LANSING, MICH. -- Rough hands, scuffed boots, grime smudged clothes, ear plugs, eye masks, work jeans, backwards baseball caps and knit hats. These were the distinguishing characteristics of the crowd of over 300 workers who paused what they were doing to listen to Mike Huckabee stump in their manufacturing facility.
Mixing together patriotism and economic populism, Huckabee's message about Michigan as a former "arsenal of democracy" seemed to have contemporary significance at this plant, the headquarters of Demmer Corporation, which makes the parts used to armor military vehicles. Huckabee thanked the employees for their hard work, which he said helped save the lives of military soldiers everyday.
"As you work on this factory floor... the day we depend on some foreign government to produce our airplanes our tanks, our armored vehicles, our bullets, our bombs, that's the day were really not free. We are just as free as that country is willing for us to be. A lot of people talk about the loss of manufacturing jobs and some say those jobs are gone they're never coming back -- well they better come back. And here's why they better come back. Because the day we can't build our own weapons of self defense is the day that we aren't free anymore, we haven't just outsourced jobs...we have outsourced our freedom."
Huckabee also took the occasion to criticize the current tax system: "Tell me if that makes any sense: work real hard, government wants more. Don't work at all, government will give you a check. Is it any small wonder we've got some insanity in our tax laws?"
Shawn Ricks, a welder, has worked at this facility for nine months -- seven hours a week, twelve hours a day -- has never heard of the "Fair Tax" before but liked Huckabee's idea to abolish the income tax in favor of a national sales tax.
Ricks said he works a lot of overtime hours, but "Its a big issue when you work every day of the week, and you don't have anything to take home to your family," he said.
"The government gets a third of your pay, pretty much."