Mike Huckabee announced on Friday that he has quit his syndicated radio gig in what some are calling a clear sign that he is planning a bid for Republican presidential nomination in 2016, telling followers on his Facebook page to “[s]tay tuned” for announcements on his “new endeavors.”
Huckabee, who served as Governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, has been talking like a candidate for some time. Supporters have been pushing polling out of early primary states — Iowa and South Carolina, where social conservatives tend to do well — that shows him ahead of other potential Republican candidates.
But even as Huckabee, an unsuccessful candidate for the GOP nomination in 2008, begins making moves toward a 2016 bid, some conservatives are raising awareness to his record, which is checkered with tax hikes, spending increases, and support for nanny state policies. These policies earned Huckabee the nickname, “Tax Hike Mike.”
The Club for Growth, a conservative group that advances pro-growth economic policies, sent out an email blast to reporters on Friday in which they called attention to a 2007 white paper on Huckabee’s fiscal record.
The white paper (below) outlines how Huckabee repeatedly raised sales and excise taxes and increase spending by 65.3%, triple the rate of inflation. The number of state workers increased by 20% on his watch and Arkansas’ debt obligations rose by $1 billion. He also supported and signed a minimum wage increase into law.
All of his is bad from a policy perspective, but it was his pleas to the Arkansas legislature in 2003 to raise taxes that are the most concerning.
“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,” said Huckabee in 2003, per an ad from the Club for Growth.
“Others have suggested perhaps a sales tax. That’s fine. Yet, others have suggested a hybrid that would collect some monies from any one or a combination of those various ideas, and if that’s the plan that the House and Senate agree upon, then you will have nothing but my profound thanks,” he added.
During his tenure as Governor of Arkansas, Huckabee gave residents of the state a net tax hike of over $505 million to finance his big government agenda. His record on taxes is worse than Bill Clinton.
Tax Hike Mike earned horrendous scores on the Cato Institute’s Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors.
“On its annual governor’s report card, Cato gave Huckabee an ‘F’ for fiscal policy during his final term, and an overall two-term grade of ‘D,’” wrote Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute in 2007. “Only four governors had worse scores, and 15 Democratic governors got higher grades, including well-known liberals like Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.”
But wait! There’s more!
On federal issues, Huckabee supported No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a further centralization on education, and railed against free trade. He backed expansion of the already expensive State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the multi-trillion dollar expansion of Medicare in 2003, and backed a proposals to tax Internet sales.
More recently, Huckabee urged states to adopt Common Core, which is NCLB on steroids, though, he walked back his support this month as conservative opposition to further federal education standards grew louder.
Tax Hike Mike backed cap-and-trade, an environmental policy that would lead to higher energy costs for consumers and impose huge regulatory costs on businesses, and flat out lied about his support for the policy in 2010.
All of this is just scratching the surface. Huckabee may be a likeable, humorous guy who acts as though he doesn’t take himself too seriously, but his idea of the purpose of government simply isn’t in the mold of any limited government conservative. Jonah Goldberg, a conservative political commentator, once described Huckabee as a “right-wing progressive.”
“Huckabee’s philosophy is conventionally liberal, or progressive. What he wants to do with government certainly differs in important respects from what Hillary Clinton would do, but the limits he would place on governmental do-goodery are primarily tactical or practical, not philosophical or constitutional,” wrote Goldberg.
“This isn’t to say he — or Hillary — is a would-be tyrant, but simply to note that the progressive notion of the state as a loving, caring parent is becoming a bipartisan affair,” he added.
The way the race is shaping up, conservatives and libertarians are going to have plenty of Republican candidates from which to choose. But make no mistake about it, Huckabee is no friend of the limited government or fiscal conservatism and his likely candidacy should be rejected by anyone who claims that mantle.