Friday, December 21, 2007

Of Faith and Fair Taxes

First let me start out discussing a bit about some of the things I find attractive about Mike Huckabee:

He's quick on his feet, funny, witty and self deprecating. I like all of those aspects about Huck. I'm pleased with his evangelicalism and values.

But here are some of the things that concern me about Mike Huckabee:

Let's start with his "foreign policy" ideas, and his criticism of Bush's foreign policy. Next, and more importantly, his opinion on changing the tax code to what is euphemistically called a "Fair Tax," which is nothing more than a national sales tax. A sales tax which would be added on top of any current state sales taxes, in place of the income tax.

A few weeks ago the
WSJ did a piece (paid subscription required) on Huckabee's support for the Fair Tax. This is what they said:

"[T]he fair tax also fits into Mr. Huckabee's populist pitch as a way to "abolish" the hated IRS. GOP audiences love that one, and so do we.

But in the case of the fair tax this boast is also misleading. One problem with a national sales tax is that its rate would have to be very high to raise enough money to fund the government. A rate of 30%, or even 23%, is high enough to invite its own major enforcement problems, so the tax police would still be very much with us.

As a political matter, the fair tax would offer a bull's-eye for Democrats, who would love to run against a plan that would instantly make most purchases 30% more expensive. Though the fair tax includes a complicated rebate system to shield the working poor, a levy on consumption would nonetheless hit hard the young, middle-income families that Mr. Huckabee is courting. It would also tax medical services and home prices, sure to be flashpoints this election season in particular."

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

"Mr. Huckabee nonetheless writes that "when" his reform is enacted, "it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness." That glib naivete should provide some indication of how seriously the former Governor has thought through the political and policy complications of his biggest idea -- and also explain why, until recently, Mr. Huckabee was considered an implausible candidate."

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of some type of tax simplification, but this one is off the rails, and subject to causing more damage than it will relieve. A simplified income tax would be far more preferred. A sales tax would run the risk of becoming a hybrid tax, that ends up a sales tax combined with an income tax because it would have to be so severe to match revenue from the existing code that we'd end up worse off.

In the Saturday edition of the WSJ tomorrow,
Peggy Noonan slams Huckabee as well. Here's what she has to say:

"Does Mr. Huckabee understand that his approach is making people uncomfortable? Does he see himself as divisive? He's a bright man, so it's hard to believe he doesn't. But it's working for him. It's getting him his 30 points in Iowa in a crowded field.

Could he win the nomination? Who knows? It's all a bubbling stew on the Republican side, and no one knows who'll float to the top. In an interview this week with David Brody of CBN, Mr. Huckabee said people everywhere were coming to him and saying, 'We are claiming Isaiah 54 for you, that the weapons formed against you will not prosper.'

Prayer is powerful. But Huckabee's critics say he's a manipulator with a mean streak and little knowledge of the world. And Isaiah 54 doesn't say anything about self-inflicted wounds."

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

In the Weekly Standard, a piece I came across regarding Huckabee's attempt at foreign policy prowess:

"SINCE MIKE HUCKABEE's meteoric rise in the polls, questions regarding his gravitas have dogged the latest Man from Hope. Oh sure, he can toss out witticisms with the best of them and he's as likable a politician as we've seen in decades, but many wondered whether he had the policy chops to be a capable president....

Worse still is his reference [in an Essay for Foreign Affairs,] to President Bush's "bunker mentality." This comment echoes one of the rhetorical tics that has become so common on the left, its denizens seldom even notice it anymore--referring to the president with imagery reminiscent of Hitler. We'd expect such rubbish from a Daily Kos diarist. But a presidential candidate? And a Republican?

And then there was the speech Huckabee gave in conjunction with the essay's release. In his speech, Huckabee made certain points that he didn't put in the magazine, perhaps for reasons of space or maybe because some Foreign Affairs editor has a well developed sense of mercy. "The bottom line is this," Huckabee cautioned. "Iran is a regional threat to the balance of power to the Middle and Near East; Al Qaeda is an existential threat to the United States."

Stunningly, Huckabee got it perfectly backwards. Al Qaeda is a menace to American security. But a nation governed by a hostile regime poised to produce a small arsenal of nuclear weapons that its leadership promises to use presents a truly existential threat. We can only conclude that "existential threat" does not mean what Mike Huckabee thinks it does."

And then there's NR's spin on Huck.

A piece on his being another taxer spender

A piece on his out-Dukakising Mike Dukakis

And there are other pieces which touch on his brushes with the same kind of corruption that Arkansas saw under the Clintons. Co-blogger Dave Todd picked up on that in his seminal piece below: Huck could then also out-Clinton the Clintons. Now that would be a feat.

In short, now that he is emerging as a more visible candidate on the national scene, Republicans who are traditional conservatives, free-traders, low taxers and neo-cons may all find something that they won't like very much in a so-called Republican Huckleberry candidacy. Not to mention how the Dems would salivate at the thought of a Huckabee nomination.

Heavens forfend! No pun intended.


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