Former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R) announced his candidacy for president this morning, and in doing so, he became the latest candidate to declare that he is running to fix the American economy. Though Huntsman’s polling numbers are rather unimpressive, his sometimes progressive stances on various issues have earned him the “moderate” tag and made him a media darling.
But a closer look at his past reveals that when it comes to economics, Huntsman is a garden variety conservative who wants to cut taxes, gut popular social welfare programs, and pursue economic policies that would do nothing to restore the American economy. ThinkProgress compiled a list of six positions Huntsman has taken that would actually hurt our economy:
The state’s budget deficit increased dramatically during his tenure: In fiscal year 2003, two years before Huntsman took over as governor, the state of Utah had a $173 million budget deficit, leading then-Gov. Michael Leavitt (R) to speak to the state legislature about the state’s “budget crisis.” But when Huntsman took office in 2005, he began pursuing policies that reduced state revenues and increased the state’s budget deficit. In fiscal year 2009, Huntsman’s final one before he took the ambassadorship, Utah was forced to rely on rainy day funds and federal stimulus dollars to close a $1 billion budget gap.
He supports a flat tax, and instituted one in Utah: In 2007, Huntsman signed legislation that transformed Utah’s graduated income tax into a flat tax, with a standard rate of 5 percent. The flat tax sharply reduced taxes on the state’s richest residents and became, as Citizens for Tax Justice called it, a “case study in why states should reject the flat tax.” The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that, while the poorest 20 percent of Utahns paid a 9 percent of their income in taxes, while the richest one percent paid just just 4.9 percent of theirs. CTJ also found that the tax cut blew a hole in Utah’s budget, reducing income tax revenues by $300 million in 2009.
He supports slashing corporate taxes, and tried to eliminate them completely in Utah: While governor, Huntsman made an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate Utah’s corporate tax rate altogether, an effort that was stymied when lawmakers saw the price tag. The policy would have cost the state at least $200 million in revenue. Huntsman, whose family started and still owns one of the nation’s largest chemical corporations, now supports slashing the federal corporate tax rate.
He would end Medicare as we know it: Huntsman didn’t hesitate to endorse the House GOP’s budget plan, which would end Medicare as it exists now by turning it into a voucher program. Huntsman embraced the program despite saying that, in years past, it would have (and should have) been “laughed out of the room.” The House plan nearly doubles the cost of health insurance for senior citizens by 2023, increases the nation’s health care costs by trillions of dollars, and relies on mathematical magic. And after all of that, it still doesn’t balance the budget.
He believes in climate change, but not in doing anything to stop it: Like many of his fellow candidates, Huntsman at one time was an advocate for a cap-and-trade system and signed his state onto the Western Climate Initiative. Huntsman has, however, walked back his support of cap-and-trade, using economic concerns to say that “cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working” and “this isn’t the moment” to address the changing climate because it does not promote growth. In reality, this stance ignores the successes of similar policies in the northeast and in Europe, and the fact that investments in renewable energy create four times as many jobs as investment in oil and gas.
He supports a radical Balanced Budget Amendment: Huntsman recently announced his support for a Balanced Budget Amendment, a potentially disastrous policy Senate Republicans have used to hold the increase in the debt ceiling hostage. The BBA would prevent the government from running deficits when deficits are necessary, such as during deep recessions. Even former GOP advisers have said the idea “is, quite simply, insane,” as “debt in itself is not harmful,” and have suggested that it would only serve to make recessions worse. The BBA is, in the words of Ezra Klein, the worst idea in Washington, and it’s one Huntsman has openly embraced.