A Look Back at Governor Huckabee’s 2008 Presidential Campaign Platform

Mike Huckabee is known as the longest serving Republican governor of Arkansas, a social conservative, and for his former talk shows on cable news and the radio. He ran in the 2008 Republican Presidential primary where he won the Iowa caucuses that January but ultimately withdrew from the contest in March. This May he formally announced his candidacy for a second run. His campaign website includes specific policy proposals, including support for a Balanced Budget Amendment, replacing the income tax with a national sales tax known as the FairTax, securing the border, and “rebuild[ing] America’s military superiority”. While we are still analyzing the potential costs of Huckabee’s platform (and those of the other 2016 candidates), in 2008 NTUF conducted a review of the potential budgetary impacts of his campaign proposals that year.

On net, his 2008 agenda would have increased outlays by $54.2 billion, based on three proposals to reduce spending and 14 to increase spending. In addition Huckabee’s platform included 22 items whose costs could not be determined.

Highlights include:

  • The largest item on his 2008 agenda was a proposal to increase defense outlays to 6 percent of GDP. At the time, outlays stood at 3.9 percent of GDP. Assuming a phase-in over five years, this would have increased spending by $50 billion annually (although he did not specify a time frame). This proposal constituted nearly 93 percent of his spending agenda. By way of reference, defense spending currently comprises 3.3 percent of GDP.

  • The largest savings item would have eliminated the Tax Code and replaced it with the FairTax. Based on 2008 figures, this would have reduced outlays by $12.2 billion per year for funding of the Internal Revenue Service and outlays for “refundable” tax credits. (The most recent estimate finds $19.3 billion in savings.)

  • His health care platform included medical liability reform, which would have saved $890 million annually from federal health insurance programs, as well as several items with unknown costs, such as: health care portability, preventive care, and tax credits for the purchase of health insurance (which, in order to target low-income earners, would likely be provided as “refundable credits” above and beyond a filer’s tax liability.)

  • He supported a “cap and trade” program as a way to take “serious and aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gases.” Such a program would establish a federal entity to auction emission allowances, the receipts of which would be counted in the budget as revenues, similar to taxes. A Congressional Budget Office report from April of 2008 – after Huckabee was no longer in the race – estimated that the cap-and-trade program proposed in S. 2191, the America's Climate Security Act of 2007, would have increase revenues by $304.3 billion over five years, and increased spending by $280.9 billion for energy assistance, worker training, research, and additional programs. Huckabee later clarified that he supports a “voluntary cap and trade”.

  • Proposals for homeland and border security were scored at $745 million annually, including funding for port and chemical security, mandatory E-Verify, and the state Criminal Alien Assistance Program ($560 million).

The complete analysis, as originally released during the 2008 primary season, is available here.