Rubio Hits Clinton in Detroit, Calls to 'Revolutionize' Tax Code

The Florida senator touts his proposal to cut taxes for corporations and families.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Marco Rubio says he wants a revolution. In the tax code, at least.

The Republican presidential candidate talked up his proposals to overhaul the U.S. tax code during a speech Thursday in Detroit, connecting it to his campaign theme of an election between "yesterday" and "tomorrow."

"Henry Ford once said, 'If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.' 'Faster horses' is exactly the mindset in Washington today," the 44-year-old Florida senator said, according to prepared remarks provided by the campaign. "Our government is led by people who would rather tweak the current status quo than revolutionize how we do things."

"If we elect a leader from yesterday," Rubio added,  "the best we can hope for are faster horses."

At least one of his targets is the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton. Rubio said the 67-year-old former secretary of state "believes the way to win the race for the future is to drive in reverse—to revert back to more regulations, higher taxes and bigger government."

Rubio's tax plan is far-reaching but arguably not as revolutionary as the proposals of some of his rivals. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul want to wipe out the tax code and install a flat tax; Rubio offers a series of targeted changes designed to ease the tax burden on corporations and families.

Rubio's plan slashes the corporate tax rate and scrap taxes on dividends, estates and capital gains. It also creates a $2,500 child tax credit and replace the standard deduction and personal exemption with a refundable personal credit. It's not clear how the plan, co-authored by Senator Mike Lee and released earlier this year, a Utah Republican, would be paid for. Democrats say it would increase the deficit.

In Detroit, Rubio touted the benefits of his tax plan for two hypothetical individuals, David, an auto servicing store owner, and Danielle, a young single mother who works at the shop.

"My tax plan ... will cut the top tax rate for small businesses like David’s to the same level. This would instantly save him around 15 percent. He can use that to increase Danielle’s wage or modernize his equipment," he said. "My tax plan would raise the per-child credit to as much as $2,500, allowing Danielle to keep significantly more of what she earns."

Rubio also spoke about his plans to promote alternatives to traditional four-year colleges, which he said would "prompt a revolution driven by the needs of students like Danielle." His proposals include a new accreditation process that welcomes alternate education providers and an expansion of apprenticeship programs. He attacked as "lazy leadership" Clinton's $350 billion plan to rein in the fast-growing costs of college and help students manage their loan debt.

Before this speech, the Democratic National Committee countered that "Retro Rubio" could force David and Danielle to pay higher taxes in order to fund his corporate tax cuts. The DNC said the pair would be worse off due to Rubio's opposition to raising the minimum wage, beefing up equal pay protections, and his support for repealing Obamacare (which would rescind protections on preexisting conditions), and raising the Social Security retirement age. The DNC also noted that Rubio criticized the auto bailout as not "right way to handle" the industry's crisis in 2008.

"The future for Danielle and David is not looking too bright under Marco Rubio’s watch. They could have to pay more in taxes, could lose their health care, and might not be able to help their children pay for college," DNC spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said in a statement.

The rapid response is an indication that Democrats are worried about Rubio. His speech came on the day that Quinnipiac released a national poll that found him ahead of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton in key states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.