Huckabee Economics

Huckabee Economics October 26, 2007

Update Below The Fold

The business community in Arkansas is split. Some praise Mr. Huckabee’s efforts to raise taxes to repair roads and work with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. Free-market advocates are skeptical. “He has zero intellectual underpinnings in the conservative movement,” says Blant Hurt, a former part owner of, and columnist for, Arkansas Business magazine. “He’s hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate.” Mr. Huckabee told me yesterday he also cut some taxes, and has taken the Americans for Tax Reform no-tax pledge. Former GOP state Rep. Randy Minton is not impressed. In 1999, he was urged by the governor to back a gas-tax increase. “I’d taken a pledge against higher taxes, but he sniffed that my constituents didn’t understand what we have to do in state government to make it work,” Mr. Minton says. “His support for taxes split the Republican Party, and damaged our name brand.” The Club for Growth notes that only a handful of the 33 current GOP state legislators back their former governor.

David Frum, Opinion Journal (Wall Street Journal)

I continue to be amazed that what was once a minority movement within the party is now considered orthodoxy.  In fact the old majority view is now considered heretical.  Even when Bush Sr. was in office, it was not accepted that the only good government was no government or that government was wholly unqualified to address concerns about the common good.  Questioning the guy’s orthodoxy because he thought there was a need to raise funds for road repairs seems a little silly.  I’m not claiming that one couldn’t argue against the claim based on a belief that the roads didn’t need repairs as quickly.  That is a claim that the guy is imprudent.  The claim alleged is that the guy is some liberal because he thinks the State should have decent roads.  As for proposing a “sales taxes on Internet purchases,” there are conservative arguments for such things, most notably that you don’t put your local businesses at a disadvantage to some out-of-state company.  This is not to say that there aren’t conservative arguments against it.  Let’s be clear though.  The only real orthodoxy threatened there is a libertarian one. 

This is a topic that deserves lengthier treatment, but I hope it can be the start of a good conversation.

A former Arkansas reporter sets the record straight.  It turns out the gas tax increase for roads came after a referendum.  Additional spending was compelled for education after an adverse Supreme Court ruling.

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  • Jh

    I shall give my thoughts more on this later with some detailed links that will refute much of this.

    The Club for Growth for whatever reason has had out for Gov Huckabee form the start. I am sure that the fact that he gaining serious attraction despite their attempts to prevent it is a sore spot to them.

    I think one reason why this will get no where is that generally people (Republican or otherwise) don’t have problems paying taxes for good roads. Roads are something they can see and use and hels benefit business. In fact it is what a State Govt should be doing. THe fact that someone is asserting that Huckabee is hostile to FREE TRADE is laughable. He is in a state that has Walmart headquarted there for goodness sake. If ones goes to Fayetteville one gets a clue looking at who have offices there that this is absurd. When I have a chance today I will provide some documentation

  • You’re right that there’s more to conservative economics than a simple refusal to raise taxes or a desire to cut government. Road repair and infrastructure development are good Whig principles! But there’s more to conservative economic opposition to Huckabee than his desire to build roads. He does have a healthy little protectionist streak, and he does favor some nanny state interventionism that runs well beyond fixing pot holes – I mean, a national smoking ban? Come on.

    Conservatives should be willing to find a middle ground approach between pure free market libertarianism and big government conservatism. From what I have seen, Huckabee’s decidedly not middle ground.

  • Jh

    LEt me note a couple of other things about this article. This really stuck out to me:

    “Rick Scarborough, a pastor who heads Vision America, attended seminary with Mr. Huckabee and is a strong backer. But, he acknowledges, “Mike has always sought the validation of elites.” When conservatives took over the Southern Baptist Convention after a bitter fight in the 1980s, Mr. Huckabee sided with the ruling moderates. Paul Pressler, a former Texas judge who led the conservative Southern Baptist revolt, told me, “I know of no conservative he appointed while he headed the Arkansas Baptist Convention.”

    Why In heavens name is this even mentioned. What does this have to do with anything. Southern Baptist Theological and Church politics? A Southern Baptist “moderate” does not translate into a poliical liberal. However most casual readers might think that Huckabee is backing Liberal Clergy people that are akin to some we see in Episcopal Chhurch USA.

    I will also add that Huckabee caused some grief to people because of his stance during the immigration debate. Some conservatives were not to happy with what he was saying. That is a part of this too at least as to local Republican and conservative politics in Arkansas

  • SMB

    ‘No taxes’ seems to be the GOP mantra these days. I don’t think it is working as well as it once did. The party needs to develop its populist profile, before some of those red states turn blue.

  • Blackadder

    While Huckabee was governor spending rose by 65.3% and the number of state workers increased by 20%. I somehow doubt that most of these increases had anything to do with repairing roads.

    Also, I’m not sure why the fact that Wal-Mart is headquartered in Arkansas means Huckabee can’t be against free trade. He certainly has been offering up some protectionist rhetoric of late, though to what extent that would translate into actual policy is not clear.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    65.3% over 8 years isn’t little by any means, but outside the proper context seems larger than what it actually is. Others may choose to do the research, but 8%/year can be explained without necessarily concluding he’s a philosophical liberal. I’m not claiming anyone has to think he’s the best candidate. I’m trying to refine the rhetoric here.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    Additional context:
    The massive increase in government spending is due in part to the number of new health programs and expansion of existing ones, including ARKids First, a state program to provide health coverage for 70,000 Arkansas children. Spending on ARKids alone increased 69 percent over a five-year period. Huckabee says it is worth it. He proudly states: “ARKids First is without a doubt, the program I am most proud of. This provides health insurance to tens of thousands of children who didn’t have access to health care before. Instead of a total government approach, this requires deductibles and copays and therefore some personal responsibility. Children can’t learn if they are sitting in class with a toothache, fever, or they can’t see the chalkboard.”
    National Review

    This can also be defended on grounds of making public costs explicit rather than being reflected in everyone’s doctors’ bills.

  • Blackadder


    I agree that the 8% a year spending increases do not necessarily prove that Huckabee is a liberal. But neither does the fact that some oppose him because of those increases prove that they are against decent roads.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    They do not merely oppose him. They have excommunicated him from conservatism. While I’m open to the fact the rhetoric put forth is hyperbolic and exagerated, logically they do find increases of taxes to support roads to be antithetical.

  • On economics, the Republican party used to be the party of seriousness and sobriety (after they finally got over the New Deal around the 1950s). Now, the inmates have taken over the asylum. It’s all voodoo, quackery, and proof by assertion.

  • Jh

    I t appears some major bloggers including Evangelical Outpost endorded Huckabee. Let me quote this part
    “Some of us were initially duped by the white paper on Huckabee that was released by the Club for Growth. Even though CFG is slightly outside of the mainstream on conservative fiscal policies (CFG is to fiscal conservatism what the Christian Coalition is to social conservatism), we respect the organization and appreciate their valuable work. Nevertheless, we were dismayed by their report that was at times misleading, if not outright dishonest.

    We acknowledge that the Club for Growth believes that state sales taxes should never be increased to pay for such entitlements as education, Medicare, highways, and economic development. We understand that this is the reason that they oppose Gov. Huckabee’s record. But we believe that most Americans—and most conservatives—are not minarchists. We do not think the fiscal conservative bona fides of a man who cut taxes and fees almost 100 times, saving the taxpayers almost $380 million, and left a surplus of nearly $850 million should be denigrated because he took such actions as implementing a 1/8-cent sales tax hike. Although we respect the CFC, we are dismayed at the disingenuous means that the group has used to smear the Governor’s character. (We plan to issue a point-by-point response to the white paper in a future post.)”

  • Jh

    If anyone is concerned about these allegation-NOTICE THERE ARE FEW HARD FACTs
    Go here to this excellent rebutta to the WSl to a man that covered Huckabee

    A few things jump out
    “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.”

    For those that think the Christian Right is something akin to the borg that is in a plot to seduce Catholics with their Calvinism this shall be a case study to watch. As I have always stated this movement of Christian conservatives is a lot more diverse than it opponents let on. As we can see in the above piece.

    The fact is the supporters of Huckabee have been told the past year to get a life and move off the stage. THe recent polls have frighten the dickens out of some people, WHich is why Pat Robinson and his network are trying to join in on the smear job.

    ANyway that rebuttal should clear things up

  • Kurt

    I liked the comment about Huckabee: “Unlike many Republicans he is still on his first wife and his first position on abortion.”

  • M.Z. Forrest

    I got her linked above friend.

  • I find Huckabee closer to my brand of conservatism (or maybe we’ll have to call it “moderateism”?). I have no problem with spending on social programs that have decent potential and have a proven track record. Head Start and WIC come to mind. Spending money in roads and bridges (especially after the recent bridge collapse) is a positive in my book.

    The man is firmly in the camp of life and family. He closely tracks my more moderate views regarding social spending.

    If Thompson tanks, Huckabee will be my next choice.