Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is more willing than the average Republican to unapologetically embrace domestic spending. He proved that again today, sniping at another potential presidential candidate—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—over entitlements. The Daily Caller reports:
In a speech this week, Christie proposed eventually raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare and getting rid of payments to wealthy seniors through means testing….
Huckabee then said of the proposed changes: "I would say it's not just no. It's you-know-what no. That we're going to rip this rug out from under people who have dutifully paid in their entire lives to a system."
"I'm not being just specifically critical of Christie," Huckabee added. "But that's not a reform. That's not some kind of proposal that Republicans need to embrace. Because what we're really embracing at that point, you're embracing a government that lied to its people. That took money from its people under one pretense, and then took it away from them at the time they started wanting to actually get what they paid for all these years."
In its broad strokes, this fits Huckabee's attempt to distinguish himself as the blue-collar candidate for the Republican nomination, though when you get to the specifics that gets more muddled. Raising the eligibility age would make the system more regressive, since wealthier people tend to live longer than poorer people. But means-testing would have the opposite effect, and that might have some appeal for the populist constituency the candidate is seeking. It's interesting that Huckabee challenged Christie's proposal in full, rather than splitting the issue.
Meanwhile, yet another potential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, just joined Christie in supporting a hike in the Social Security eligibility age. So if this is how Huckabee plans to make himself stand out from the other contenders, he'll probably have plenty of chances to keep at it.
Addendum: John McCormack contrasts Huckabee's current comments with what he was saying about Medicare three years ago.