Saturday, January 05, 2008

...A Three-dollar Bill

Indeed, on the Republican side Mike Huckabee sank the hopes of Mitt Romney and the Republican establishment in part because of his far more persuasive version of economic populism. Of course, he did rally the evangelical Christians, but it's foolish to see this as evidence only of Bible thumpers on the march. In Iowa, Huckabee's votes came from the Republican underclass: formerly independent farmers and, more broadly, working class, church-going folks. The wisdom had been that a Republican candidate would ride to victory by swearing to seal the southern border, cut taxes, and go to war on Iran. Huckabee's substantive record is one of tolerance toward immigrants, compassion toward convicted criminals, and straightforward abolition of the most hated agency in the United States--the IRS--with installation of a sales tax, whose regressive features would be balanced by rebates to the poor.
Alexander Cockburn & Jeffery St. Clair

When it comes to Huckabee, all the talk is about religious conservatism, even as conservative publications like the Weekly Standard have very recently acknowledged that Huckabee's economic message is what has propelled him to victory.
David Sirota

Incredible as it seems, three astute, make that two and a half, observers of the American political scene are taken in by Mike Huckabee's "populist" bs. Can a backwoods politician be called a "populist" if he improves his state's general welfare and budget on the back to the working class?

It seems that most of Arkansas' fiscal health under Huckabee was achieved by increased sales taxes and state fees:

- Imposed an income tax surcharge of 3 percent on tax liabilities of individuals and domestic and foreign corporations (Act 38, 1st special session of 2003). (It was temporary until revenues improved. The legislature repealed it in 2005.)

- Increased the sales tax by 1/8 of one percent by initiated act (but it was a personal campaign by Huckabee, who campaigned across the state for it and took a celebrated bass boat trip for 4 days down the Arkansas River holding press conferences in each river city to urge passage of the act)

- Increased the sales tax by one-half of 1 percent (Act 1492 of 1999)

- Increased the sales tax by 7/8ths of 1 percent and expand the sales tax to many services previously exempt from the tax (Act 107, 2nd special session of 2003)

- Collected a 2 percent tax on chewing tobacco, cigars, package tobacco, cigarette papers and snuff (Act 434 of 1997)

- Levied an additional excise tax of 7 percent on tobacco (Act 38 of 1st special session of 2003)

- Increased the tax on cigarette and tobacco permits (Act 1337 of 1997)

- Increased the tax on cigarette and tobacco – cigarettes by $1.25 per thousand cigarettes and 2 percent of the manufacturers’ selling price on tobacco products (Act 434 of 1997)

- Increased the tax on cigarettes by 25 cents a pack (Act 38, 1st special session of 2003)

- Levied a 3 percent excise tax on all retail sales of beer (Act 1841 of 2001 and extended by Act 272 of 2003 and Act 2188 of 2005)

- Revived the 4 percent mixed drink tax of 1989 and added a 4 percent tax on private clubs (Act 1274 of 2005)

- Increased the tax on gasoline by 3 cents a gallon (Act 1028 of 1999)

- Increased the tax on diesel by 4 cents a gallon (Act 1028 of 1999) Note: Contrary to what Huckabee has said repeatedly in debates, speeches and TV shows, the 1999 gasoline and diesel taxes were not submitted to the voters and approved by 80 per cent of them. It was never submitted to a vote. It was the governor’s bill and it became law without a vote of the people. What the voters did approve in 1999 was a bond issue for interstate highway reconstruction but it did not involve a tax increase. Existing taxes and federal receipts were pledged to retire the bonds.

- Increased the driver’s license by $6 a person, from $14 to $20 (Act 1500 of 2001)
Arkansas, November 30, 2007

The Arkansas Leader essay, which the above list is swiped, concludes by noting that factoring in all the corporate "...incentives enacted by the legislature under Clinton," Huckabee's claims to be a tax cutting, fiscally conservative Republican are unfounded.

Huckabee's most egregious tax proposal was the notorious $525 a day bed tax of 2001 to bail out Arkansas' ailing medicare program. According to the Arkansas Leader it seems the Huckster was offered a large sum of cash by tobacco interests to veto a competing cigarette sales tax increase, the proceeds of which would go to the state's Medicare program.

Now "populist" Huckabee is offering a so-called "fair tax" plan, being nothing more than a national sales tax. Hucakbee claims that his form of regressive taxation will cure a host of economic ills ranging from globalization to prostitution! Mother has a good critique of Huckabee's "fair tax".

In my estimation Mike Huckabee is nothing like Huey Long, who taxed the shit out of the big oil companies operating in Louisiana at the time so poor kids could have free text books. Huckabee approved of regressive tax hikes to balance his state's budget, then promoted a one-time tax rebate to aid the gubernatorial election chances of fellow Republican Asa Hutchinson (who lost to current Democratic Governor Mike Beebe.)

Really, the only why in which Huckabee is anything like The Kingfish is his willingness to except expensive gifts from well-heeled supporters. And why would a self-professed Christian deplete the Arkansas govenrnor's office emergency fund to destroy computer hard drives?

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