Valentine's Day has come and gone, but during this political cycle, our state continues to face economic heartbreak. And at the center of this heartbreak is Florida's very own Junior U.S. Senator Marco Rubio -- the boyish darling of the Republican Party who has been no sweetheart to the vast majority of Floridians. His votes against legislation such as the American Jobs Act, and his unwavering support of policies that benefit only the richest and most powerful corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals, have spurned most state residents and many former supporters. As a Cuban-American who has worked with numerous fellow Miamians, who continue to suffer without the aid of compassionate political representation, I am outraged.
I am outraged especially because Rubio continues to snub his own hometown and his home state. While our city continues to suffer disproportionately from the economic recession -- with high unemployment, an overburdened infrastructure, and crowded schools -- Rubio has championed tax cuts and sweet deals for the power players and their lobbyists. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to me that truly helping his own people in Miami ranks at the bottom of his political "to-do" list.
In fact, Rubio's "not-to-do" list has been expanding at a ruefully accelerating rate. Not long ago, President Obama proposed American Jobs Act which would have pumped billions of dollars into the economy for infrastructure to help relieve cash-strapped state and local governments, and -- more importantly -- put people back to work. Marco Rubio voted against this legislation largely because it would have added a 5% tax on people making over $1 million per year. In his mind, it seems that the boo-hoos of the super-rich, not surprisingly, outweighed the protests of the marginalized poor.
But, sadly, it doesn't stop there. Subsequent jobs bills were also rejected by Senate Republicans, including Marco Rubio, because the legislation would have added that infinitesimal tax on the wealthiest of Americans. Yet again, Miamians watched as the "rising star" opted to, instead, embrace policies that sink the American Dream with the rock-hard efficiency of a downward-spiraling meteorite.
In December, a number of 1Miami community advocates visited Rubio's Washington, D.C. offices with hopes of meeting with their senator and voicing their concerns on numerous economic issues. These citizens, many of whom voted for Rubio, sat for days in his office wishing to discuss the important matters that face their families and most of their neighbors in South Florida. Not surprisingly, the senator failed to appear. Instead, his junior staff offered an insulting tour of the Capitol.
We at 1Miami continued to request a meeting with Rubio for weeks following that visit, with no immediate response over the next several weeks. Sadly, that also epitomized the senator's non-action on behalf of Florida's 99% versus his affection for the 1%. This sordid affair was summed up in a protest Valentine's Day card 1Miami and almost 100 residents delivered to Rubio's Miami offices:
"Tax breaks and loopholes are great for a few,
it wouldn't be possible without you."
But then, last week, the story changed -- but the results were still as heart-breaking as ever. 1Miami members once again traveled to Washington, D.C. to share with him the numerous problems facing Miamians. After six months of calling his office, writing him emails, visiting his offices in two cities separated by over 1000 miles, Marco Rubio met with us. And what did he say? "We've had enough political rhetoric. What we need is action." These were fine words, but his statement merely reaffirmed our outrage -- lots of talk, and still no action to help uplift the 99%.
As our 1Miami members from Little Haiti to Little Havana reflected on this dismal meeting, I thought about the stories I heard of Miamians, such as Rosalba Campos. Rosalba is a security guard who once was an enthusiastic supporter of Marco Rubio. I reflected on Campos as she re-told her experience of having her working hours slashed and struggling to afford the costs of merely transporting herself to and from work. I reflected on the glistening downtown skyscrapers -- owned by some of the richest corporations in Miami -- which many others like her work in, providing services for some of the richest Miamians, while barely making minimum wage. Needless to say, she was extremely disappointed and outraged with what Senator Rubio had to say. As the years pass by, Rosalba has watched Rubio pass by opportunities to better the condition of his beloved Miami. Many who attended the meeting with Sen. Rubio expressed that they could no longer support him no matter how many cafecitos he drinks at Versailles.
As the real-life stories of hard-working fellow Latinos sink into the murky recesses of Marco Rubio's political mind and as Miamians continue to sink deeper and deeper from the problems plaguing or city and state, the "rising star" is having one heck of a great time. Nationally, Marco Rubio is as popular as ever. No one can doubt that he has to be on any Republican "short list" to be the party's vice-presidential candidate. With his boyish looks and ability to deliver conservative sound-bites, his surface appeal is understandable. He is absolutely adored by the Tea Party, even with his history of spending splurges on the Republican Party of Florida credit card, his dark hair, and Cuban ancestry. If the GOP ever wanted to round-out their image, I wouldn't be surprised if Rubio would be their "picture-perfect" choice: a young, conservative guy with a great smile and great sound-bites -- and he's a Cuban-American!
That heritage -- even if he did fudge his own family history to curry political favor with the Miami Cuban exile voting bloc -- is critical to the infatuation mainstream national Republicans have with Rubio. They believe that his suave surname and his twinkling brown eyes can deliver the important Latino vote across the nation. Put aside the fact that his ostensible Republican running mate on top of the ticket, no matter who that might be, likely has been downright hostile to a compassionate and effective immigration policy and the many other issues important to an increasing number of Hispanic voters across the country.
It's these issues: good jobs, fair taxation, and unjust cuts to important programs that so many hard-working families depend on now more than ever, that have so many Floridians -- Latino, Americano, or otherwise -- upset with the darling senator from Florida. For his people back here at home, the 99% he should serve, he has been no darling at all. To move Florida and our nation forward, we have to support politicians who are ready to take action to support hard-working people like Rosalba Campos. Sen. Rubio, by offering nothing but talk and smiles, has turned his back on Campos, as well as his state. If he continues to turn his back on the Rosalbas of the world, it would only be natural for many others to turn their backs on him. You can't call a sinking meteorite a rising star -- this is a fact that more and more Miamians are realizing.