Huckabee’s Economic Populism

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Over at the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar makes the case against smartypants politically dismissing Mike Huckabee in a column tellingly called “Mike Huckabee’s Message is as Formidable as Jeb Bush’s Money”.

Kraushaar’s point: While other GOP candidates repeat well-rehearsed talking points about regulation, taxes, and energy, Huckabee is looking for ways to distinguish himself from the pack by a distinctively populist-sounding economic message.  First, he is pointedly taking Social Security privatization and/or a reduction of benefits for retirees off the table. “If Congress wants to take away someone’s retirement, let them end their own Congressional pensions—not your Social Security,” as Huckabee said during his announcement speech.  He has since defended this view elsewhere:

“I’m thinking, wait a minute, didn’t the government take that out of my check for all these years involuntarily?” Huckabee said. “But why would you punish the recipients who played by the rules that they were forced to play by?”

Secondly, as Kraushaar notes, “He slammed free trade agreements for reducing the cost of wages, saying he’d ‘like to think the U.S. government would stand up for the U.S. workers rather than let them take it in the backside.’”

Huckabee is politically smart to look for ways to distinguish himself in a crowded field, and he is also right that both the morally and politically correct response to our extended economic crisis hurting average workers is a populist economic message. The Democrats are increasingly driving working class whites into the GOP coalition, and it makes sense that someone would attempt to rise to lead this faction (Rick Santorum is also competing for this space).  Continue Reading

Immigration, Wages, and Scott Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Unsurprisingly, Scott Walker is drawing a good deal of criticism for his comments on immigration last week, much of it from fellow conservatives.  The Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh, The Daily Caller’s Matt K. Lewis, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board all took Walker to task for his comments, which, as I noted last week, implied support for a decrease in legal immigration.

Even Ted Cruz, no stranger to tough rhetoric on the issue, responded to a question on Walker’s comments by reaffirming his own support for legal immigration and his appreciation for the many positive contributions immigrants make to American society:

My views on immigration are straightforward. I think there is considerable bipartisan agreement outside of Washington on immigration. There is overwhelming bipartisan agreement that we’ve got to get serious about securing the borders and stopping illegal immigration. There is considerable bipartisan agreement outside of Washington that we need to improve and streamline legal immigration so that we can remain a nation that welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants. I think it is a mistake for any politician to on the one hand embrace amnesty — embrace a pathway to citizenship for those who are here illegally — and on the other hand seek to restrict or punish legal immigrants. … Reagan referred to legal immigrants as Americans by choice and there is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the U.S.

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GOP Has Opportunity on Middle Class Economics

In the early days of the Presidential campaign, there has been a surprising movement towards consensus among the GOP field. On major issues like Common Core and immigration reform the candidates have, with near unanimity, taken similar positions to appeal to the broad electorate.  Now, the Christian Science Monitor notes that a similar phenomenon is taking place on the economic front, where the GOP field is shifting towards mobility for the middle class:

We’ve just heard Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton frame her campaign launch around the notion that “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

But before that, it’s also been Republicans sounding notes of alarm about the economic condition of ordinary Americans. Though best known in recent years for proposing broad tax cuts to promote economic growth, this time they are talking up the need for growth plus something more – rebuilding ladders of upward mobility.

… The two parties differ in their diagnosis of the problem and on solutions. But to a considerable extent, they are singing from similar song sheet: They agree that ordinary Americans – call them “working” or “middle-class” or “average” – are financially strained and that the challenge merits some focused policy attention.

A message of economic mobility would be a welcome change from the usual refrain of lower taxes by Republicans which, while important, gives the impression that they care more about business owners than workers.  The article gives several examples of GOP candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush trying to address middle class concerns, but there is still a missing element to their pitch. Continue Reading

Perry Comments on Middle Class Wages

At the “Politics & Eggs” event in New Hampshire on March 12th, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry discussed wage stagnation:

“The President may be satisfied with 2% economic growth. I’m not. For the first time in American history, a generation of leaders are on the verge of breaking the social compact, if you will, with the next generation. That is that we leave a better country for them, than what we found ourselves. Fewer of us believe in the American dream now than in the last twenty years. For middle class Americans, opportunity and security have been replaced by worry and anxiety. Out of pocket healthcare costs, housing, college tuition, all of them have gone up faster than wages have. Student debt is at an all-time high, and this has to change. It’s time to restore hope and opportunity to middle class America.

We can start with our tax code. We’ve got the highest corporate tax rate in the western world. And that doesn’t just hurt companies, it also hurts the American worker. Economists will tell you that if you cut the corporate tax rate by 10 percent, it will lift the wages for the middle class worker by about 5 or 10 percent. That’s what we need to be focused on, helping raise those workers’ wages. We need more than just corporate tax reform to help the workers; we also need to simplify the tax code to reduce that burden on all individuals.

We also need to tackle the inequities that are caused by this Dodd-Frank regulation. 

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Huckabee Breaks New Ground in Economic Debate

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Shane, this is really important breaking news. Gov. Huckabee is moving the dial here in a striking new development: he’s one of the first candidates to connect the Fed’s monetary policy to the economic suffering the average middle-class voter has experienced over the last seven years of Obamanomics—and really Bushanomics too, which led to the economic crisis of 2008.

Huckabee hit the nail on the head when he said, “The bottom 90 percent in the past 40 years have had stagnant wages. In the 25 years before that, 90 percent saw an increase.”

Now he has connected the middle class’s declining standard of living to the Fed’s monetary policies that not only feed rising prices in key middle class budget items but, even more importantly, starve the real economy of money without which we cannot have economic growth and rising middle-class incomes. Instead, the Wall Street-Washington complex’s zero interest rate policies are leading investment banks to borrow money from Washington at almost no interest and then lend it back to the government at a higher price for a tax-payer guaranteed profit.  This isn’t banking, it isn’t investment, it isn’t capitalism, and it isn’t working for the middle class.

Kudos to Huckabee for being the first to notice.

Frank Cannon is the president of American Principles in Action. Continue Reading

Huckabee Says Fix the Dollar (VIDEO)

Nick asked if former Governor Mike Huckabee understood the cure for wage stagnation.  I had a chance to ask him what he would do as President to address wage stagnation at a meet and greet event at a Pizza Ranch in Altoona, IA.

Huckabee told me:

One of the best ways to do it is to bring stabilization to the dollar.  When a dollar represents a real dollar that is a realistic way to gauge wage growth, but when it is fluctuating and a dollar is worth a dollar this week and eighty cents next week and fifty cents next week and a dollar and a quarter next week there is no way that a person who is working for a wage can keep up.  Part of the answer is still going back to the fair tax, but there is another issue that I believe is important.  We don’t need to let Democrats suck us into discussion of the minimum wage as if the best thing we can do for working people is to get them to the minimum of something.

I’ve asked people when they have said “I am for the minimum wage” – “Are you really?  That is the best you got?  What is the minimum wage you want to propose? Oh, ten dollars, can you live off of ten dollars an hour?”

And nobody says they can do it.  So I say, “If that isn’t going to let you live, let’s talk about a maximum wage, what would it take to get you to the wage you would like to earn? 

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Rubio Pitches a Flatter and Fairer Tax System

Sen. Marco Rubio (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday, Senators Marco Rubio (FL) and Mike Lee (UT) began a debate on tax-reform by questioning whether the current unemployed, underemployed, stagnant wage economy is the “new normal.”

Their pitch is a tax reform plan “built…on the simple, yet powerful truths at the heart of the free-enterprise system: that economic growth is a function of economic freedom, and that economic freedom depends on equal opportunity and fair treatment under law.”

It pitches a single-layer corporate tax structure and a two-tier (down from seven) personal income tax. While the policy portion of their plan addresses workers, wages, and enterprise makers, at its heart it also addresses the elephant in the room: the role of “government coercion, regulation and taxation” inhibiting the freedom of workers to benefit from enterprise that is sufficiently free to invest, produce, grow and hire.

It appears to be a worker-centered argument that pits taxpayer against tax-taker, and begs the question about exactly what the government does with all that money it collects? For many voters the debate over tax-reform begins right there, with a demand the government justify to those from whom it takes its spending money just what it spends (and why).

As the American Principles in Action’s GOP Autopsy of the 2012 elections shows, registered voters chose Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 37% to 27% on the key question of who could better handle the economy. In light of shrinking wages, stagnant unemployment, and lower expectations after six years of Democrat direction, will the Rubio/Lee plan make the argument for the middle class about what exactly is causing the problem in the first place? Continue Reading

Huckabee: GOP Must Talk About Stagnant Wages

On February 19, the Washington Times reported on an appearance former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee gave on Fox News’ The Kelly File the previous day. During the interview, Huckabee stated: “I also think … that my comments regarding the bottom 90 percent of American workers whose wages have been stagnant for 40 years — Republicans aren’t [talking] about that very much, and if we don’t talk about it, Hillary Clinton’s [going to] be the next president.”

You can watch the full interview here.

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Earth to GOP: Talk About Rising Costs

When it comes to economics, Republicans love talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. They cite real unemployment numbers that are far worse than what the public is told. They cite record numbers of Americans leaving the work force. They talk about cold, hard numbers.

The GOP is obsessed with talking about jobs—but why? The vast majority of voters already have a job. We also know that government doesn’t create jobs—that’s what the private sector is for—so when conservatives engage the Democrats on the jobs issue, we’re at a huge disadvantage. They get to play Santa Claus, and we’re left talking vaguely about taxes and regulations—talking points that suggest we don’t know what ordinary working families care about.

If we want to appeal to voters when we discuss economics, let’s talk about what’s impacting everyone—stagnant wages and the rapidly rising cost of living.

The phenomenon of wage stagnation has been occurring for decades—it’s actually a global phenomenon dating back to when President Nixon first pulled us off the gold standard and allowed a floating currency controlled predominantly by the unelected Federal Reserve.

That phenomenon has only worsened since the Great Recession and the advent of the Federal Reserve’s policy of zero interest rates. Wages are staying the same, and prices have been going up year after year.

Source: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Source: “Measuring Working Family Stress in Relation to the Cost of Living,” JEC.

The House Joint Economic Committee, led by Rep. Kevin Brady, created a “Working Family Stress Index” that illustrates the gap between rising prices and stagnant wages. Continue Reading

It’s Not Income Inequality, Stupid

David Shribman, editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, is worried about the GOP economic message.  In an article called  “What Isn’t Being Said About 2016,” Shribman speaks with great compassion of “the anguish Republican candidates are having in trying to figure out how to address economic issues.”  Shribman describes the problem as “conservatives struggling to address the wealth gap.”

Ah, Republicans don’t be fooled, for this, of course, puts the argument in liberal Democratic terms. The income or wealth  “gap” is not the problem voters care about.  Their problem (and ours) is the stagnation of American workers who are running harder and harder to stay in place. The only measure that matters is whether by working harder people are creating a better life for themselves and their families. You could reduce the wealth gap by cutting in half the assets of the wealthy, but that would do nothing to serve the concerns of working Americans.

Shribman’s piece is important, however, in that it points out the problem conservatives rarely acknowledge: their current economic policy mix does not directly connect with the goal of creating an opportunity society for working Americans.

Frank Cannon is president of American Principles in Action. Continue Reading