Facing the Music: TMV, Governor Huckabee and Five Questions
Earlier this year, we launched our â€œFacing the Music Projectâ€ â€“ an effort to objectively profile the major party candidates vis-Ã -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 Americaâ€™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 â€˜Public Officials of the Yearâ€™ 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 Personâ€™s Impact Award.”
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 527â€™s. What we need is transparency â€“ 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, letâ€™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 â€œbundlingâ€ 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 arenâ€™t beholden to them. Iâ€™m the candidate of Main Street, not K Street or Wall Street. Iâ€™m definitely not the first choice of the lobbyists.
I am encouraged by more people giving small amounts through the Internet — I think thatâ€™s the way to achieve â€œpublicâ€ financing of campaigns in the future. People should not be intimidated or discouraged if they canâ€™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. Donâ€™t think your $10 doesnâ€™t matter â€“ if everyone with $10 sends it in, that makes a huge difference; if everyone with $10 doesnâ€™t send it in, that makes the opposite difference. Thereâ€™s a clever TV commercial out now that chides people about â€œalmostâ€ giving to charity â€“ donâ€™t â€œalmostâ€ 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 oâ€™clock in the morning. Transparency leads to accountability. If we know that an elected official has received â€œbundlesâ€ 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 thatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing every time we pull into a gas station. Weâ€™re paying for both sides in the war on terror â€“ our side with our tax dollars, the terroristsâ€™ 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 doesnâ€™t provide for. We need safe, clean, and economical nuclear power, which this bill doesnâ€™t provide for. We need more refinery capacity, which this bill doesnâ€™t provide for. An amendment to promote refineries was rejected even though we havenâ€™t approved a new refinery in over thirty years.
I support the Senate billâ€™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 â€œalternative energyâ€ rather than â€œrenewable energyâ€ because that would include all â€œcleanâ€ 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, donâ€™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 donâ€™t emit greenhouse gases, I support â€œcap and tradeâ€ of carbon emissions. I was disappointed that the Senate rejected a â€œcarbon counterâ€ system to measure sources of emissions because that would have been an important first step toward implementing â€œcap and trade.â€
When energy shocks and crises come, we take aspirin to deal with the pain, but we donâ€™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 Americaâ€™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 weâ€™re going to have to work hard to regain it. There was a time when America was everybodyâ€™s hero. Now, weâ€™re the bully that people resent, and itâ€™s not that weâ€™re different in terms of our economic and military power. Itâ€™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, â€œYouâ€™re either with us or youâ€™re against us, itâ€™s our way or the highway,â€ we restore respect by showing respect for them, for their perspectives and points of view. Itâ€™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, itâ€™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 â€“ literally â€“ 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 Pentagonâ€™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 weâ€™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. Itâ€™s self-defeating to try to accomplish too much too soon, you just have elections where extremists win, but itâ€™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 weâ€™ve given about $10 billion to Pakistan, but less than $1 billion has been used for projects that directly help the Pakistani people â€“ things like schools, food, and medical aid.
We canâ€™t â€œexportâ€ 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. Itâ€™s a long road ahead, it will take patience and perseverance, but Iâ€™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 â€“ and we will â€“ but lose out to China economically, weâ€™ve lost our position as the worldâ€™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 canâ€™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 â€œWeapons of Mass Instruction.â€
It infuriates me when people dismiss the arts as extracurricular, extraneous, and expendable. To me, theyâ€™re essential. What would happen if an art teacher puts a paintbrush in a young boyâ€™s hand, and he discovers his God-given talent? Inside every child, there are treasures to find. Educationâ€™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.
Itâ€™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 oneâ€™s imagination and dreams. Letâ€™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 donâ€™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