What Gov. Mike Huckabee Got Right


new-PhilHHow little do the presidential candidates think about housing policy as a major issue? Well, recently there was a forum in New Hampshire designed to spotlight the presidential candidates’ views on housing issues. However, the leading contenders from both parties ignored the forum, with low-polling Martin O’Malley arriving as the sole Democrat on the stage along with a handful of C-list Republicans that are polling in the low single digits.

But one of the candidates on that forum was the surprise star of that event, if only because he displayed a sense of cogent commentary that has not been evident in this campaign: former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, better known for his provocative comments on hot-button social issues like same-sex marriage and using Obamacare to pay for birth control pills, offered a wise insight on housing policy concerns.

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When asked why there has been so little national political attention and mainstream media focus on the lack of affordable housing options, Huckabee broke a taboo by noting the political and the media elite are among the nation’s wealthiest and have no clue on how the low- and middle-income Americans live. Indeed, Huckabee hit a bulls-eye here – especially when one considers how little political and media attention go into serious discussion of poverty or wage stagnation. To his credit, Huckabee connected the struggles faced by many Americans with the lack of serious economic vibrancy.

“Half the people renting in America spend 30 percent or more of their income on their housing costs,” Huckabee said. “Every time someone is marginalized in the economy it affects the rest of the economy.”

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Huckabee, who has been a strong critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and an advocate of a smaller federal government, called on taking the regulatory oversight of the financial services world out of Washington and returning it to those who “have a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground.” Translated, that means putting the responsibility with the states.

“We need to keep more of the regulation closer to the people being regulated,” he said. “I will always believe that the best government is the most local government that is humanly possible.”

This makes a great deal of sense, considering the multiple layers of regulations that burden companies trying to work with consumers. And maybe it is time to openly question why we need both federal and state regulatory oversight – one or the other makes more sense, rather than the weird mix of duplicate and contradictory rules coming from Washington and the statehouses.

Huckabee also mixed the all-but-ignored question of housing with the anything-but-ignored question of immigration reform.

“If a couple of hundred thousand people come to the United States, isn’t it going to be more difficult to find housing for the people we add?” he asked. “People who are in the country without food and shelter ought to be our highest priority in the country.”

Huckabee broke another taboo with that last statement: he contradicted the prevalent but rather silly idea that immigrants will magically increase the homeownership rate. Indeed, how is that going to happen – especially when we are talking about the millions of illegal immigrants who are lucky enough to have a roof over their head after working long hours for putrid low wages?

Sadly, Huckabee’s remarks were mostly ignored beyond the forum audience. And while his presidential candidacy is getting relatively little attention, his comments on housing affirm that there is at least one presidential candidate who can look beyond the zingers and sound bites and appreciate that there is a major problem that no one wants to acknowledge.

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