Rubio pledges to bust higher education ‘cartel’
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Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio Rubio10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria MORE (R-Fla.) on Tuesday pledged to bust the higher education “cartel” in an economic speech laying out his vision for the country.

Rubio promised to cut the corporate tax rate, shift the U.S. to a territorial tax system and curtail costly regulations that impair business.

He vowed to enact immigration reform based on getting skilled workers into the country while protecting U.S. jobs and called for an overhaul to a higher education system controlled by “a cartel of existing colleges and universities.”

“Within my first 100 days, I will bust this cartel,” he said in his address at a tech incubator in downtown Chicago.

The sum of Rubio’s remarks were meant to cast him as a new voice in Washington, ready to challenge an old guard. The first-term senator, one of the youngest in the crowded GOP White House field, criticized those running Washington for squandering the early years of the 21st century with economic policies that stifle innovation.

“For the first 15 and a half years of this century, Washington has looked to the past,” Rubio said. “Our economy has changed, but our economic policies have not, and we have learned, painfully, that the old ways no longer work, that Washington cannot pretend the world is the same as it was in the ’80s, it cannot raise taxes like it did in the ’90s and it cannot grow government like it did in the 2000s.”

It’s a message that dovetails nicely with Rubio’s pitch to Republican primary voters as a next-generation politician and sets up a contrast between him, and Jeb Bush and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSaagar Enjeti: Tuesday's Democratic debate already 'rigged' against Gabbard, Sanders Ilhan Omar raises .1 million in third quarter Bloomberg rethinking running for president: report MORE — presidential candidates with the baggage of political dynasties and long tenures in the spotlight.

Rubio peppered his speech with shots at Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

He called the former secretary of State an “outdated leader” with “narrow and shortsighted” economic views. He said she “argues the economy is rigged in favor of wealthy interests” but has no plan to address the “massive regulatory apparatus” that is “doing the rigging.”

“The race for the future will never be won by going backward,” Rubio said. “It will never be won by hopping in Hillary Clinton’s time machine to yesterday. She seems to believe pumping more of today’s money into yesterday’s programs will bring prosperity tomorrow. It will not. Nor will thinking small.”

On education, Rubio said he would establish a new accreditation process that would “expose higher education to the market forces of choice and competition” and create income-based loan repayment programs to make student debt more manageable.

“Our higher education system is controlled by what amounts to a cartel of existing colleges and universities, which use their power over the accreditation process to block innovative, low-cost competitors from entering the market,” he said.

“Within my first 100 days, I will bust this cartel by establishing a new accreditation process that welcomes low-cost, innovative providers. This would expose higher education to the market forces of choice and competition, which would prompt a revolution driven by the needs of students — just as the needs of consumers drive the progress of every other industry in our economy,” he said.

He also called for student investment plans and an increase in vocational and apprenticeship programs to encourage high school students to begin careers as mechanics, plumbers or electricians.

It’s a message that could appeal to some of the younger voters Rubio hopes to win over.

The Florida senator focused on taxes, saying he’d cut the corporate tax rate to the 25 percent average for developed nations, establish a territorial tax system that encouraged U.S. companies to bring money they’re holding overseas home, allow companies to claim more expenses for investing in creating jobs, and put a ceiling on the amount U.S. regulations can cost.

On immigration, he said he would push for an overhaul that encourages “skill and merit-based” immigration, rather than family-based immigration.

The speech comes a month out from the first GOP presidential debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland. It will be a critical moment for Rubio, who has been lauded by conservative pundits as a next-generation talent but will have to convince some skeptical Republicans he’s ready to be president at such a young age.

He’s currently polling in the top tier of candidates, sitting in fourth place nationally behind Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ben Carson, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.