As he gears up for another presidential campaign, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is making a big break with the Republican party on the issue of entitlement reform. Meeting with reporters at a hotel in Washington, D.C. this morning, Huckabee strongly criticized New Jersey governor Chris Christie's proposal to reform Social Security and said he would not sign Paul Ryan's Medicare reform into law if he were president.
"I don't know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don't understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is," Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie's proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test.
Huckabee said his response to such proposals is "not just no, it's you-know-what no."
"I'm not being just specifically critical of Christie but that's not a reform," he said. "That's not some kind of proposal that Republicans need to embrace because what we are really embracing at that point is we are embracing a government that lied to its people--that took money from its people under one pretense and then took it away at the time when they started wanting to actually get what they have paid for all these years."
Huckabee also said he wouldn't sign congressman Paul Ryan's plan to reform Medicare for Americans who are 55 years old and younger. "At 55, that still means if I started working, started paying in when I was 14, so for me that would be 51 years [sic] that I'd be paying in and suddenly you're telling me they're going to be changing the rules for you here."
Paul Ryan and other advocates of Medicare reform have argued that under the status quo the government will ratchet up medical rationing of care for Medicare recipients, but Huckabee dismissed such concerns, saying that "all medical care is rationed."
Huckabee said Republican proposals to reform entitlements are "disastrous, not only politically but I think they be disastrous in terms of further breaking the trust between the government and its people."
Huckabee's comments marked a significant departure from his own previous position on Medicare reform. In August 2012, Huckabee wrote on Facebook:
"Paul Ryan is being demonized for his suggested Medicare reforms. But the alternatives may be scarier. We already know that with no reform, Medicare is on track to go bankrupt in about 10 years. Obama’s plan is to cut over $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. The non-partisan Medicare actuary estimates that the reimbursement cuts would result in 25 percent of doctors losing money by 2030. They’d have to either reject Medicare and Medicaid patients, join big clinics or raise everyone else’s rates. The Administration claims the losses can be offset by reducing fraud, boosting efficiency, and providing more preventive care for seniors. And which is more likely: that a massive government program will reduce fraud, or improve efficiency, or that they’ll find a way to prevent old age?"
Huckabee said this morning that the only entitlement reforms he would support would be giving retirees the option to take a lump-sum cash payment upon retirement and changing the existing programs for people who are just now entering the workforce.
Asked when he would make a decision about running for president, Huckabee replied: "I'll give you a little tip: if you will watch Bret Baier tonight, there will be an indication of maybe when an announcement will be forthcoming."
This post has been updated.