Marco Rubio Tries to Lecture the Pope on Economics, and He’s Wrong on Every Count

Times are tough for Catholic Republican politicians, especially this week. They have to somehow justify their own political and religious views in response to Pope Francis, who clearly disagrees with them on many of their most closely held beliefs. What do you do when your spiritual leader speaks openly and passionately against unfettered capitalism and laws that promote poverty? Here’s Marco Rubio, trying to justify why the Pope thinks he’s wrong on a host of issues:

Here’s Rubio’s explanation, via ThinkProgress:

“On moral issues, [Pope Francis] speaks with incredible authority,” Rubio said. “He’s done so consistently on the value of life, on the sanctity of life, on the importance of marriage and on the family. [But] On economic issues, the pope is a person…We have the same goal — providing more prosperity and upward mobility, I just honestly believe free enterprise is a better way of doing it.”

And on the environment:

Rubio also said he “understands” Pope Francis’ call to fight climate change and be “stewards of the Earth,” but doesn’t believe in “big government mandates” to solve the problem of climate change. In fact, as Rubio often does, he argued that policies to fight climate change would actually harm the poor by killing jobs — something that is widely disputed, as the renewable energy sector is currently creating thousands of jobs.

Rubio thinks he knows more about morality than Pope Francis

Rubio thinks he knows more about morality than Pope Francis

So in short, Rubio thinks Pope Francis is doing God’s work when Pope Francis’s agenda aligns with his own agenda. but when Pope Francis disagrees with Rubio, he’s just “a person.” One could argue that this means Rubio thinks he’s better-aligned with God than the Pope, but let’s not get too far down the rabbit-hole of Rubio’s self-regard. That road gets really ugly really quickly.

Instead, let’s look at one point that Rubio makes in that first passage, because it’s an important one. Rubio has nothing but positivity for Pope Francis’s stance on “moral issues,” but he expresses something like disdain when the Pope speaks as “a person” on “economic issues.” This is an important distinction; it means that Rubio doesn’t believe that economics is a moral issue. This is unbelievably dumb.

Economics is a moral issue. What else could it possibly be? It’s not a science. As Nick Hanauer said on this blog a while back, “Economics is mostly how humans rationalize who gets what, and why. It’s how we instantiate our preferences about status, privileges, and power.” That’s about as moral as it gets. People can’t get access to health care because of economics. People die early because of economics. Economics is how we justify the fact that some people never get a chance to realize their full potential. Economics identifies why the wealthy are wealthy and why the poor are poor, and it offers us a lazy way out of taking action to address poverty.

Rubio is delusional here if he thinks economics is some sort of self-regulating system that humans can’t control. To claim that economics is outside the realm of morality signifies a deep and alarming lack of understanding about the effect economics can have on people. And his claims that the free market can regulate climate change better than governments is an out-and-out lie that’s been disproven time and again over the last few decades. When it comes to morality and economics, Rubio has it exactly wrong: he claims God offers him the certainty to declare other peoples’ actions as sinful, but he thinks the free market is an all-seeing, all-knowing arbiter of justice that cannot be interfered with by man or law. This kind of magical thinking is downright dangerous.

Paul Constant

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