One-percent presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is playing a sneaky game in his desperate quest to remain a viable presidential candidate throughout the fall. He's trying to preserve his media image as a "moderate" alternative by letting it be known that he believes in evolution and climate change. Since we have such low standards for "moderation" now, this makes him appear serious. But then he sneaks off and delivers the Republican base a radically conservative plan for the economy, a.k.a. the thing that matters. Do not fall for this seemingly nice man!
Huntsman got a modest lift in the press a few weeks ago when he tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." This didn't help his poll numbers whatsoever, but it did get him on some television shows! Not that he has a plan to do anything about climate change — in fact he, like other candidates, essentially wants to destroy the EPA for trying to regulate carbon emissions — but he nevertheless made a fine superficial contrast with, say, Rick Perry.
Which brings us to yesterday, when Huntsman revealed his big economic plan. It's similar, although somehow farther to the right, of Tim Pawlenty's — and if you can even remember Tim Pawlenty, remember that he spent every second of his day throwing fresh pander-meat to the economic conservative base in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to get any of them to like him.
Huntsman's plan would flatten the income tax code into three brackets: 8%, 14% and 23%. It would cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, and eliminate the capital gains and dividend taxes. Pawlenty's plan was a similar orgy of tax cuts — two income tax brackets at 10% and 25%, corporate tax rate at 15%, and eliminating the capital gains rate. The major difference is in how the two planned to offset all these goddamn tax cuts. Pawlenty pledged to eliminate some wasteful loopholes, but also rosily assumed that the economy would grow at a 5% annualized rate to cover any new structural budget deficits. Huntsman, on the other hand, wants to offset his insane number of tax cuts by eliminating all deductions and credits — including popular low- and middle-class ones like the earned income tax credit, mortgage interest tax deduction, child tax credit, employee health insurance tax exemption, and so on.
So what you have with Jon Huntsman's economic plan is a regressive transfer of wealth from low- and middle-class families to cover extensive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. And even if you think (reasonably) that things like the mortgage interest tax deduction or the employee health insurance tax exemption need to be reconsidered, what are you going to replace them with to prevent the housing and health care markets from crashing? Probably, uh, hmm... giving more cash to investors to sit on while everyone else is somehow even more broke?
So, yeah: Jon Huntsman says he believes in science, on Twitter. Good for him. But thanks to this economic plan, he has a long way to go before anyone should be throwing the word "moderate" around.
[Image via AP]