CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Skeptical of politicians who have talked a good game about "fair" trade, an employee at the Nucor steel plant asked Mike Huckabee for specifics on how he would enforce it.
Before listing some general ideas he had, Huckabee pointed to his record as governor in Arkansas, which has two Nucor steel plants.
"If a guy running for president tells you what he's going to do but has never done like that before, you gotta wonder, does he have it in him to do it. If you talk to the people at Nucor in Arkansas, what they're going to tell you is when the dumping issue got really threatening to our industry, I stood up and really raised sand."
Huckabee continued, "We truly took it, not just to Washington, but tried to make people understand this was not about being protectionist, this was about making sure we didn't lose our manufacturing capacity and we didn't have people working hard in our country lose jobs because people were cheating on the other side"
Huckabee offered some general solutions to enforcing "fair" trade, and keeping manufacturing jobs: changing the tax system so American products can be competive, monitoring excessive taxation, regulation and litigation.
But Huckabee emphasized, "Everybody else running for president will tell you what they're going to do. But ask them if they've done it yet. Many they've been in Washington and they helped create the very problems that now they say they're going to solve. My question is: if they wanted to solve it, they had several opportunities. Why haven't they done it yet."
Huckabee fielded a question about how to solve the high costs of energy. Huckabee turned first to nuclear as a the "cheapest, most efficient, most effective way to generate electricity" and added hydrogen, nuclear, solar, and wind as other viable options as well.
Again bringing up his experience, Huckabee said, with two Nucor plants in one county, he understood the importance of monitoring energy prices
"If you have extraordinarily high kilowatt hour costs, it takes the margin completely off the table," observed Huckabee. "The factor of getting a job and keeping it is not often given the output of the plant, it is the cost of operating the plant through energy"
Joking, Huckabee suggested building "just put a big ol' windmill right in front of Congress and let them speak everyday, we'd have enough power to generate pretty much this plant and a bunch of others."
The last question posed by an employee at the plant involved solving the problem of Social Security.
Huckabee explained that "fewer and fewer Americans actually get their income off wages and more and more out of investments, which is why investments aren't paying the same rate as wages are. So we have a declining pool of wages going into the system, with a huge growing pool of money going out. Ten thousand baby boomers a day go into the Social Security system"
To solve that, Huckabee suggested lifting the "earning capacity" by giving people incentives to work past 65 as well as offering a one time payout for those who didn't need to depend on it over time. He also offered up the Fair Tax as a way to solve the challenge of funding Social Security.
"Under the fair tax proposal that I support, the funding no longer comes just out of specific wages but it comes out of the general fund because the consumption tax funds all of govt as a replacement for all the hidden pieces of the general taxes that we pay. That gives us a much more stable stream of financing Social Security than we currently have which is never going to be able to catch up with the growing numbers of people."