Those who struggle with the lifetime burden of student loan debt and have seen stories about Marco Rubio’s “fishing boat” (actually a high-powered luxury speed boat) are understandably enraged. The rest of us have those student loans hanging around our necks to the grave and beyond. As a result, many of us put off buying homes and automobiles, delay raising families, work overtime, work two jobs, and forfeit vacations. Meanwhile, this a**hole goes off and spends $80,000 on a speedboat, after he announces to the public that he understands debt as he is paying off his $100,000 student loan.
On the surface, it looks pretty bad…but there is more to the story.
Back at the turn of the century, when young Rubio was first elected, he was carrying $150,000 in student loans as well as $30,000 in “assorted credit and retail debt.” At the time, he was making $90,000 a year. Consider that the annual median household income in this country is just over $50,000, while two-thirds of American families bring in less than $42,000. Even with debts like Rubio’s, $90,000 should have been more than enough for a family of three to double down on payments and still be able to live comfortably, if not lavishly.
Apparently, the Rubios did live lavishly. In his memoirs, Rubio admitted that his family’s monthly expenses had become so overwhelming that they had to sell one of their cars and move in with Mrs. Rubio’s family. This, on an income of $90,000, and somehow he still managed to qualify for a mortgage in order to buy a $135,000 home in 2005!
His financial struggles continued for years, despite the handsome six-figure income he received as a Congressman (currently, $174,000 a year, plus a benefit package that most working stiffs can only dream about – which legislators get for life). The Rubio family still could barely make ends meet. In addition to the school loans and consumer debt, the value of the home Rubio purchased fell by over 13%. He was struggling to keep up payments on the first mortgage as well as a home equity loan. The Rubios were definitely “under water,” and nearly lost the home to foreclosure after missing five payments. Rubio wound up cashing out a $68,000 retirement fund, more than 35% of which went to the United States Treasury. They still weren’t making it. Things were looking mighty grim…then, one day…a miracle!
In 2012, a publisher paid Rubio an $800,000 advance to write his autobiography and share his experiences growing up in a Cuban immigrant family. Imagine…a real-life Horatio Alger story! Immediately, the junior Senator from Florida stood up and began speechifying about his “prudent plan to pay off his law school loans,” relieved that he was out from under “a lady named Sallie Mae.”
Once the check was deposited, however, the first thing he did was to purchase an $80,000 luxury speed boat. According to a story in the New York Times appearing early in June, Rubio said “it was a potentially inadvisable outlay that he could not resist.”
On the surface, it seems that few of us have room to pass judgment. After all, how many of have pent-up desires and dreams that we delay fulfilling due to financial constraints? How many of us, were we to experience a similar windfall, wouldn’t go out and splurge on something we’ve dreamed of having or doing for years?
Most of us, however, are not Marco Rubio. Granted, $80,000 represents only ten percent of his book advance. After taxes (not accounting for any deductions Rubio might have), he would be left with just over $488,000. Minus the purchase of the boat, the loss he took on the sale of his home, consumer debts, and the balance on his school loans, he’d still be sitting on more than a quarter million dollars – an enviable nest egg by any measure for most middle class families. Managed and invested properly, the Rubios could live for many years in reasonable comfort on that money, if not the abject luxury to which they have become accustomed. And he still gets his Congressional salary, which he will continue to receive for the rest of his life – even if the people of Florida wise up and vote his ass out.
Here’s the issue: Marco Rubio’s track record with money demonstrates that he can’t be trusted to handle a petty cash drawer at the local Quickie-Mart. He earned a good, upper-middle class income, which nearly doubled when he was elected to Congress – yet for some reason, could barely afford to support himself and his family. He’s also been guilty of using official GOP money to pay for home improvements, personal travel, and – in the great tradition of the Tammany Machine – give campaign jobs to his extended family members.
There’s little doubt that this son of Cuban immigrants, one a bartender and the other a house maid, has worked hard and done well for himself. However, he hasn’t handled the fruits of his labor and his good fortune very well. Despite making an income putting him well into the upper-middle class, Rubio was beleaguered by debts he was unable to pay. Most of this indebtedness was incurred unnecessarily because this GOP politician, who preaches to the rest of us about “fiscal responsibility,” has the financial acumen of a five-year-old.
Does anyone in their right mind truly believe someone like that should be sitting in the Oval Office?