As our friend Jed Lewinson pointed out over at the Daily Kos, GOP candidate and so-called "moderate" Jon Huntsman called for some "shared sacrifice" from the rich on the PBS Newshour this Thursday, but of course that "sacrifice" should not come in the form of a tax increase. I agree completely with this assessment of that statement by Huntsman during the interview:
Excuse me, but isn't punting on that question pretty much the definition of hesitating? And how can you be taken seriously if you simultaneously rule out tax increases?
Sure, Huntsman talks a good game, and he's great at delivering "adult in the room" soundbites, but when comes down to it, on the most important issues, he's every bit as big a baby as every other Republican in the field.
What Lewinson left out was some of the claptrap we heard leading up to that. This guy is supposed to be what's considered a "moderate" candidate in the GOP presidential primary field, but what was he touting here? The same old tired talking points we've heard out of the rest of them. Flatten our tax structure and raise taxes on lower income earners, meaning the poor and the middle class. Qualified with weasel words like we could take a "progressive approach" to raising income taxes on those who don't make enough money to be paying them now.
During this interview he also promoted means testing Social Security which would turn it into a welfare program, which of course is just one step in getting rid of it altogether. He also promoted lowering taxes on corporations to make us "more competitive" and to "attract investment" which just equals another race to the bottom on wages and rewarding our under taxed corporations who still would have no incentive to put Americans back to work if we don't do something to fix our trade laws and our tax structure which rewards companies for offshore tax havens and for hiring slave labor overseas.
I don't know how much worse things are going to have to get before we move both parties back over to the left instead of what passes for the "center" these days and either party starts enacting policies where they do the right thing and help the unemployment problem we've got here before we end up as some third world country with nothing but rich and poor. Sadly the only group of politicians I've seen that from who look like they genuinely have the interests of the American worker at heart is the Progressive Caucus in the House.
All I heard from this supposedly "moderate" Republican candidate was more of the same promoting the policies that got us to where we are now with our economy being in horrible shape, more tax cuts for those that don't need them, and more dismantling of our social safety nets.
Transcript via PBS below the fold:
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, on the main issue of the day, the economy, jobs, you have talked about reforming the tax code - a flat or a flatter tax.
JON HUNTSMAN: Right.
JEFFREY BROWN: Does that mean that you oppose, or would you like to end the progressive tax code that we have?
JON HUNTSMAN: I think that what we have is dated. I think 17,000 pages that make up our tax code make it a little top-heavy and a little unpredictable for a lot of people longer-term, particularly on the business side.
I would like to do what we did in the state of Utah, which is: phasing out the deductions; phasing out the loopholes; phasing out corporate welfare, the biases that are inherent at this very top-heavy tax code; buying down the rate in a revenue-neutral fashion, broadening the base and leaving the tax code a whole lot more competitive for the 21st century.
JEFFREY BROWN: But does broadening the base bring lower-end lower-wage earners into paying taxes, many who don't today? And does it end the, as I said, the progressive nature of our tax code, or does it change it so that lower-wage earners pay more in taxes and upper-end come down?
JON HUNTSMAN: You - it - it would change elements of the tax code to that end. It would bring more people into the tax code who would then become taxpayers. You could bring that in gradually. I mean, there could be a progressive approach to bringing a certain segment of the population in. But basically, it does - it lowers the rate, flattens the rate, and I think leaves it a whole lot more competitive for where this country needs to be in the future.
JEFFREY BROWN: Competitive but fair. I mean, one of the things people would say is, the nature of our tax code has benefited those lower-wage earners.
JON HUNTSMAN: Well, the tax code going forward has got to benefit everyone in this country. One of our problems is, we're not attracting investment, we're not necessarily attracting brain power, we're not expanding our economic foundation because our tax code is not up-to-date. It isn't competitive. And I believe if we're going to help everybody and bring more people the opportunity that this country traditionally has, we got to have a different tax code. It just can't continue on as it is.
So I look at the options out there, and I think, you know, you can phase out the deductions and the loopholes and the biases, and you can use that revenue to buy down the rate. And I say that because that's where I've been, and that's what we did in our state. And I think it is applicable here at the national level. And that's the conversation I would like to have with the people of this country.
JEFFREY BROWN: One specific current issue is the question of the extension of the payroll tax cuts. Now, these cuts were made last year to try to get more money into the pockets of working people. They - they're due to end in January, and there is a question of whether they should be extended. A number of Republicans have suggested that that's not a priority. What - where do you come down?
JON HUNTSMAN: I think the payroll tax cut is a good thing. I think it helps a whole lot of people, and I think it's something that would serve to stimulate this economy going forward. So it's something I would -
JEFFREY BROWN: So it should be extended.
JON HUNTSMAN: I would consider extending it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Another on the tax issue - the investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett has written recently of how those at the very, very high end can and should pay more in taxes. Is he right?
JON HUNTSMAN: Well, I would say that there's going to have to be a shared sacrifice in this country. And I think that people at all levels are going to have to step up, whether it's recognizing that Medicare is going to be done a little differently; Social Security is going to be done a little differently. And as president, I wouldn't hesitate to call on sacrifice from all of our people, even those at the very highest end of the income spectrum. I think there's -
JEFFREY BROWN: Higher taxes for those at the highest -
JON HUNTSMAN: There's - there is - well, I'm not saying - (chuckles) - higher taxes. I'm saying that there are contributions that they can make, too. And as president, when you look at the full spectrum of options at where this country is and what we need to deliver - a truly competitive economy for our people - we're going to have to ask for sacrifice. And I'm not going to hesitate to do that.
JEFFREY BROWN: What does that mean, though, specifically?
JON HUNTSMAN: Over time, we're going to figure that out. But I'm not going to give a one-size-fits-all scenario there. I know that there are people who can give, perhaps, more than others maybe as it relates to the means testing around Social Security and Medicare - people who don't need these programs. And I think we need to look realistically at where we are, where our vulnerable spots are, where our vulnerable populations are, recognize that for what it is and recognize those populations that don't need these programs, and make some choices around that.