Facing the Music: TMV, Governor Huckabee and Five Questions

Earlier this year, we launched our “Facing the Music Project” – an effort to objectively profile the major party candidates vis-à-vis their positions on five broad policy questions. Those questions were suggested by TMV readers and intentionally focus on core governance issues rather than social/cultural issues. Pete Abel published Congressman Ron Paul’s profile a while ago already, I contacted – among others – the Huckabee campaign and he (and his staff) proved more than willing to cooperate with TMV on this. Instead of sending links – which is quite good as well of course – the Governor decided to answer the questions directly.

Mike Huckabee was Governor of the state of Arkansas (born in Hope) from 1996 to 2007 and decided to run for president because “he feels the country needs a reawakening and a leadership to address an array of issues, including how to improve the nation’s infrastructure, education system, environmental policy and failing health care system.” His plan for America, “his optimistic vision for what America can become,” was released in January this year: “From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STOPS to Restoring America’s Greatness.”

Whether one agrees with all of his ideas or not, one thing is clear: Huckabee was a great Governor. “Governing Magazine named him as one of its ‘Public Officials of the Year’ for 2005, Time Magazine honored him as one of the five best governors in America, and later in the same year, Huckabee received the American Association of Retired Person’s Impact Award.”

Lastly, his website is Mike Huckabee.com. Here you can read all about the Governor (also be sure to check out the Huckabee blog).

Editorial Note:We are starting to receive more responses now and rather than wait until this fall as last indicated, we’ll now publish them as we receive them.

TMV – Health Care: Do you believe the federal government has a role to play in universal health care, and if so, what type of program would you recommend, to simultaneously ensure coverage and control costs?
Governor Huckabee: I don’t support federally-mandated universal health care because it would create too much government control.

We don’t have a health care crisis in this country, we have a health crisis. About 75% of the $2 trillion we spend on health care is spent on chronic disease, most of which could be prevented by not smoking, eating healthier diets, and exercising. These three lifestyle changes could prevent 40% of cancers, 80% of type-2 diabetes, and 80% of heart disease. Prevention would help contain an enormous source of our spiraling health-care costs. But much more than money is at stake here. If we continue on the path we’re on now, with our epidemic of childhood obesity, one-third of our children will become diabetics, not to mention the increased cancers and heart disease brought on by obesity. For the first time in our history, we’re looking at a generation that may have a shorter life span than their parents.

Besides prevention, we need early diagnosis and more consistent, cost-effective management of chronic disease to save both lives and money. Right now our health system is delighted to pay $30,000 for a diabetic to have his foot amputated, but if he spends $150 for a podiatrist visit that will save his foot, his claim is denied. We have to change our coverage to avoid the catastrophic outcomes that the system now grimly dictates. We also have to waive deductibles and co-pays for screenings (such as mammograms, PSA tests, and colonoscopies) that lead to early detection, less invasive treatments, and achievable cures.

The Democrats arguing for socialized medicine falsely claim that the free market isn’t working. But the reality is that the free market hasn’t been given a chance. Our current employer-based system, which was originally adopted as a way around wage-and-price controls during World War II and has outlived its usefulness, doesn’t let the free market function. The overwhelming share of the cost is picked up by the employer, while the person actually receiving the health care, the employee, pays a small fraction of the bill and often doesn’t even know what the total cost is. Whenever the person using something and the person paying for it are not the same, whenever something is essentially free, more of it is going to be consumed.

The employer-based system doesn’t just distort the free market our economy is based on, it makes our goods more expensive at home and less competitive on the world market. Right now, General Motors spends more on health insurance than on steel, about $1,500 a car. We have to move from an employer-based system to a consumer-based system of portable health insurance that belongs to us, not our employers, and can’t be lost when we change jobs, start our own businesses, or take time off to care for children or elderly parents. The employer-based system infringes on our basic freedoms and holds us back from living our lives the way we choose. With a consumer-based system, we have some skin in the game, some incentives to stay healthy and not take every MRI we possibly can, so that we’ll have tax-free money coming back to us from our health savings accounts.

Socialized medicine would be a disaster for the doctor-patient relationship we cherish. It will replace that relationship with a national institute that will dictate our treatment. Some procedures, such as lumbar fusion, work in some circumstances and not in others. That’s why individual determinations have to be made by patients and their doctors, why we have to be treated as individuals, not statistics. But if the national institute decides not to cover a procedure because it doesn’t work for everyone, that determination will apply across the board. They won’t look at our x-rays and records, they won’t consider our individual circumstances. Besides lumbar fusion, other procedures likely to be refused are knee replacements and preventive angioplasty. We must retain our personal relationship with doctors who will give us options, not be forced into an impersonal relationship with bureaucrats in Washington who will take them away. We can’t own our health if we don’t own our health care.

If we focus on wellness rather than sickness, if we move from an outmoded employer-based system to a forward-looking consumer-based system, we can maintain our state-of-the-art standard of private medical care, expand coverage, and control costs.

TMV – Ethics, Election/Campaign Reform: What proposals would you support to reduce the influence of special interests (both during campaigns and while in office) and protect the integrity of elections?
Governor Huckabee: Every time we change campaign finance laws, we then find ways around them, such as creating entire new entities like the 527’s. What we need is transparency – not so much worrying about how much special interests can give, but making sure that we know who is channelling how much money to whom. Instead of trying to achieve some Platonic ideal in our campaign laws and threatening First Amendment rights, let’s focus on achieving full disclosure. With the $2300 maximum donation for presidential primaries and the same for the general election, we now have lobbyists and other special interests “bundling” contributions and turning over huge amounts to candidates. They get credit from the candidates for raising this money from others, just as they used to get credit for giving large amounts themselves. We need this bundling to be made transparent.

The best way to reduce the influence of special interests is to support candidates who aren’t beholden to them. I’m the candidate of Main Street, not K Street or Wall Street. I’m definitely not the first choice of the lobbyists.

I am encouraged by more people giving small amounts through the Internet — I think that’s the way to achieve “public” financing of campaigns in the future. People should not be intimidated or discouraged if they can’t give $2300. When I was elected Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, the average contribution to my campaign was $9! If you believe in a candidate, give what you can, give a little bit every month or every quarter. Don’t think your $10 doesn’t matter – if everyone with $10 sends it in, that makes a huge difference; if everyone with $10 doesn’t send it in, that makes the opposite difference. There’s a clever TV commercial out now that chides people about “almost” giving to charity – don’t “almost” give to the candidate you like, take your credit card out of your wallet and head to your computer.

Just as transparency is the key during campaigns, it is the same while officials are in office. If someone is going to propose an earmark, he should be proud to offer it in his name, not stealthily drop it in the hopper at two o’clock in the morning. Transparency leads to accountability. If we know that an elected official has received “bundles” of contributions from a special interest and then works to advance their agenda at the expense of what he promised as a candidate, his constituents can hold him accountable.

Every expenditure in the federal budget should be on the Internet, so people know exactly how the government is spending our money and what everything costs. We should be able to go online and check the utility bills at the White House.

The Internet is a powerful and positive tool for fundraising and for opening up the books of both campaigns and the government to easy scrutiny.

In terms of protecting the integrity of elections, I think that there should be a paper record of electronic voting in case it is needed for recounts or audits.

TMV – Energy/Environment: How would you suggest that America reduce its dependence on oil and mitigate our contributions to global warming?
Governor Huckabee: Energy independence has become a national security issue, it is part of the war on terror. None of us would write a check to Osama bin Laden, slip it in a Hallmark card, and send it off to him. But that’s what we’re doing every time we pull into a gas station. We’re paying for both sides in the war on terror – our side with our tax dollars, the terrorists’ side with our gas dollars. The first thing I will do as President is send Congress my comprehensive energy plan. We will achieve energy independence by the end of my second term.

We have to explore, we have to conserve, and we have to pursue all avenues of alternative energy: nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, clean coal, biodiesel, and biomass. Some will come from our farms and some will come from our laboratories. Dwindling supplies and increasing demand for fossil fuels from newly-industrialized countries are driving up prices. These price increases will facilitate innovation and the opportunity for independence. We will remove red tape that slows innovation. We will set aside a federal R&D budget that will be matched by the private sector to seek the best new products in alternative fuels. Our free market will sort out what makes the most sense economically and will reward consumer preferences.

While I want to reduce our dependence on oil, I especially want to reduce our dependence on imported oil as fully and quickly as possible. The energy bill just passed by the Senate is not well-rounded in that it focuses on conservation without also increasing exploration of our own resources. We need both conservation and exploration to reduce our use of imported oil as we develop alternative sources of energy. We need to get oil and gas from ANWR and our continental shelves, which this bill doesn’t provide for. We need safe, clean, and economical nuclear power, which this bill doesn’t provide for. We need more refinery capacity, which this bill doesn’t provide for. An amendment to promote refineries was rejected even though we haven’t approved a new refinery in over thirty years.

I support the Senate bill’s increase in fuel economy standards to an average of 35 MPG by 2020 as long overdue. We need more flex-fuel cars that can run on biodiesel or on E85, which is 85% ethanol, and the pumps to serve them. Right now we have six million such vehicles, but only 2,000 pumps for those fuels in a country with 170,000 gas stations. We need more hybrids and more work on hydrogen cells.

I was disappointed that the final Senate bill eliminated the requirement that 15% of our electricity be generated by renewable energy by 2020. About half our states already have such renewable energy standards. I would expand these standards to provide for “alternative energy” rather than “renewable energy” because that would include all “clean” sources, letting us add clean coal and nuclear to the mix. That would keep prices down for consumers, be fair to parts of the country that, for example, don’t have a lot of wind, and allow us to raise the standards to an even higher percentage.

With respect to mitigating our contribution to global warming, besides switching to sources that don’t emit greenhouse gases, I support “cap and trade” of carbon emissions. I was disappointed that the Senate rejected a “carbon counter” system to measure sources of emissions because that would have been an important first step toward implementing “cap and trade.”

When energy shocks and crises come, we take aspirin to deal with the pain, but we don’t address the underlying symptoms. Our oil addiction is killing us. We have to stop popping pain pills and get ourselves cured.

TMV – Foreign Policy: What type of foreign policy would you endorse, to restore respect for America’s global leadership and help us work effectively with other leading nations to mitigate the threat of terrorism and stabilize the Middle East?
Governor Huckabee: We have squandered a lot of our international prestige, and we’re going to have to work hard to regain it. There was a time when America was everybody’s hero. Now, we’re the bully that people resent, and it’s not that we’re different in terms of our economic and military power. It’s a difference in our attitude, the way we throw our weight around. We have to walk tall again without swaggering or strutting. Rather than tell other countries, “You’re either with us or you’re against us, it’s our way or the highway,” we restore respect by showing respect for them, for their perspectives and points of view. It’s amazing what a little humility and a little less arrogance would do in that regard.

We have to get on the path to energy independence so we can choose our friends based on the character of their governments, not the chemicals in their ground. Oil has not just shaped our foreign policy, it’s deformed it. When I make foreign policy, I want to treat Saudi Arabia the same way I treat Sweden, and that requires us to be energy independent. These folks have had us over a barrel – literally – for way too long.

I will work with other leading nations to mitigate the threat of terrorism and stabilize the Middle East by fighting this war smart as well as hard, using all our political, economic, diplomatic, and intelligence weapons as well as our military might. Terror cells are conducive to being tracked down and eliminated by using the CIA and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command. We can accomplish a great deal, we can achieve tremendous bang for the buck, with swift, surgical air strikes and commando raids by our elite units, working with friendly governments, as we’ve done with the Ethiopians in Somalia. These operations are impossible without first-rate intelligence. When the Cold War ended, we cut back on our human intelligence, just as we cut back on our armed forces, and both have come back to haunt us. I will beef up our human intelligence capacity, both the operatives who gather information and the analysts who figure out what it means.

Our biggest challenge in the Arab and Muslim worlds is the lack of a viable alternative between existing repressive governments that stay in power by force and torture (many of which we support, either with our oil money, like Saudi Arabia, or with our foreign aid, like Egypt, our second largest recipient) and the radical Islamists, who are willing to fight these repressive forces with terrorist tactics that moderate forces are unwilling to use. The long-term solution to terror is to ally with and empower moderates in the region.

My goal is to correctly calibrate a course between maintaining stability and promoting democracy. It’s self-defeating to try to accomplish too much too soon, you just have elections where extremists win, but it’s equally self-defeating to do nothing because repressive governments breed terror. We have to attack the underlying conditions that spawn terrorists, by creating schools that offer an alternative to the extremist madrassas that take impressionable children and turn them into killers, by creating jobs and opportunity and hope, by encouraging a free press and other institutions that promote democracy. For example, since 9/11 we’ve given about $10 billion to Pakistan, but less than $1 billion has been used for projects that directly help the Pakistani people – things like schools, food, and medical aid.

We can’t “export” democracy, but we can nurture moderates in all the countries where Al Qaeda seeks to replace modern evil with medieval evil. Initially, the success of moderation may not look like or function exactly like our system, it may be more of a benevolent oligarchy, it may be more tribal than individualistic, but both for us and for the people of those countries, it will be better than either the dictatorships they have now or the theocracy they would have under the Islamists. It’s a long road ahead, it will take patience and perseverance, but I’m anxious to get started and optimistic about the long-term outcome.

TMV – Education: What steps would you recommend to (a) improve public education in the United States and (b) make college more affordable/accessible?
Governor Huckabee: I believe that public education, like energy independence, has become a national security issue. Our national security depends on retaining our economic superiority as much as our military superiority. If we win the war on terror – and we will – but lose out to China economically, we’ve lost our position as the world’s only superpower.

The 21st century will belong to the creative, they will thrive and prosper, both as
individuals and as societies. The creative ones will be the competitive ones. How do we nurture something as elusive as creativity? We can’t teach it the way we do state capitals and multiplication tables. We do it by offering art and music to all our students, all the way through school. So the secret weapons for becoming creative and competitive are art and music, our “Weapons of Mass Instruction.”

It infuriates me when people dismiss the arts as extracurricular, extraneous, and expendable. To me, they’re essential. What would happen if an art teacher puts a paintbrush in a young boy’s hand, and he discovers his God-given talent? Inside every child, there are treasures to find. Education’s Job One in the 21st century must be to unlock those treasures.

Studies have shown a direct correlation between quality music education and higher English and math scores, up to one-third higher. Music develops both sides of the brain and the capacity to think in the abstract. Music teaches students how to learn, and that skill is transferable to learning foreign languages, algebra, or history.

Art and music also keep children in school. There is an established correlation between engagement in the arts and dropout rates. But we have to do even more to bring down the 30% dropout rate. We need to transform our schools, especially at the high school level. I have a plan that will virtually eliminate dropouts, raise standards, yet save so much money that we can strengthen early learning, reduce college costs, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

It’s called personalized learning. I want to put each child at the center of his education, so that his learning reflects his interests and aspirations. With the help of his teachers, parents, and community, each student drafts a learning plan. He studies a core curriculum for part of the day, but beyond that, he is encouraged to integrate his personal passions and career ambitions into credits toward graduation. What has traditionally been extracurricular becomes part of his custom-made curriculum and a source of academic credit. A student who takes karate gets gym credit. A student who plays in a rock band gets music credit. A student intern at a newspaper gets English credit. The opportunities are as limitless as each one’s imagination and dreams. Let’s remove the walls and roof of the classroom and realize that it encompasses the entire community; with the Internet, it now encompasses the entire world.

With respect to making college more accessible and affordable, we need to make certain that students are well-prepared when they enter college, so that they don’t require remedial education, which is repeating high school classes at college costs. Right now almost half of students need remedial classes. As Governor of Arkansas, I instituted a seamless curriculum from pre-school through college, so that instead of a disconnect between high school and college level work, our students could make a smooth transition. I also instituted one of the most demanding high school curricula in the country, which caused the number of students taking advanced placement classes to grow by leaps and bounds. When students enter college with AP credits, they get their degrees faster and less expensively. We made college more accessible by offering a two-year institution within driving distance of all our citizens and by dramatically increasing distance learning in both two and four-year institutions. We invested heavily in our scholarship programs for high-achieving graduates because we knew that we would ultimately get back $4 for every $1 we spent because of the better jobs those students would get. We also had a successful program that helped poor parents attend college by providing financial aid, child care, transportation stipends, and counseling. As President, I would encourage all states to do what I did as Governor to make college more accessible and affordable.

We thank the Governor for his cooperation.

Earlier in this series:
Congressman Ron Paul

Author: michaelvdg

  • http://lonewacko.com/ LonewackoDotCom

    I’m sure the Huckster was glad to answer these questions since they were so easy. Harder questions might ask about the immigration issue, such as what links he has to LULAC, Tyson Foods, and other chicken processors. How much in donations has he received from the latter? Why did he ask VicenteFox to build yet another Mexican outpost in his state, when he has to know that they use their outposts to promote IllegalImmigration? Does he support the MexicanGovernment using their consulates to pass out ID cards to those they know to be IllegalAliens?

    If you want to continue with the questions above, let me suggest researching the candidate first and asking similar but custom-made questions designed to make them defend their positions, rather than simply state what they are.

  • http://tutakai.typepad.com/tutakai/ Jason Steck

    If you want to continue with the questions above, let me suggest researching the candidate first and asking similar but custom-made questions designed to make them defend their positions, rather than simply state what they are.


    Yeah, Michael. Why didn’t you just do a hatchet job instead of asking about issues? Unbelievable.


  • kritter

    Oh well. Can’t please everyone. Those questions would have just put Huckabee on the defensive and forced him to clam up.

    I think it will be very helpful to compare and contrast the candidates’ answers – once a few more of them answer.

  • http://itsthe21stcenturystupid.wordpress.com Jim Satterfield

    Huckabee says he’s not popular with lobbyists but his answer to the health care question certainly seems like an industry lobbyist’s dream answer. Notice that he doesn’t say a word about how the individuals are supposed to afford the cost of the health care that he would have them assume so that they “appreciate” how much health care really costs. Does he understand how much many Americans really make?

  • kimrit

    So, what’s so new about another conservative who’s cozy with the business community while chosing to screw the consumer?

    He also has not broken away from the Bush policy in Iraq.

    He seems like a genuinely nice, compassionate guy though.

  • domajot

    He lost me when he said there was no health care crisis.
    I don’t really care what else he has to say.

  • jammer

    He lost me when he said he did not subscribe to the theory of evolution in the Repub early debate. Some things are just not negotiable.

  • http://www.shortwoman.com ShortWoman

    Well, it is true that employer-based health insurance is part of the problem (short circuits market forces, stifles entrepreneurship, creates a system where people without employers like children are likely to be uninsured). I used to believe that if we all bought our own insurance that things would get better, and maybe it was so 5 or 10 years ago. But the time is long since passed when that would be a complete cure. And I’m sorry, how does he propose we keep people from smoking, make them eat healthier diets, and make them exercise? That sounds like beyond “socialized” and right into the realm of “communist.”

  • Lynx

    Socialized medicine would be a disaster for the doctor-patient relationship we cherish. It will replace that relationship with a national institute that will dictate our treatment. Some procedures, such as lumbar fusion, work in some circumstances and not in others. That’s why individual determinations have to be made by patients and their doctors, why we have to be treated as individuals, not statistics. But if the national institute decides not to cover a procedure because it doesn’t work for everyone, that determination will apply across the board. They won’t look at our x-rays and records, they won’t consider our individual circumstances. Besides lumbar fusion, other procedures likely to be refused are knee replacements and preventive angioplasty. We must retain our personal relationship with doctors who will give us options, not be forced into an impersonal relationship with bureaucrats in Washington who will take them away. We can’t own our health if we don’t own our health care.

    Clearly he hasn’t actually studied countries with socialized medicine. I don’t go to a government clerk when I feel sick, I go to my General Practitioner, and your GP is always the same one unless they retire or are transfered or you request another one (you don’t need to justify it, they’ll change your GP in 10 minutes on request). The GP then decides what kind of tests are needed and specialists what kind of treatment adequate. Not everyone gets the same treatment, you get the treatment the doctors consider most adapted to your needs. No, not everything is available always, you think your basic employer insurance covers all possible treatments? Yeah, keep hopin’.

  • http://lonewacko.com/ LonewackoDotCom

    The last thing we should do is ask people like the Huckster tough questions designed to reveal his many glaring faults. After all, asking him about things he’s actually done might reveal just how unqualified he is. What we should just do is ask them easy questions, and then allow them to read what’s already probably on their websites.


  • Sam

    Great questions, good answers even though I don’t agree with him on alot, especially his answer to healthcare. I’m really surprised we got any response at all.

  • Kevin H

    I’m thankful for such a thoughtful response. Here are my reactions.

    I like his stance on preventative care. I think it’s a way to both save money and help people, a win-win. However then he argues that employer based coverage leads to too many services being used. This seems to be a bit of a contradiction. Is more upfront care cheaper in the long run or not? Without proposing some way to distinguish ‘preventative care’ from ‘over-consumption’ I think his plan becomes more rhetoric than substance.

    Ethics: I like the idea of transparency. I’m not exactly sure how it would be achieved but at least I don’t see any contradictions here. I think he’s right that the internet can help solve a lot of these problems.

    Energy: Overall, pretty good. He doesn’t specify where the money needed for new research will come from, but that isn’t a deal breaker. Cap and trade, improved emissions standards, and expanding nuclear-energy projects are all things I support.

    Foreign Policy: Ok. At first I thought he was just going to restate is energy policy and say ‘one day we can have a better foreign policy’ and then forget about today

    Education: Well, sounds good, maybe a little too good. Personalized curriculum doesn’t come cheap. Without highly motivated teachers who don’t have to look after 150 kids, I just don’t think it would work. Maybe a better history of his work in Arkansas would help me here. And again, where does the money come from?

    Overall, he seemed better that I would have thought, so I went to his website to find out more about him, thinking I might even give him $10. However there were a number of issues in which he is so far away from my line of thinking that I can’t say I support him at all.

    Assault Weapons Ban: He’s against it. Makes no sense to me. If the federal government suddenly decided to become tyranical, we would take a que from terrorists and fight them mostly with explosives, not assault weapons. And until that day, they are more danger than protection.

    Immigration: very confusing, makes me think he’s not very serious of a thinker and more a one-line type guy.

    I oppose the current immigration bill that the Senate is considering because it offers amnesty.

    but then later….

    I am opposed to amnesty – I believe that those who came here illegally years ago and are now law-abiding taxpayers must pay a significant fine as admission of their guilt and have a choice of deportation or a rigorous process toward legal status.

    Isn’t that pretty close to what the most recent Senate Bill included?

    Gay Rights: This is a basic human rights issue to me. His stance is completely unacceptable to me.

    Abortion: I could be ok with a ‘each state should decide for themselves’ although I think it is such a divisive issue in our country that it should probably be decided on a county by county basis. However, his belief that there should be a constitutional amendment banning abortion is unacceptable in my mind.

    Taxes: Very Alaskan. Small of a government as possible. While line item veto would help, I don’t believe it is politically feasible to get a consitutional amendment, nor powerful enough to end the deficit, let alone reduce the budget without cutting programs. So which programs does he want to cut? I’m worried he would cut taxes first and try to reduce spending later Also, I don’t like the FairTax for various reasons which I won’t go in to here.

    overall not my favorite candidate.