Wednesday, November 07, 2007

AS Huckabee Gets Hot His Social Security Scheme Goes Unexamined

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has proposed a seemingly adventurous Social Security reform: allowing people with a certain income level to take a one-time payout.

"Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, discussed the issue at an AARP forum in Sioux City," reports The Des Moines Register. "Huckabee proposed giving retirees a one-time Social Security payout."

It's a bold headline to be sure but we are still waiting to see the fine print. And Iowans had better start asking for it.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, is developing into something of the chattering class's pick as heir to the "compassionate conservative" mantle. He's drawing more attention from political reporters, and with a solid second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames in August and recent surging poll numbers in the Hawkeye State, Huckabee could be the Republican story in Iowa on Jan. 3.

But what do we really about the substance of Mike Huckabee.

With a few exceptions -- notably a detailed parsing of his policies and actual views by Iowa Independent contributor and American Prospect senior editor Garance Franke-Ruta -- most media pieces on Huckabee have been of the stranger-in-a-stange-land variety as secular-footed writers have focused almost exclusively on his Christian faith, a just-folks political style and of course that that remarkable weight loss of more than 100 pounds. We know this Baptist minister can preach and play guitar. But how in the world will this Social Security buyout plan work? Will somebody please get past the syrup and fork around in the pancakes.

At recent events in Iowa and during debates one of Huckabee's most striking, even startling, comments has been this vague notion of the Social Security buyout. He made similar comments in a conference call with bloggers as well.

Huckabee's campaign did not return Iowa Independent's calls seeking more details on the plan, and a policy paper is either not available or not conveniently found in his promitional materials.

Others need to ask him for details, too. Mainstream media reportersand official Washington seem uninterested in the substance of hisSocial Security buyout idea. I contacted two Washington think tankswell versed in Social Security politics and neither was familiar with Huckabee's plan. Of course, if Huckabee's own buyout scheme has not moved past the scribbled-cocktail-napkin stage, no deeper analysis is possible.

But reasonable questions abound: How wealthy do you have to be to get the buyout? How will the amount of the buyout be determined? Based on yourcontributions to date? On your age? Will the buyout be subject to state and federal taxes? If so, at what level? And how would the plan affect the overall system which manyRepublicans (and a few Democrats) will not be able to support all the Baby Boomers now moving into senior citizenship?

These are all questions Huckabee should answer, particularly in Iowa, a state with a graying population where Social Security isn't just a theory, but a matter of the check's in the mail.

No comments: