great is our people.”
Rubio was the special guest speaker at a Tea Party rally in downtown Orlando this afternoon, and he came face to face with a crowd that had brought along signs that read “IRS Slave,” “Audit The Fed,” “FairTax.org,” “You Cannot Help the Poor by Denying the Rich,” and “Trump 2012” — hardly pro-government sentiments.
The conservative Republican junior senator from Florida, who was elected last year in a tidal wave election that swept Republicans to a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and near-majority in the U.S. Senate, said he has much greater faith in Americans themselves to set the right course for the nation than a government too eager to lead and overregulate.
“There’s a lot of news today about what’s happening in Washington,” he said, including talk of a possible stalemate between Democrats and Republicans over federal spending, taxes, and where to cut the soaring budget deficit.
“Too often the media get it wrong,” Rubio said, adding that the debate isn’t really over what programs need to be cut.
“The argument is much deeper than that,” he said. “The argument is about what kind of country we want moving forward.”
Liberals and the Obama administration, he said, have a vision of a government that continuously expands its role in people’s lives, while Rubio said his own competing vision was to reign in government and give more freedom to the people.
“The arguing in Washington is between two very different and competing visions of America,” he said.
Citing President Barack Obama’s recent speech on deficit reduction, Rubio said it was disappointing and all too predictable.
“He basically said, ‘Look, we need all these things from government and we’re running out of money,’ ” Rubio said. “So he is deciding who is making too much money in this country.”
It’s also a vision, he said, where government programs become sacrosanct and can’t be cut, even if the cost is bankrupting our government and nation. That’s true, he said, even for popular entitlement programs like Social Security – programs that Democrats have attacked Republicans for wanting to scale back on, Rubio said.
“Those who say ‘Do nothing with Medicare, do nothing with Social Security,’ those are the ones bankrupting us,” he said.
It’s a vision, he said, “where the government gets involved in every aspect of our lives.”
Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from the Miami area, said he preferred letting the American people lead this nation to prosperity, once they’ve been freed from excessive government debt.
“We need to embrace all the principles that made us great,” he said. “It’s everyday people who did that, people who don’t wait for government to come in and solve problems. They solve them themselves, as citizens.
“There’s nothing wrong with the American people,” Rubio added. “What we need now is a government that is just as good as its people.”
The massive rally brought out plenty of conservative, anti-tax supporters cheering Rubio on, as well as a few protestors who tried to interrupt his speech, prompting Rubio to note that this was the first time he had ever gotten heckled at a rally.
“Don’t worry, guys, I can talk louder than he can, and I have a microphone,” Rubio told the crowd.
Rubio was introduced to the audience by John Harris Brady “Bud” Hedinger, host of the talk show on WFLA AM 540 in Orlando.
“Let me ask you a question,” Hedinger asked the crowd. “How many of you have been to at least one Tea Party event?”
When the people in the crowd roared, Hedinger reminded them that a similar rally had been held in March 2009, just three months into President Obama’s term and at the very start of the national Tea Party movement.
“I see the face of America before me,” Hedinger said. “God bless you all.”
Hedinger said Orlando and the nation still need the Tea Party, because the two major parties in Washington haven’t moved quickly enough to address problems like the budget deficit.
“This is the day it needs to rise to a new level,” he said. “They heard us in Washington, but I don’t think they’re listening.”
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