Favorite

Huck: the 'right' stuff 



Gov. Huckabee finished far back in the pack in the Republican straw poll for president at the party’s midterm convention at Memphis, but you should not count him out yet. He showed that in the skill that seems to matter most in 2006 he could compete with the best.

That is the ability to say one thing, do the opposite and get credit for both.

From Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John McCain, the real frontrunner, on down to Huckabee, all the presidential aspirants masqueraded as fiscal conservatives, diehard champions of limited government. They are all for reduced spending and balanced budgets. None of them can make a convincing case that they’ve advanced those causes, although McCain occasionally makes a rare show of independence from President Bush and his party majority in the Senate on some budgetary extravagance.

How can you blame them for the subterfuge? They saw how it worked for George W. Bush. He ran for president championing a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget but then apparently listened to his vice president, Dick Cheney, who famously said, “deficits don’t matter.” By the end of his presidency, with the help of a solidly Republican Congress, Bush will have added more to the national debt than the three previous presidents combined.

Gov. Huckabee played no role in that, of course, unless you count the expanded federal spending on Medicaid that his activism in Arkansas occasioned. And if you discount his gay-bashing and anti-abortion talk, he is a different kind of Republican than most of them. His stewardship of state government would fit the old liberal Republican mold, a timid version of Winthrop Rockefeller. He has raised taxes, expanded government and loaded debt on future taxpayers to a considerably greater degree than perhaps any governor in Arkansas history although for purposes that on any given occasion a substantial part of the public finds acceptable.

When they do another of those surveys of historians and political scientists on the most effective Arkansas governors he can make a good case that he should be up there with Rockefeller, Bumpers, Clinton, McMath and Donaghey, all of whom raised taxes and enlarged the services of government. Huckabee did not lead the way on every one of the advancements during his tenure as the others did, but he went along with them.

But he won’t make any conservative’s list of effective governors. That is why there was more than a little hypocrisy in the governor’s speech at Memphis.

“I still believe the American people agree with us on the idea of less government intrusion, less government tax burden and a real level of true security,” Huckabee told the delegates. Never mind that the present national government is for greater intrusion into private lives.

But let’s look at Huckabee’s record.

He took credit for the first tax cut in Arkansas in decades and ridiculed those who had claimed that it would damage the state budget.

You would think he meant Democrats, wouldn’t you?

The tax cut he spoke of was Act 328 of 1997, which was enacted shortly after he took office. The tax cut was drafted by Democratic lawmakers and passed without one dissenting vote in the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. It was 96-0 in the House of Representatives. The outlines of the reduction in individual income taxes actually belonged to Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who was forced to resign before he could implement it. The taxes benefited mostly working families with low and modest incomes, unlike all the tax cuts of the Bush administration, which were directed almost altogether to the rich and corporations. Huckabee is right to be proud of it although he did not draft a word of it.

And it was not the first tax cut in decades. Bill Clinton had income taxes eliminated on families earning below the federal poverty line in 1991, and numerous tax cuts affected groups like farmers and veterans. Dale Bumpers had cut taxes on low-income workers in 1973.

But what Huckabee did not tell the delegates because they might have drummed him out of the hall was that the small tax cut of 1997 was quickly overwhelmed by a string of tax increases that landed squarely on working families: a 3 percent income tax surcharge that lasted for two years, three increases in the sales tax that totaled one and a half pennies on a dollar sale, the expansion of the sales tax to cover a number of services like laundry, dry cleaning and wrecker services, a 4-cent-a-gallon increase in the diesel tax, 3 cents a gallon on the gasoline tax, a 3 percent tax on beer, a 25-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes, a 7 percent increase in the excise tax on other tobacco products and a $6 increase in the driver’s license.

Smaller government? Since Huckabee took office, the number of state government workers has swollen by 20 percent, from 43,753 in June 1996 to 52,440 this January. The state’s general-obligation debt has risen by some $800 million — more than the debts accumulated under all previous governors — and voters in December scuttled Huckabee’s plan to add a couple hundred million dollars more.

That does not mean that the state did not progress as a result of much of it, but lower taxes and limited government?

Our governor is shrewd enough in the ways of the world to know that those are only what a Republican promises. Facts are another matter.




Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The dark roots of 'America First'

    Donald Trump employed the phrase "America First" in his inaugural speech and it's now featured prominently in a list of initiatives on the new Trump White House website. (Gone from the website are Obama-era references to "climate change."
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • The Trump presidency begins with populist themes

    Donald Trump took office as president with a ringing appeal to populism, a theme not well-represented in his cabinet. But policies are to come.
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • Room on the mall

    Crowd for Donald Trump's inauguration? Not huge.
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Glass houses

    Having gotten a deep security briefing and probably a confidential glimpse of our own vast cyberspying operation, Donald Trump is no longer pretty sure that the Kremlin didn't hack Democratic computers or employ other tactics to help his election.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • ACA and the GOP

    Congress and the new president in a matter of weeks will repeal big parts of the Affordable Care Act, at least nominally, but what will follow that wondrous event will not be the contentment that Republicans have long promised, but even more political tumult.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Glass houses

    Having gotten a deep security briefing and probably a confidential glimpse of our own vast cyberspying operation, Donald Trump is no longer pretty sure that the Kremlin didn't hack Democratic computers or employ other tactics to help his election.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • ACA and the GOP

    Congress and the new president in a matter of weeks will repeal big parts of the Affordable Care Act, at least nominally, but what will follow that wondrous event will not be the contentment that Republicans have long promised, but even more political tumult.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • If I didn't know better, I'd suspect that this "investigator" crank must be Gene Lyons'…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • I do have a question - and, honestly, I am just looking for an answer…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: A heart in this house

    • The elections woke people up, a good thing and caused some people to feel insecure…

    • on January 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation