Diary

Blogging the Right Thing: Let Them Buy Stocks

Chapter 8 of “Do the Right Thing” actually comes from a line Huckabee wishes he’d shouted out in a debate in response to Mitt Romney’s suggestion that buying High Yield stocks was an economic solution.

Huckabee argues that Republicans have become economically out of touch. “We had people leading us who knew the country club, but not Sam’s Club.”

Of charges of populism, Huckabee writes, “What I was actually doing was pretty simple: acknowledging there would be a war if people continued to work their rears off for a declining standard of living. I’d rather be a populist than a pompous patrician who had no idea how hard the struggle was for many Americans and how much fear lived in the hearts of folks who wondered if Friday would be the day the boss got a multimillion-dollar buyout and they got the pink slips and they lost their payouts and pensions. These weren’t phony fears and I was shocked that a stage full of people wanting to be president seemed generally clueless about them.”

Huckabee repeats his “Club for Growth=Club for Greed” message. Huckabee explains this came because of The Club’s “willingness to take money from donors and then target candidates’ political agenda, not necessarily letting an honest assessment of the candidate’s record get in their way.” Of course, Huckabee never explains what he means by this, but the blogger Nuke Gingrich did some thorough research tying the CFG attacks to Steve Stephens, an ultra-rich Arkansas businessman who crossed swords with Huckabee. It’d be nice if Huckabee had tried to explain this, but I don’t think he wanted to spend two pages connecting CFG and Steve Stephens and explaining the whole rivalry.

 

On CEO pay, Huckabee is clear (I believe he makes the statement about three times)  that he doesn’t want the government to control CEO Salaries, but that he wants to see leadership from within the corporate boardroom. One egregious practice Huckabee criticizes is the lack of independence in compensation decisions. He points to a $400 million retirement package received by the Chairman of Exxon Mobile. Huckabee writes, “In ExxonMobil case, the Chairman and CEO served on Chase Manhattan’s board of directors when it awarded Chase’s CEO a generous retirement package. In an enormous conflict of interest, Chase’s CEO was on ExxonMobil’s board and returned the favor when the $400 million package was awarded. We must have truly independent compensation systems to protect shareholders and the general public, who ultimately pay for these exorbitant packages in the form of higher prices.”

Huckabee also calls for pension reform beginning with “reversing legislation that has allowed companies to move assets out of their pension plans to artificially inflate both the company’s perceived performance and its stock price.”

On trade, Huckabee acknowledges that Protectionism is not the answer and that globalization has generally been a blessing for Americans. He argues for some basic actions to help those Americans hurt by the process by a list of solutions that “could be loved only by a real government wonk.” They are: “unifying the Unemployment Insurance Program and the Trade Adjustment Assistance to better aid with wage insurance, retraining, portable health insurance, and relocation assistance; providing block grants to the states to come up with their own flexible and creative programs, since they know best the challenges faced by their workers, businesses, and communities; expanding the current limited deductibility of education and training expenses; providing business tax credits for the increase of costs when they expand their education and training facilities beyond their own workers, such as to high school students fulfilling their personalized learning plans or those in community colleges; expanding efforts to help our businesses under international standards, including lean management and quality assurance techniques; re-establishing a workable Safeguard Mechanism within the World Trade Organization.”

He also says that it’s time for America to take actions against Chinese violations of trade rules. China engages in currency manipulation so that its goods are less expensive. Huckabee calls for using countervailing duties to offset China’s actions and against all other nations that break trade rules that the U.S. follows.

Some people may opt to call Huckabee’s proposal socialism or economic liberalism, but with most Americans, it will sound like common sense to not let companies raid pension funds, or to refuse to let countries get away with unfair trade practices that hurt American companies.

If there’s one criticism of this chapter I’d offer (other than that massive sentence I quoted earlier should have been broken up), it is that Huckabee’s writing about education policy was sparse. Huckabee spent a whole two paragraphs discussing the issue. He laid out a very innovative idea of individualized education programs, but did not explain how he would bring this about, particularly given his explanation in a previous chapter, that the President is not in charge of setting eighth grade curriculum.  I’d like much more information than was laid out in this book.