For a guy with some patently unserious ideas about how the country should be run, Mike Huckabee sure has come a long way. His easy-going charm and savvy one-liners have made him a hit with the press. That's why his comedy act gets so much play, while the underpinnings of his proposals get so little scrutiny. Take his "fair tax" plan, which he sells under the pretense that the number thirty is equal to the number twenty-three. This is something that a caveman with an abacus can refute, but the press examines it and says things like:
It is not the same as a normal sales tax, however. Under the proposal, the tax is included first. That means a $100 item would cost $130, or 30 percent more. The plan's supporters say that works out as a 23 percent rate because $30 is 23 percent of $130.
Some people say something, so it must be just as important and just as right as all the people who say the correct thing.
But from time to time, actual, real-life scrutiny gets paid to the claims of our presidential contenders. And in Friday's Washington Post, on page A08, someone finally takes on another Mike Huckabee claim: that he created a "record number of jobs" while governor of Arkansas. Here's what they found:
According to the Labor Department, 113,900 new jobs were created in Arkansas between 1996 and 2006. That compares with 206,100 new jobs from 1986 to 1996 and 141,400 from 1976 to 1986.
Looks like a record low number of jobs, doesn't it? Well, here's the explanation from Camp Huck:
I put that question to his spokeswoman, Kirsten Fedewa, who replied: "2005 had the highest job growth since 1976 (the first year for which the Bureau of Labor has statistics online). The peak was July 2004 to July 2005, with 49,257 new jobs in that 12-month period. Under Governor Huckabee, Arkansas also hit its lowest ever unemployment mark (4.1 percent) and had considerably the lowest average unemployment in the past 30 years."
So, Huckabee had one pretty good year in a decade, so that's the figure that makes the campaign balance sheet. Just yesterday, David Broder singled Huckabee out for his great "executive" experience. But this is pretty weak management, even for Enron standards.