The Corner

Huckabee and Seniors

Eliana Johnson reports that senior citizens are one of the groups that Governor Mike Huckabee will be targeting in his newly launched presidential bid. That strategy helps to explain this passage from his announcement speech today:

Some propose that to save safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we need to chop off the payouts for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politicians promising that their money would be waiting for them when they were old and sick. 

You were forced to pay for Social Security and Medicare for 50 years.  The government grabs money from our paychecks and says it will be waiting for us when we turn 65.   If Congress wants to take away someone’s retirement, let them end their own Congressional pensions-not your Social Security.  As President, I promise you will get what you paid for! 

Another campaign promise from Huckabee, though, seems to be at cross-purposes with his ambition to court seniors. He reiterated his support for the FairTax, a national sales tax that would replace the income and payroll tax. Under this tax, seniors who spent their working years funding the government through their income and payroll taxes would now also be paying sales taxes as they spent their accumulated savings. It is possible to defend this effect of a national sales tax, but it doesn’t sit easily with Huckabee’s pro-senior rhetoric.

Other forms of consumption tax wouldn’t hit seniors as hard. The flat-tax plans several other candidates will probably be touting would not, for example. If I were one of those other candidates, I’d be tempted to call Huckabee’s tax plan a massive, if backdoor, cut in the value of seniors’ Social Security checks.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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