Mike Huckabee smacked again on taxes and spending


This time it's Pat Toomey who points out the inconvenient facts:

During Huckabee's tenure as governor, the average Arkansan's tax burden increased 47 percent, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A dyed-in-blue tax hiker, Huckabee supported raising sales taxes, gas taxes, grocery taxes, even nursing home bed taxes. He virulently opposed a congressional moratorium on taxing Internet access, and sat on the sidelines while his Democratic legislature pushed the largest tax hike in Arkansas history into law. What's more, on his watch, and frequently at his behest, state spending increased by 50 percent, more than double the rate of inflation, and the number of state government workers rose by 20 percent. Yes, as a presidential candidate, Huckabee has signed on as a supporter of the Fair Tax and pledged against raising taxes, but when a candidate's long and clear record flies in the face of his election-year symbolism, you can chalk it up to politics every time.


In frontrunners Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney, the GOP is well on its way to nominating a candidate for president with a strong fiscal record. Each of them would provide a great opportunity for the GOP to reestablish its vitally important brand as the party of pro-growth tax policy and smaller and more affordable government. But no Republican presidential candidate can effectively claim that mantle with Mike Huckabee standing by his side.



1/12 Update: Former Huckabee research director Joe Carter asks for evidence that Mike Huckabee is liberal. I offer the information above as fodder for the conversation.

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Fund's assassination of Huckabee misleading

-- Huckabee’s social conservative track record is unrivaled by the GOP frontrunners
-- The governor’s fiscal track record stacks up well, too

By Lucas Roebuck

Manhattan myopia fueled by the natural tension between fiscal and social conservatism seems to be the modus operandi of the assassination piece against former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, penned by John Fund, one of the Journal’s leading editorial voices.

Fund attempts to make the case that Huckabee is “not the ‘consistent conservative’ he claims to be.” However, instead of constructing a well-researched case of examples of Huckabee’s supposed conservative inconsistencies, Fund strings together a handful of individuals who simply accuse Huckabee of being liberal with little or no factual support. Furthermore, what little evidence Fund does present is skewed by critical omissions of relevant fact.

Huckabee is obviously a stronger conservative on social issues than on fiscal ones, which is the opposite of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, hometown favorite of the Manhattan GOP crowd. The Journal, based in New York City, values fiscal conservatism over social conservatism, so the worst kept secret is the group-think going on among the opinion writers at the Journal favors Giuliani.

Fiscal conservatives have become frustrated with their weakening influence in the GOP (not that I blame them) and have grown to resent social conservatives reign over the Republican party since President Bush took office in 2001. Also, the elite in the GOP have always looked down on their mostly Southern social conservative allies, and this is particular true for the Journal, which often, like much of the mainstream media, can’t see very well beyond the shores of Manhattan. Fund’s column against Huckabee embodies this frustration. Huckabee’s gaining in Iowa polls, and he is the strongest social conservative hands down among GOP candidates, so naturally he is drawing fire from the GOP elite.

The strongest case against Huckabee’s fiscally conservative record in Fund’s column is Fund’s implication that Huckabee raised the gas tax in Arkansas to pay for road repair for Arkansas dilapidated interstate system. (I would argue, even on a philosophic level, that raising gas taxes to pay for roads is not necessarily contradictory to fiscal conservatism.*)

I say that Fund implied Huckabee raised the tax, because Fund knows saying outright that Huckabee raised the tax would be inaccurate. Fund refers to Huckabee’s “efforts to raise taxes to repair roads” and cites a state senator who said Huckabee urged him to “back a gas tax increase.”

What Fund omits from his column is that this tax was a referendum in 1999 put out to be voted on by the people of Arkansas, not something imposed by a state legislature and signed into law by a governor. The people of Arkansas spoke at the ballot box, and through direct democracy, imposed the tax on themselves.

If you want the bottom line on Huckabee’s tax policy, as Fund points out, Huckabee has signed the Americans For Tax Reform no new tax pledge. Rudy has not signed the pledge.

As an Arkansas journalist for nearly a decade, I had a unique opportunity to observe Huckabee’s character. I believe Mike Huckabee is a man of his word and if elected president, will not raise taxes.

Fund, quoting Arkansas Business scribe Blant Hurt, points out that Arkansas spending rose faster than the inflation rate and sales taxes were raised during Huckabee’s tenure. Both of these facts are true, but the tax increase was the result of an Arkansas Supreme Court order in the Lake View school funding lawsuit that Huckabee fought, but lost – another fact Fund failed to mention.

Education eats the lion’s share of state expenditures, inflating the rate of increase of state spending. Lake View was a horrible court decision, and I fought it on the editorial pages at the time as Huckabee fought it in court. To use the results of the forced tax increase (and forced spending of that new revenue) as proof Huckabee isn’t really fiscally conservative is erroneous at best, if not deceptive.

Fund also trots out Huckabee’s enemies in the Eagle Forum, who take the opportunity to blame Huckabee for the Arkansas Republican Party woes. This statement is patently ridiculous. While Huckabee was governor, Republicans gained ground in the state house up until 2006, which as we know, was not a banner year for Republicans nationwide. When Huckabee was on the ballot, Republicans won more offices than they had since Reconstruction. Huckabee was always one of the most popular politicians in office, according the the University of Arkansas’ Arkansas Poll, conducted annually.

The Eagle Forum doesn’t like Huckabee because he doesn’t take the hardest line against illegal immigration. He specifically earned the groups ire when he supported a bill (which failed) that would have allowed children of illegal immigrants who were applying to become citizens access to merit based state scholarships.

If an absolute hard line on immigration is more important to you than say, ending abortion, then Huckabee isn’t your candidate. Huckabee says on immigration, “My number one priority is to secure America’s border” and “those caught trying to enter the country illegally must be detained, processed and deported” (as opposed to catch and release). Still, Rep. Tom Tancredo is farther to the right than Huckabee on immigration, so send your donations to Tancredo if this is your primary voting issue. Of course, Huckabee is as conservative or more conservative on immigration than former Mayor Rudy Guiliani, Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Mitt Romney.

Fund is either ignorant that the immigration issue is at the heart of the Eagle Forum opposition to Huckabee or disingenuous. Fund and his fellows on the Wall Street Journal are well known for being centrists on immigration reform. The Journal certainly is as centrist or even more so on immigration than Huckabee, which is probably why Fund didn’t give context to the Eagle Forum comments.

As far as blaming Huckabee for the GOP woes in Arkansas, the Republican Party in that state stared unravelling in 2002, when the social conservatives turned on Sen. Tim Hutchinson, largely because of his divorce and remarriage to a former staffer. This gave rise to pure ideologues like Jim Holt, who twice was able to win the GOP nomination for statewide races (once for U.S. Senate, once for Lt. Governor), but was unable to assemble a winning general election campaign. Don’t get me wrong, Holt worked hard and was more conservative, both fiscally and socially than President Reagan, but lacked Reagan (and Huckabee’s) communication skills. Unfortunately Holt, who managed to alienate nearly every Republican in the state legislature, was not savvy enough to beat the persecution of the Arkansas press.

Tim Hutchinson’s fall from grace also tainted (unfairly) his brother, Asa, who was the Republican who ran to replace the term-limited Huckabee. (Asa, whom I supported, was uncontested in the GOP primary, because of the sudden death from cancer of Lt. Governor Win Rockefeller, a moderate Republican who was as popular as Huckabee statewide.)

In considering Huckabee’s social conservatism, Fund either is talking out of both sides of his mouth or implying Huckabee is hypocrite. In one sentence, Fund describes Huckabee as “running hard right” on social issues, but then cites Texas judge Paul Pressler, who "led the conservative Southern Baptist revolt" saying that Huckabee “never appointed conservatives while he headed the Arkansas Baptist Convention.” Fiscal conservatives? Theological conservatives? Social conservatives? Those who like conservative hymns instead of guitar-led worship? In his weak attempt to discredit Huckabee, Fund doesn’t say — another omission.

At any rate, Huckabee’s social conservative track record is unrivaled by any one else in the GOP field. Front runners Romney, Giuliani, McCain and actor Fred Thompson don’t even come close to the consistency of Huckabee’s social conservatism, which is ultimately where Fund’s analysis of Huckabee falls apart. When Huckabee is talking about being consistently conservative, he is talking about the promotion of the sanctity of life, opposition to gay marriage and other core social conservative values that his opponents have flip flopped on enough times to rival John Kerry.

Every year while governor, Huckabee led the line in Arkansas’ annual Right to Life march. Huckabee also led efforts to pass a state constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as a bond between one man and one woman. Finally, Huckabee was proactive in helping to strengthen marriages in Arkansas by promoting “Covenant Marriages” as an option in Arkansas, where couples must see counseling before a judge will grant a divorce on grounds of convenience.

Huckabee is not the perfect candidate. HIs flirting with carbon credits and his weak stance against SCHIP expansion, both noted by Fund, don’t thrill me.

But who can I count on to strongly oppose the infanticide going on in this country? Not Giuliani, who is self-described as pro-choice, nor Romney, who flips on issues like abortion for political expedience. Who can I trust not to raise taxes? Not Giuliani, who won’t sign an anti-tax pledge, nor Romeny — again, whose flip-flopping ruins his credibility.

Contrary to Fund’s assertion that Huckabee is an inconsistent conservative, Huckabee is a social conservative I know I can count on.

Fund's column can be found at: http://opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110010782

* Even hard core fiscal conservatives agree that the government must be involved in some public works projects — like roads. Few people — if any — would argue that creating a healthy system of roads is not one of the government’s primary responsibilities. I would also argue that if you are going to have a tax, making those who directly benefit from the service the tax will provide, i.e. those who drive on roads (or rather, who buy gas), pay for the tax is also fiscally conservative — as opposed to some “progressive” income tax or universal sales tax.

REVISIONS HISTORY: Corrected the date of Tim Hutchinson's defeat, and correctly attributed a quote to Paul Pressler instead of Rick Scarborough. Thanks to those of you who pointed out these errors.


Lucas Roebuck is the former opinion page editor of the Benton County Daily Record, former assignment editor for KNWA-NBC, and former managing editor for the Northwest Arkansas Times and Siloam Springs Herald-Leader.

Posted by Lucas Roebuck


Let's not forget the ethical skeletons that appear to be rattling 'round Huckabee's closet.

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