WASHINGTON -- In a year when the slumping economy is the dominating concern among voters, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says that moral issues in politics are as important as ever.
"People say this is not a year where we ought to be talking about social issues," Huckabee said today at the Values Voter Summit, conference hosted by the socially conservative Family Research Council. However, he said, "We need to understand there is a direct correlation between the stability of families and the stability of our economy."
The financial meltdown on Wall Street that sparked the recession was "not a money crisis, it was a moral crisis," Huckabee said. Financial institutions were allowed to function like casinos, he continued, and "if they lose, you the taxpayer pays for it and the governmnet breaks both your legs to pay for it."
The moral crisis extends far beyond Wall Street, the former -- and possibly future -- Republican presidential contender said. Referring to the newly released, sobering poverty statistics, Huckabee said, "The real reason we have proverty is we have a breakdown of the basic family structure."
Meanwhile, Huckabee said, the Tea Party has caught fire because of the "language breakdown" between leaders in Washington and American families.
"That's why this election year is so very important for us," he said -- to provide a "backstop" against President Obama's "extreme agenda."
"I think it's going to be a great time for us to convene those death panels and finally offer a lethal injection to the kind of arrogance" seen in Washington, Huckabee continued.
While Democrats have cast Republicans as the "party of 'no,'" Huckabee said they are in fact the party of "know"
"We know that you can't spend what you don't have, and you cannot borrow what you can't afford to pay back," he said. "We know that radical Islam is a threat not just to our livelihood but to our very next breath... We know that government shouldn't pick the winners and loses in the marketplace."
Mr. Obama is "uncomfortable leading this nation," Huckabee said, blasting his leadership on issues ranging from health care to the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
On health care, Huckabee said, "the public option... will be the only option by the time the rules are in place." Costs will continue to rise, he said, repeating a remark he said he heard from someone else: "Wait until these retiring hippies find out they can get free drugs for life!"
Meanwhile, during the oil spill, "the president seemed to be more annoyed than engaged," Huckabee said. "It took three months for him to realize it was not Tony Hayward's disaster, it was his... Rahm Emanuel should have sent a dead fish to [Interior] Secretary Salazar, that might have prevented a whole bunch of dead fish."
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.