“Mike Huckabee’s Missed Opportunity”
Carol Platt Liebau didn’t care for the former Arkansas governor’s debate performance. The invitation to appear on my show for as long an interview as the governor would like will be extended again, as the Huck Duck goes into week five. These exchanges from yesterday’s “The Week” may explain why the governor has been avoiding conservative audiences:
Huckabee Supports In-State Tuition Breaks For Illegals
HUCKABEE: “But I’ll tell you what I do believe, that you don’t punish a child because a parent committed a crime or committed a sin. You just don’t do that.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s why you pushed a bill…”
HUCKABEE: “And as I said the other night in the debate…”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Excuse me, let me just stop your right there because…”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “…That’s why you pushed a bill that did, would allow the children of illegal immigrants, if they went through an Arkansas high school to get in-state tuition.”
HUCKABEE: “Actually it was to qualify for an academic challenge scholarship which was a meritorious scholarship based on their grade point average, they’re being drug and alcohol free and they’re also being in the process of applying for citizenship…”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “You know, but Governor, let me stop you right there because a lot of people have looked at this. And I even got the bill right in front of me and I know that what you’re talking about may have been in your original legislation but you continued to push for a bill after the scholarship provisions were dropped that would simply provide in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants. I’ve read through it.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “It makes no mention of staying off of drugs and alcohol.”
HUCKABEE: “Well, that was a part of the academic challenge scholarship, George, that was a criteria just like the core curriculum. And that was not in the legislation. It was in the requirements for the academic challenge scholarship.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Yet, I mean, this was simply you would say aside from the scholarships, that if an illegal immigrant, the child of an illegal immigrant went through high school in Arkansas, they get the same in-state benefits as other Arkansas residents do, yet if a student was coming in from Colorado, they would pay higher tuition.”
HUCKABEE: “Well, the difference is if a student comes in from Colorado he hasn’t been educated in our high school, hasn’t had our courses but if you’ve had a child that’s been there since hes 5, 6 years old or even since hes13 and he’s had his entire high school experience sitting alongside Arkansas students, the point is, is he better off going to college and becoming a taxpayer as opposed to not going to college and potentially becoming a tax taker? Look, the fact that the federal government failed in allowing him to get here illegally is not the problem of the state, it’s the problem of a federal government that pushed it down on the states.” (ABC’s “This Week,” 12/2/07)
Huckabee Waffles On Federal Student Aid For Illegals
HUCKABEE: “The point is do we punish ourselves as we also punish those children by limiting their educational opportunities and keeping them from being able to be far more apart of our culture, society, learn our language, become citizens and legitimize their being here.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “How far would you extend the principle? As president would you allow the children of illegal immigrants to be eligible for pell grants, subsidized student loans?”
HUCKABEE: “You know, it would depend. I’m not sure if I understand when you say subsidized student loans.” [CROSSTALK].
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Federal student loans which, yes, absolutely.”
HUCKABEE: “I’m not sure that I would support that, but that…”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Why not?”
HUCKABEE: “There’s a different program in Arkansas.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “How is it different? If you don’t think the students should be punished then why shouldn’t they get the federal aid as well as the state aid?”
HUCKABEE: “Well, it’s a difference between being punished and being rewarded. What I do think we got to do is to have a sane, rational immigration policy, which we don’t, but the point in Arkansas was, we had kids who had been in our schools by law and to simply shut them out of any additional educational advancement to me seemed not only in their worst interests but ours, as well as a state.” (ABC’s “This Week,” 12/2/07)
Huckabee Hiked Taxes To Keep Government Running
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Let me move to your record on taxes in Arkansas which is also coming under a lot of scrutiny and great criticism from this group called the Club For Growth, which is now starting to run ads in Iowa about your record. Here’s part of it.”
HUCKABEE: “There’s a lot of support for a tax at the wholesale level for tobacco, and that’s fine with me. I will very happily sign that. Others have suggested a surcharge on the income tax. That’s acceptable. I’m fine with that.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “And the tax burden in Arkansas did go up during your tenure from about $1,900 per person to $2,900 per person over 10 years and also an overall increase of about $500 million. So how do you plead to the charge of raising taxes?”
HUCKABEE: “Well, first of all I plead to the charge of cutting taxes 94 times. I also recognize that the income tax was the same when I left office as it was when I started. The overall tax burden according to the U.S. Department of commerce, state and local taxes in my state in the nearly 11 years I was governor went up by 1.1%. Now, the critics are going to point to that particular clip, George, and always first of all say I’m more embarrassed by how I looked at that particular point than by what I said because that was a put or shut up moment as I spoke to the legislature. If you play that whole speech what you would see is that the context was we were days away from a budget shutdown that would have closed the government in Arkansas. We had had an impasse on the budget. I was taking various positions of here’s how we can fix this budget crisis and every time I said this might work, there would be a press conference by some the democrat legislators who were saying if that’s what the governor wants we’re against it. So what I did was go to the legislature and I said ok, you don’t like any of my plans, fine, let’s come up with yours and I started listing what some of theirs were. And the context of that speech was you want a surcharge, you want a sales tax, okay, but we’ve got to have a budget, people. We’ve got to come up with a way to keep state government working. We’ve got people in nursing homes. We have schools to run. We have roads to take care of. And we can’t afford a complete meltdown of the government.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “But if that’s the right…”
HUCKABEE: “So if you don’t like my ideas let’s get yours out there.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “If that’s the right thing to do as governor when you’re facing a crisis, why wouldn’t it be the right thing to do as president? Now in this presidential campaign you have signed a pledge saying you wouldn’t raise taxes under any circumstances.”
HUCKABEE: “Because I don’t think the federal government needs more money. If you look at the spending issues that we have, it’s pretty evident to me that we need some policy changes more than we need some tax changes at the federal level. So it’s a different thing when you’re running a state government and you have to balance your budget, you have to make sure that you’re living within the means and the second thing is, you’re constantly barraged by federal programs pushed down your throat. That’s why nearly every one of the governors, 43 governors, I believe, maybe 48 face serious budget shortfalls in ’01/’02 because of the combination of the recession, federal mandates that were unfunded, as well as the impact and effects of 2000, of 9/11.” (ABC’s “This Week,” 12/2/07)
Mr. Huckabee says he would like to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and replace the income tax with the so-called Fair Tax, which would impose a national sales tax on virtually everything we buy. But such a tax would be a disaster for this country, especially for low- and middle-income Americans who spend a disproportionate portion of their earnings -in many cases all of it -on the necessities of life.
It would wreak untold havoc on the business community, driving down retail sales and creating an underground economy that would undermine America’s productive marketplace -especially small businesses that produce most of the jobs in our country.
The Club for Growth was formed with one purpose: to promote economic growth by lowering the tax rates, simplifying the tax code and providing tax incentives to expand business formation, savings, investment and economic opportunity. It has praised the tax-cut proposals of Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and other contenders for the Republican nomination.
But last week Mr. Huckabee labeled the respected tax-cutting group “The Club for Greed,” a charge that sounded more like the invective spewed from Al Gore, Howard Dean or socialist Bernie Sanders.
The Arkansas Republican is fond of bashing corporate CEOs and their salaries, thinks a higher minimum wage won’t hurt entry-level job creation, and apparently doesn’t mind slapping higher sales taxes on the most vulnerable people in our economy.
The next president will face huge fiscal issues in 2009, such as rising entitlements that threaten to engulf the federal budget and what to do about President Bush’s tax cuts that are due to expire in 2010 -a demise that would raise taxes by trillions of dollars.
That’s when we will need strong, principled leadership to keep a likely Democratic Congress from sending income taxes through the roof. It’s something Iowa voters need to think deeply about in the days to come.