Monday, April 20, 2015

In A Short Line Of Heretics

Don't look for Mike Huckabee any time soon to advocate increasing Social Security benefits, cutting the age of eligibility for the program, or removing the cap on income taxable for Social Security. However

"I don't know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don't understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is," Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie's proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test. 

Huckabee said his response to such proposals is "not just no, it's you-know-what no."

"I'm not being just specifically critical of Christie but that's not a reform," he said. "That's not some kind of proposal that Republicans need to embrace because what we are really embracing at that point is we are embracing a government that lied to its people--that took money from its people under one pretense and then took it away at the time when they started wanting to actually get what they have paid for all these years."

Huckabee also said he wouldn't sign congressman Paul Ryan's plan to reform Medicare for Americans who are 55 years old and younger. "At 55, that still means if I started working, started paying in when I was 14, so for me that would be 51 years [sic] that I'd be paying in and suddenly you're telling me they're going to be changing the rules for you here."

Digby recognizes

This is very unusual for a Republican. They may not want to take that vote for cutting the program, especially since their base is very much among those who benefit from it, but they are never this unequivocal about it. It’s extremely rare for them not to issue any disclaimer about The Deficit and The Government Spending Too Much, etc, etc. To come right out and take the retirement age and means testing off the table — that actually is the “bold” and “authentic” breaking-with-conventional-wisdom for which the beltway media had already Christie all the credit.

Departing from conservative, neo-liberal, and Beltway wisdom on earned benefits is unusual, and laudable-  but not unprecedented- for Republicans. In the summer of 1998 William Saletan explained how in January of 1997 cultural warrior Gary

Bauer opened fire on the corporatists. In a New York Times op-ed, he argued that schemes to privatize Social Security would strip stay-at-home mothers of federally guaranteed benefits designed to reward them for raising children. "Why do we think the nation will be better off," Bauer asked, "by forcing workers to put their money into stock rather than, say, spending it on rearing children?"

 In April the next year, the Republican outlier spoke at the Harvard University Institute of Politics when

A student in the back of the room challenged Bauer to extend his critique of capitalism to domestic issues. He noted that Bauer had criticized advocates of Social Security privatization for undermining the nation's commitment to dependent spouses and children. Was there a "potential for realignment," the student asked, "between social conservatives and a more progressive strand of economic thinking?" Bauer smiled. "A lot of realignments are possible," he replied.

Unfortunately, Bauer never went much further, perhaps because shortly thereafter he embarked on a (inevitably doomed) effort to steal the GOP nomination for President. At the time, Bill Kristol found "The business wing of the party wants social conservatives to vote Republican, but doesn't like the idea that social conservatives might have ideas about foreign policy or tax policy. "

Kristol noted Ralph Reed "was willing to abide by that bargain. Gary isn't." Bauer economic advisor Jeff Bell added "Gary is testing the hypothesis that the pro-family movement is ready to break out. It's ready to have an economics and a foreign policy of its own."

It never was; the pro-family movement failed that test.  In retrospect, it wasn't at all surprising that "In 1995, when Bell and his colleagues presented their ideas to a Republican tax-reform commission, they found themselves outgunned by 'corporatists' who preferred tax breaks for businesses."

Saletan observed "Bauer's economic ideas flow from three principles: virtue, family, and human capital." Creating a PAC called the Campaign for Working Families, Bauer stated "I was trying to send a signal that this wouldn't be a PAC concerned about capital gains tax cuts as opposed to decent wages."

It isn't terribly surprising, either, that Mike Huckabee would be one of the two Repub presidential aspirants (the other: Lindsey Graham) to blow the whistle on Chris Christie's assault on the elderly. Bauer, whose primary causes were anti-gay rights and abortion, was nonetheless at least as interested in "decent wages" as capital gains tax cuts, unlike the GOP donor base and the vast majority of its elected officials and strategists.

Similarly, Huckabee, himself a cultural warrior who targets same-sex marriage and abortion, once referred to the Club for Growth (excerpts from its anti-Huckabee ads, below) as the Club for Greed and on a later date remarked

I kind of have a standing philosophy: If the Club for Growth hates you, I like you.

When they’re against a candidate, I’ve got to figure out — there must be a reason I will like that candidate, and most likely will go help them, because I’m just so disgusted and frustrated and tired of the mind-set of the Club for Growth.

Huckabee remains an anti-abortion extremist, ludicrously and offensively in November offensively maintaining “If you felt something incredibly powerful at Auschwitz and Birkenau over the 11 million killed worldwide and the 1.5 million killed on those grounds, cannot we feel something extraordinary about 55 million murdered in our own country in the wombs of their mothers?” Asking Christians to accept same-sex marriage, he has said, is "like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli."

The people who run the Repub Party like their candidates to oppose abortion. but not too strenuously, and they're even more uncomfortable with resistance to same-sex marriage.   (Their voters, likewise, are to oppose abortion, then move on quickly to complain about taxes on the wealthy and benefits for poor people.) They're not partial to anyone focused on virtue, family, and human capital, however they're defined.  As with the Beltway insider crowd, they're far more enthusiastic about candidates who want to undermine the social safety net.  Digby realizes

So, Chris Christie is probably very smart to be playing to the beltway crowd on this one. There’s nothing they love more than to see some loudmouth bully “tell it like it is” to most vulnerable people in our society. And, needless to say, he won’t be alone. The GOP was stung by Bush’s failure to cut the programs, and the Tea Party has not been willing to let them try it again as long as a Democrat is proposing it. Most of the other 2016 candidates are being careful, but it’s unlikely they won’t go along with a program like Paul Ryan’s latest, which is nothing more than warmed-over privatization. It’s in the Republican DNA.

Mike Huckabee, as he no doubt understands (whether or not he enters the race), will never be the GOP presidential nominee.. Even though his reason for opposing the conservative/neo-liberal anti-elderly consensus on earned benefits is less than rigorous, he is, almost as much as Gary Bauer in the last century, a man without a party.

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