Friday, September 02, 2011

On Target

Jon Huntsman's campaign has been the subject of much ridicule from right-leaning pundits and rightly so. If there was ever NOT a time for a smart, pragmatic Republican moderate (and media darling) to capture the hearts and minds of Republican voters it is now. The hardcore GOP faithful want a candidate with strong conservative convictions who's not afraid to take the slings and arrows that come with espousing such views and isn't worried about “moving to the middle.” Jon Huntsman is clearly not that candidate.

However, you have to credit where it’s due, and as an editorial in the WSJ explains, when it comes to economic plans Huntsman’s is about as good as it gets:

Republican Presidential candidate and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is lagging in the polls, but the economic agenda he rolled out this week may start getting him more attention. And deservedly so.

The heart of the plan lowers all tax rates on individuals and businesses. Mr. Huntsman would create three personal income tax rates—8%, 14% and 23%—and pay for this in a "revenue-neutral" way by eliminating "all deductions and credits." This tracks with the proposals of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission and others for a flatter, more efficient tax system.

That means economically inefficient tax carve outs for mortgage interest, municipal bonds, child credits and green energy subsidies would at last be closed. The double tax on capital gains and dividends would be expunged as would the Alternative Minimum Tax. The corporate tax rate falls to 25% from 35%, and American businesses would be taxed on a territorial system to encourage firms to return capital parked in overseas operations.

Mr. Huntsman would repeal two of President Obama's most economically debilitating creations, ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. Mr. Huntsman has it right when he says, "Dodd-Frank perpetuates 'too big to fail' by codifying a regime that incentivizes firms to become too big to fail." He'd also repeal a Bush-era regulatory mistake, the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules, which have added millions of dollars of costs to businesses with little positive effect.

Mr. Huntsman says he'd also bring to heel the hyper-regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the National Labor Relations Board, all of which are suppressing job-creation. The Huntsman energy policy promises to block impediments to producing oil in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska (see editorial above), while encouraging the safe deployment of fracking for natural gas in the states. Mr. Huntsman dabbled with green energy subsidies as Governor when those were the political fashion, but perhaps he's learned watching the failures of the last two years.

A few weeks ago, I was engaged in a debate on Twitter with my state representative Ryan Winkler (DFL). Winkler was calling for more stimulus spending despite the fact that President Obama’s previous round of stimulus had been such an obvious and dismal failure. When I pointed this out to him, he challenged me to explain what the Republican plan was to turn the economy around. In a series of three Tweets, I laid out the details on what I thought should be done and damn if they aren’t almost exactly what Huntsman has in his plan.

I’m still not going to support Jon Huntsman bid to win the GOP nomination. But I’m more than willing to credit him for coming up with an economic plan that other Republican candidates would do well to emulate.