Election 2016

Why You Shouldn't Take Mike Huckabee's Presidential Campaign Seriously


credit: Gage Skidmore / Best Modern / CC BY-SA

As former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee meanders into the Republican party's presidential primary race, you may see occasional calls to take him seriously as a candidate.

Here's a better idea: Let's not.

Huckabee is affable and likeable, and it's at least conceivable that he could make a strong showing in an early contest or two next year.

But given the strength and breadth of the GOP field this round, he has essentially no real chance at winning the GOP nomination. More than that, he's proving himself unwilling to grapple with some of the most fundamental federal policy issues.

In particular, Huckabee has taken to arguing that Medicare and Social Security, the nation's two biggest entitlements and two biggest drivers of the long-term debt, don't need to be reformed. Last month he attacked fellow GOP no-hoper, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for his recent proposal to means test entitlements and raise the retirement age, and said that he wouldn't support GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan.

Part of what's telling here is that neither of these proposals are intended to blow up the big entitlements; instead, they're plans to slowly transition them into systems that are fiscally sustainable, or at least closer than they are now. Yet for Huckabee, even that's too much.

His reasoning for opposing the changes, meanwhile, is pretty much pure pandering. At a stop in South Carolina over the weekend, he reiterated his opposition to reforming entitlements, arguing that doing so would amount to a betrayal of taxpayers, reports Dave Weigel of Bloomberg Politics

As a candidate, Huckabee is attempting to bring the conversation around to economic populism. At every stop of his tour, he made the standard Republican attack on Washington, but added a twist. Other Republicans would cut away at "entitlements." He would not.

"I remember the first time I got a paycheck, at age 14," said Huckabee in Urbandale. "I had a job at the radio station. I got paid—a buck-twenty-five an hour, minimum wage. I was worth every bit of it, too. A buck-twenty-five an hour, however many hours I worked, so I added it up—and then I got the check, and there was something called FIC taken out."

Huckabee's crowd, a mixture of young parents and head-nodding retirees, laughed as he re-enacted the conversation with his boss over FICA, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a.k.a. the Social Security tax.

"I said, 'Oh my gosh, I'm 14 years old, you really think I need that?' He said, 'Well, someday, someday it will be there for you.' Folks, I'm a whole lot closer to that someday than I was! It is a foolish thing for the government to involuntarily confiscate money from your pockets and paychecks for 50 years, and then suddenly tell you, oh, we were just kidding." It was a sidelong reference to some of his Republican rivals, who are calling for major cuts in the Social Security program.

Huckabee has made this argument elsewhere, in various forms, but it doesn't hold up.

For one thing, it's not as if any of Huckabee's fellow Republicans have suggested cutting off Social Security or Medicare. The changes that have been proposed are gradual, taking years to kick in, and while they would alter how those programs and their benefits are structured, they wouldn't simply take benefits away

For another, the combined Social Security and Medicare benefits that an average person will get far exceed what they pay into the system. So the idea that they are owed the benefits the system currently offers by virtue of having paid in doesn't really work either.

Nor is it as if Social Security is some absolute that will simply continue to pay out if not changed. At some point in the next two decades, the program, on its current trajectory, will become unable to pay out all of its obligations. At that point, beneficiaries will only get about three quarters of what they're owed. Medicare too has a looming unfunded liability.

Huckabee's preferred solution is, as far as I can tell, to do nothing—not to reform the programs in any way, and not even to raise taxes to attempt to keep them afloat, nor even to acknowledge that there's a problem in need of addressing. In other words, he doesn't take the fiscal challenges posed entitlements, perhaps the biggest long-term challenge to the federal budget, seriously. Anyone who does should probably treat his campaign similarly.

NEXT: Rand Paul Will Filibuster the Patriot Act, Trouble Again Finds George Zimmerman (and Shoots Him), Cactus Cameras in Arizona: P.M. Links

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  1. Huckster doesn’t realize somebody loses when there’s more promises than payments. Guess he’s fine with his kids getting the bag instead of him.

  2. “Why You Shouldn’t Take Mike Huckabee’s Presidential Campaign Seriously”

    Answer- because he’s Mike Huckabee.

    C’mon P-Sud, we got this, man!

    1. I clicked because it had to be so easy — comfort food for the brain. I hope he does one on all the others.

  3. Hitler?

    1. Dude, you must be new here. You don’t say “Hitler”, you gotta make up a “You know who else…” question. 😉

  4. Weigel and Suderman writing about Huckabee, are they trying to make him sympathetic?

    In other words, he doesn’t take the fiscal challenges posed entitlements, perhaps the biggest long-term challenge to the federal budget, seriously. Anyone who does should probably treat his campaign similarly

    So he is the same as every other politician?

  5. I don’t take it seriously because the man is a dumbass and everyone knows it.

    Being ruled by a SoCon that knows what is best for you is really not much better than being ruled by a Prog that knows what is best for you.

    1. As a “so-con” myself, I completely agree. Huckabee is a world-class d-bag and his policies would be terrible.

      1. I’m pretty conservative myself. Only difference is that I wouldn’t force it on everyone else or try to legislate my personal morality on the whole country through laws.

        I fucking abhor abortion but I’d rather a woman do it in a hospital than with a coat hanger. I despise “third wave” feminism but I wouldn’t take away their freedom to speak their minds. I think jihadis need a bullet in their brains real quick and in a hurry but I wouldn’t chase them all over the damn planet to deliver said bullet.

        What we really need is an individual who won’t play the games of the media and established parties. Who doesn’t swear allegiance to an ideology or can at least separate themselves from said ideology when considering law and public policy. Sadly we will never, ever have such a person as president.

        1. What good is an ideology when it doesn’t inform your public policy? I always thought that someone who believes something privately but does the opposite publicly was called a hypocrite. What we need is someone whose ideology includes a strong individual rights component, that informs all other policies. Then all of these issues become non-issues.

          1. What good is an ideology when it doesn’t inform your public policy?

            As you allude to, it’s pointless. There are four major levels at which people “play politics,” principle (ideology), pragmatism (utilitarianism), signalling (poll watching) ,and ad hominem (personal attack).

            I’d much rather a public policy informed by ideology than pragmatism, the latest Pew Research poll, or whoever can call the other side the meanest names.

          2. Zun, let me illustrate.

            My cousin is pro-life because “people should be responsible.”

            She believes there should be tons of laws to regulate how we treat pets because “people are stupid.”

            She’s a Texas Republican, aka a conservative social engineer, like Rick Perry, the ass who called me “heartless” because I would rather donate money directly to Mexican Catholic missions than have it levied from my paycheck to sift through seven layers of bureaucracy to fund education for Mexican citizens in America.

            I’m fine with making laws to protect life and to protect the rights of living creatures. But trying to legislate virtue is for the left.

            1. FC and cfskyrim are what I myself would define as “social conservative”.

              The “SOCONZ” that we characterize, the busybodies that want to enshrine their disciplines into law and impose their doctrine on the rest of us, I prefer to call them “nanny-state conservatives” or “nannycons”. But that’s just me.

        2. Is some who’s a fundie/evangelical type who’s also libertarian classified as a so-con? I’ve wondered that meself as a Reason forum stalker who’s also a fundie/creationist. I have most of the values and mores of conservative religious ideology, but I don’t want the state to push those onto other people. A lot of libertarian discussions both online and off seem to drift from attacking so-con’s attempts to try to legislate their morality, to the beliefs of so-cons themselves, and it can get awkward. When we’re talking about groups who are usually opposed to liberty, I think there’s a lot more tendency in the libertarian commentariat to flatly attack socon-esque culture and beliefs as opposed to, say, lgbt or minority groups (who usually also vote in blocks against liberty).

          Not that someone shouldn’t have the liberty to ridicule whomever or whatever they want, of course. It just seems difficult to be a part of the libertarian community sometimes. If feeling like they are given an ultimatum between their religious community and the libertarian community, I think most religious people are going to go with their religion.

          Also, Huckabee is a D-bag. He’s my former governor, and there is no redeeming quality about him. Like how Obama is the worst about Democrats without any of the decent values Democrats are supposed to have (anti-war, anti corporate subsidies, pro 1st and 4th Amendment), Huckabee is all that is wrong with the GOP without any of the good.

          1. Is some who’s a fundie/evangelical type who’s also libertarian classified as a so-con?

            No. Social Conservatives are a political group, not a religious group. SoCons evolved from the original Progressive Party, and, besides a belief in God, are nearly indistinguishable from Progressives when you look at their base principles (or, more accurately, “principles”).

            I’m a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian. I am not a SoCon.

            1. Interesting. I wonder if that’s the general consensus among libertarians, that socially conservative people aren’t necessarily Social Conservatives. There seems to be a lot of that “I was with Rand Paul until he brought up his faith” talk. It ever get awkward for you around Libertarians when the religion bashing starts?

    2. We already had a Prog from Arkansas, which IMHO was an absolute disaster, I’m really hoping we’ll never have to suffer their So-Con too. If Arkansas would like to make a further contribution, one of the original members of Black Oak Arkansas would be fine. Otherwise, enough from Arkansas already!

  6. Didn’t even bother reading the article. I’m sure I can safely summarize by saying: No shit, Sherlock. Moving on.

  7. Because fat guys don’t get elected outside of Jersey?

  8. ‘Unwilling to grapple with serious issues’ and ‘pandering’?

    I thought those were the requirements for a politician to be electable

  9. Why You Shouldn’t Take Mike Huckabee’s Presidential Campaign Seriously

    Clickbait – you’re doing it wrong.

  10. So quit writing articles about him? I think he’s gotten more coverage here than any other site…

    1. Better sit down and enjoy the long ride. We’re going to be hearing about presidential candidates for a long time now.

      Nothing shows how far gone our republic is than the increasing importance and obsession over who the next president will be. In a limited government, the office has limited importance. In our current system, however, it’s very important.

  11. Well, anyone that believes the bible is literally true, is bound to have some difficulty with comprehension skills.

  12. Why is Huckabee even worth talking about. Well, at least it isn’t “The libertarian case for Mike Huckabee.”

  13. Southern Baptists are grim fucks behind the lovely grins.

  14. At some point in the next two decades, the program, on its current trajectory, will become unable to pay out all of its obligations.

    Yeah, that sometime was 5 years ago. SS is making up the Ponzi shortfall by relying on the interest paid on the restricted t-notes held in the so called trust fund. All of those notes and their interest can only be redeemed through the general fund, i.e. other tax revenue.

    1. The importation of a few million youngsters from south of the border IS the fix for SS.

  15. Wasn’t planning on taking any Republican candidacy seriously.

  16. Why don’t Southern Baptists have sex standing up?

    It’s too much like dancing.

    1. True story: When I got married to my first wife, the ceremony and reception were at her Baptist church. I fought hard to move the reception somewhere else, but we didn’t have the money to rent another place. And it was just as you’d expect… quiet and boring. We had background music playing, but the instant something even remotely danceable came on, one of the church elders told me we can’t have any dancing in the room, the music needed to be changed. I found out later that they were threatening to kick my wife AND her grandparents out of the church if there was any dancing at the reception. Some people (and some denominations) need to lighten the fuck up.

      (Fortunately, my current wife was more open to having dancing at our wedding reception.)

  17. the only positive thing about Huckabee is that he is a Fair Tax proponent. Outside of that… there is not much to talk about.

  18. Social security could be made solvent for years to come by removing the cap on maximum taxable earnings, currently set at $118,500. Make all income taxable for social security and the issue of solvency becomes a non-issue.

    Septempter 2010, here’s what Janemarie Mulvey wrote in a report for the Congressional Research Service:

    “If all earnings were subject to the payroll tax, but the base was retained for benefit calculations, the Social Security Trust Funds would remain solvent for the next 75 years.”


  19. But, look how excited people are about his announcement!

    Well, not really. They’re reacting to the Force Awakens trailer, but for some reason the juxtaposition between their childish delight and Mike Huckabee’s dull and cliche ridden announcement speech is hilarious.

  20. The Huckster would be standing arm in arm with Obama if it weren’t for abortion and gay rights. Haters got to hate.

  21. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.Jobs-Cash.com

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