Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is Huckabee Conservative?

If someone had told me back in mid October that Mike Huckabee would have a legitimate shot at the Republican nomination, I would not have believed him. Neither would have anyone else. But in the ensuring weeks, Mike Huckabee has picked up a great deal of momentum. Now, according the the latest Rasmussen poll, two points behind Mitt Romney and just ten behind Giuliani. He has consistently placed second to Romney in Iowa.

There is a lot to like about Huckabee. He is quick-witted, and often displays an amazing sense of humor. He communicates well (unlike Bush), and possesses the ability to make positions known. Perhaps more importantly, he can also make them sound reasonable and practical.

His positions on social issues is another big plus. In a election where one frontrunner is pro-abortion, another converted to the pro-life cause two years ago, and another inexplicably opposes a human life amendment to the Constitution, values voters feel as if they have been pushed aside. (And it's not like they were a deciding force in the 2004 election or anything). Huckabee, with his strong and eloquent defense of life, is an ideal candidate for this issue.

Equally as important, Huckabee seems to a different kind of politician. He doesn't take himself too seriously. He does not sound like he has come from Washington, as the rest of the candidates do. He sounds like an average man from the South who wants to serve the American people (like another recent President, also from Arkansas). Huckabee's recent ad with Chuck Norris ("My plan for the border? Two words: Chuck Norris") was cheesy- but effective. It is a microcosm of Huckebee's campaign.

However, many conservative writers and bloggers display a remarkably strong repugnance to Huckabee. Many say that he is far too liberal, that he is a "false" conservative. Opposition to Huckabee comes on three main grounds: that he is a proponent of big, tax and spend government, that he is a not wholly opposed to illegal immigration, and Wayne Dumond.

It is tempting to wonder how anyone can be too liberal in a Republican race that features Rudy Giuliani as its frontrunner. Giuliani is liberal on at least five major issues (abortion, guns, gay rights, sanctuary cities, and global warming). In this election, being a pure, unblemished conservative is probably not necessary- its more of a having to be more conservative than Giuliani type of thing. However, it is informative to take a look at the three main charges against Huckabee.

To charge that Huckabee is in love with government, the only possible response is: guilty as charged. He raised spending in Arkansas. He has expressed support of a federal smoking ban. It is clear that he sees a significant place for government in the lives of Americans.

As to the second part of the first charge (that he would raise taxes), the situation is complex. He raised taxes as governor of Arkansas, which is a major factor in the Cato Institutes grade of F for fiscal policies. But now, he claims to be against any tax hikes.

Huckabee now supports the FairTax, which is basically a plan that would eliminate income taxes and supplant them with a really, really high sales tax. There are more that a few flaws in this plan (to begin with, it might not be the most efficient way to get money into the economy, as any expenditure is taxed through the roof), and National Review Online is probably right in calling it "half-baked". However, his support for this plan does give hope that perhaps Huckabee would push for tax cuts, or at the minimum keep the Bush tax cuts where they are.

So the first charge is half right, half possibly wrong. The second charge, which is that he is weak on immigration? His position is a little more ambiguous. He says that he does not support amnesty, which is good. But supports a "path to citizenship", which is bad. But wants the "path to citizenship" to require a fine and a place at the end of the line, which is acceptable. But he supported the infamous "amnesty bill" (the mention of which still sends shivers down conservatives spines), which didn't provide a pathway to citizenship, it essentially was a method of handing out green cards.

Huckabee's position on immigration must also be considered a weakness. So what of Wayne Dumond? Dumond was a convicted rapist who was sentanced to life in prison. It was possible to feel that he was treated badly- Bill Clinton may have been harsh on him because his victim (Dumond's, not Clinton's, I know its hard to keep track of predators here, but bear with me) was a Clinton relative, and Dumond was castrated (though some believed that he did it himself. It happens sometimes among sex offenders) Huckabee felt sorry for him, and commuted Dumond's sentence to a still lengthy 39 years- but with the possibility of parole. Dumond got parole- with Huckabee's support, and raped and killed again.

In this sounds familar, think Willie Horton. This mistake transcends right and left and instead is a insult to common sense. Things like this cast serious doubt on Mike Huckabee's judgement.

So, it appears that those who do not consider Huckabee the right man for the job are correct. His popularity is a reflection of the ideological weakness of his opponents. His popularity is a reflection of the desperation of social conservatives.

Count me among them. If the election were to come down to Giuliani versus Huckabee, I would vote Huckabee. Without hesitation. However, it would be better if it were neither.


At November 27, 2007 at 11:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your characterization of the FairTax as a plan that would add "really really high" sales tax was amusing - particularly because the plan is revenue neutral, and we are paying these "really, really high" taxes now.

It's just that they're not visible to us. (Jorgensen, of Harvard, conducted a study that concluded fully 22% of retail prices are due to tax compliance, and related costs, by business.)

There is no reasonable equity of distribution under the current INCOME tax system. What's more, the Tax Code has become a "tinkerer's paradise" for 53% of the lobbyists who game it in Washington DC. It's a lucrative business, and the U.S. TAXPAYER pays for ALL of it in higher prices (i.e., a hidden tax which is incomprehensible to the average working person).

Prices after FairTax passage would look similar to prices before FairTax - not "30% higher" as opponents contend - competition would see to it. So, the FairTax rate (figured as an income-tax-rate-non-comparative, sales tax) on new items would be 29.85% (on the new, reduced cost of items because business isn't taxed under FairTax - thus lowering retail prices by 20% to 30%), or 23% of the "tax inclusive" price tag - this is the way INCOME TAX is figured (parts of the total dollar).

The effective tax rate percentages, that different income groups would pay under the FairTax, are calculated by crediting the monthly "prebate" (advance rebate of projected tax on necessities) against total monthly spending of citizen families (1 member and greater, Dept. of Commerce poverty-level data; a single person receiving ~$200/mo, a family of four, ~$500/mo, in addition to working earners receiving paychecks with no Federal deductions) Prof.'s Kotlikoff and Rapson (10/06) concluded,

"...the FairTax imposes much lower average taxes on working-age households than does the current system. The FairTax broadens the tax base from what is now primarily a system of labor income taxation to a system that taxes, albeit indirectly, both labor income and existing wealth. By including existing wealth in the effective tax base, much of which is owned by rich and middle-class elderly households, the FairTax is able to tax labor income at a lower effective rate and, thereby, lower the average lifetime tax rates facing working-age Americans.

"Consider, as an example, a single household age 30 earning $50,000. The household’s average tax rate under the current system is 21.1 percent. It’s 13.5 percent under the FairTax. Since the FairTax would preserve the purchasing power of Social Security benefits and also provide a tax rebate, older low-income workers who will live primarily or exclusively on Social Security would be better off. As an example, the average remaining lifetime tax rate for an age 60 married couple with $20,000 of earnings falls from its current value of 7.2 percent to -11.0 percent under the FairTax. As another example, compare the current 24.0 percent remaining lifetime average tax rate of a married age 45 couple with $100,000 in earnings to the 14.7 percent rate that arises under the FairTax."

Further, per Jokischa and Kotlikoff (circa 2006?) ...

"...once one moves to generations postdating the baby boomers there are positive welfare gains for all income groups in each cohort. Under a 23 percent FairTax policy, the poorest members of the generation born in 1990 enjoy a 13.5 percent welfare gain. Their middle-class and rich contemporaries experience 5 and 2 percent welfare gains, respectively. The welfare gains are largest for future generations. Take the cohort born in 2030. The poorest members of this cohort enjoy a huge 26 percent improvement in their well-being. For middle class members of this birth group, there's a 12 percent welfare gain. And for the richest members of the group, the gain is 5 percent."

I would posit that the very reason Mike Huckabee is catching on is because of his FairTax advocacy.

Romney's recent WEAK response to FairTax questioning on “This Week with Geo. Stephanopoulos” drew a sharper contrast between Huckabee and all other presidential front-runners who will not embrace it. Huckabee understands that what's wrong with the income tax can't be fixed with "a tap of the hammer, nor a twist of the screwdriver." That his opponents cling to the destructive Tax Code, the IRS, preserving political power of granting tax favors at continued cost to - and misery of - American families, invigorates his campaign's raison d'etre.

Of the FairTax, Huckabee asserts that it's...

• SIMPLE, easy to understand
• EFFICIENT, inexpensive to comply with and doesn't cause less-than-optimal business decisions for tax minimization purposes
• FAIR, FLAT, and FAMILY FRIENDLY, loophole-free, and everyone pays their share
• LOW TAX RATE is achieved by broad base with no exclusions
• PREDICTABLE, doesn't change, so financial planning is possible
• UNINTRUSIVE, doesn't intrude into our personal affairs or limit our liberty
• VISIBLE, not hidden from the public in tax-inflated prices or otherwise
• PRODUCTIVE, rewards - rather than penalizes - work and productivity

A detailed benefits analysis of the plan (from The FairTax Book) explains Huckabee's ardent advocacy:

For individuals:
• No more tax on income - make as much as you wish
• You receive your full paycheck - no more deductions
• You pay the tax when you buy "at retail" - not "used"
• No more double taxation (e.g. like on current Capital Gains)
• Reduction of "pre-FairTaxed" retail prices by 20%-30%
• Adding back 29.9% FairTax maintains current price levels
• FairTax would constitute 23% portion of new prices
• Every household receives a monthly check, or "pre-bate"
• "Prebate" is "advance tax payback" for monthly consumption to poverty level
• FairTax's "prebate" ensures progressivity, poverty protection
Finally, citizens are knowledgeable of what their tax IS
• Elimination of "parasitic" Income Tax industry
• Those possessing illicit forms of income will ALSO pay the FairTax
• Households have more disposable income to purchase goods
• Savings is bolstered with reduction of interest rates

For businesses:
• Corporate income and payroll taxes revoked under FairTax
• Business compensated for collecting tax at "cash register"
• No more tax-related lawyers, lobbyists on company payrolls
No more embedded (hidden) income/payroll taxes in prices
• Reduced costs. Competition - not tax policy - drives prices
• Off-shore "tax haven" headquarters can now return to U.S
No more "favors" from politicians at expense of taxpayers
• Resources go to R&D and study of competition - not taxes
• Global "free (and equitable) trade" becomes possible for currently-disadvanted U.S. exports
• U.S. exports increase their share of foreign markets

For the country:
• 7% - 13% economic growth projected in the first year of the FairTax
Jobs return to the U.S.
• Foreign corporations "set up shop" in the U.S.
• Tax system trends are corrected to "enlarge the pie"
• Larger economic "pie," means thinner tax rate "slices"
• Initial 23% portion of price is pressured downward as "pie" increases
No more "closed door" tax deals by politicians and business
• FairTax sets new global standard. Other countries will follow

Passionately supporting FairTax, Huckabee understands that, if elected President, Congress will have to present the bill for his signature. His call to action goes beyond his candidacy: Main Street will have to demand that their legislators deliver the bill.

It's well past time to scrap the tax code and pay for government the way that America's working men and women are paid - when something is sold.

It's Mike Huckabee who's shown the courage to support a truly radical, yet very much a common-sense and permanently corrective tax reform plan. Increasingly, Mr. Huckabee is what Leadership looks like.

At November 28, 2007 at 5:47 AM , Blogger Beth said...

When looking at a presidental candidate, this is what I keep in mind: what does this person's position on the issues really mean, and if this candidate became president what does his position really mean in terms of him doing his job? For example, Huckabee being in favor of smoking bans, on the surface does this issue seem like something a president shoud be considering? Not on the surface, but the underlying message is that he is willing to allow government to interfere with private businesses and impose itself on them. This is not cool in my opinion as a conservative.

A candidate's position on abortion, many say well the POTUS can't change the laws, no but he can use (or not use) the veto power when legislation involving life issues comes to his desk. And he may be appointing justices which could have a huge impact on many life issues.

As for taxes, a president does not decide how the taxes are assessed, does he? He presents a budget to congress, does it say how the taxes are determined? So just because Huckabee says he's for a fair tax or whatever, all that really means is that he wouldn't veto anything congress might bring to him to change our tax code.

A main thing about a presidential candidate for me is that they will be appointing the various cabinent positions, which is huge. Their administration together sets the policy for our country. This is especially important for our foreign policies.

Then on the domestic side, I want a candidate who will follow the constitution. This shouldn't be a difficult thing to find in a candidate, yet it is.

I am still weighing all the issues and how the GOP candidates positions on them and still unsure of who I like.

At November 28, 2007 at 11:14 AM , Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...

If I have to, I can live with a President Huckabee.

I really want Fred, but whoever the frontrunner is, (With the exception of Ron Paul) I will have to vote for him.

We have NO CHOICE this time because we have to get away from the Democrats.

But ALL our candidates with the exception of (RP) are great!

At November 28, 2007 at 1:19 PM , Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

oiy..I still havent made my mind up!

At November 29, 2007 at 8:05 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

As you well know by now, I will not vote for the GOP candidate if it's Huckabee, Romney, or Giuliani simply in an attempt to thwart Hillary's prospects. The Republican party as I've said ad-nauseam is a conduit (and instrument or container) which carries a message or a movement. If the Republican candidate is not carrying the message or supporting the cause for which I wish to see progressed, I'm not going to support them with my vote. I am not looking to support a so called "Conservative" who by the end of his second term had raised sales taxes 37 percent, fuel taxes 16 percent, and cigarettes taxes 103 percent, leading to a jump in total tax revenues from $3.9 billion to $6.8 billion and one whom The Cato Institute gave a failing grade of 'F' on its fiscal report card for 2006 and an only marginally better but still embarrassing 'D' for his entire term."

By his own admission he views himself as a "Compassionate" Conservative.

I've got news for you...by the time the next presidential election rolls around, we will have had an 8 year experience with "Compassionate" Conservatism. And, quite frankly..That is more than enough for this voter.

At November 29, 2007 at 8:17 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

Additionally, Ian has done his homework on the Fair Tax (as have I. I even read the book).

It is a much better proposal than our current code but not perfect. All things considered, there is no such "Fairer" tax code than a Flat Tax.

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