Rubio offers specific policies to bolster his vision of strengthening the middle class

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio fleshed out a vision of his policy plans Tuesday that focused on strengthening the middle class by expanding economic growth and ensuring that American workers are sufficiently skilled, trying on a policy agenda that Americans may see a lot of in 2016.

It’s a theme Rubio has hit on many times before, particularly in his role as a surrogate for Mitt Romney during the campaign, and one he expanded upon in his first foray into presidential politics during a trip to Iowa several weeks ago. (RELATED: Rubio shatters fundraising record at Iowa governor’s birthday event)

But Rubio, who was accepting the Jack Kemp Foundation Leadership Award, mentioned some specifics about his agenda for the first time, spelling out his prescriptions for what government needs to do in order to promote the success of the middle class.

“The existence of a large and vibrant American middle class goes to the very essence of America’s exceptional identity,” Rubio said. “Every country has rich people. But only a few places have achieved a vibrant and stable middle class. And in the history of the world, none has been more vibrant and more stable than the American middle class.”

“One of the fundamental challenges before us,” Rubio said, “is to find an appropriate and sustainable role for government in closing this gap between the dreams of millions of Americans and the opportunities for them to actually realize them.”

The Florida senator identified two specific problems that he said need solving: The “American economy is not creating enough jobs,” and Americans do not have the skills necessary to do many of the jobs that are available.

In the immediate future, Rubio said, Congress and the White House need to reach an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff that includes a plan to pay down the national debt, reform entitlements like Medicare, simplify the tax code and avoid raising tax rates.

High tax rates, Rubio said, would only hurt small businesses and the middle class. (RELATED — Paul Ryan on fiscal cliff negotiations: ‘We’re nowhere’)

To spur economic growth, Rubio proposed decreasing “excessive regulation,” increasing domestic energy production and introducing a “predictable monetary policy.”