The impression most people have is that Jon Huntsman is not conservative, that he is at best a moderate. Not so, says Nichole Austin:
Despite scuttlebutt to the contrary, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is not a Democrat in disguise, but was in fact a relatively ambitious conservative governor. And if he is “moderate,” he is not appreciably more moderate than other leading candidates or party leaders. If one compares records honestly and looks at policy positions realistically, one will find that in many ways, Huntsman is more conservative than Mitt Romney — who will likely receive the Republican nomination. A surreal juxtaposition to be sure.
As governor of Utah, Huntsman ushered in a boldly transformed tax system. He flattened the tax code, doing away with many, though not all, deductions and credits, and changing six-brackets of progressive income tax rates into one low 5% rate. (Compare with Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat income tax and Herman Cain’s emblematic 9%.) According to PoliFact.com, this new system reduced taxes approximately 30% for the wealthiest residents, and due to remaining tax deductions “the effective tax rate [was] about 3 percent for Utah taxpayers earning $70,000 a year in 2008 and 4 percent for a household with $100,000 in taxable income[.]” He also eliminated the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit Reagan supported and which many Republicans today label “socialist.”
Also according to PolitiFact, which simply crunched Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, Utah was fourth in the nation for job creation during the period immediately preceding and including the 2008-2009 recession, right behind Texas, which was third in the nation.
This is just the beginning. One proposal in Washington that has seemingly become too radical for even many leading Republicans to fully sign on to is the “Ryan plan,” which would rein in unsustainable entitlements, most notably Medicare. Newt Gingrich has criticized the Ryan plan, and has vacillated considerably on the proposal — at best, he seems to think it’s too big, too soon, although at one point he said he would vote for it. Romney supports a weaker version of the Ryan plan, which would not phase out Medicare, but keep it as an option, allowing private carriers to compete with it — we might call it the “competitive option,” a Democratic euphemism for the “public option.” Michele Bachmann supports the Ryan plan, but also voiced reservations regarding potential changes to Medicare. Huntsman, on the other hand, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal commending the Ryan plan, and has said he would vote for it. He has re-iterated, unequivocally, his support on multiple occasions. This puts Huntsman in the same camp as Herman Cain and, to some extent, Rick Perry, who wants states to be able to opt out of entitlements and believes they’re “Ponzi schemes.” Mitt Romney later criticized this very accurate characterization of entitlements, saying Perry’s rhetoric was over the top and frightening.
Of course, one other noteworthy item on Huntsman’s resume is that he pursued free market-based health care reform in Utah. The system primarily involved a competitive private health care exchange, diversified consumer options, and electronic medical records. Gregg Girvan of the Heritage Foundation praised it as a “blueprint” for state health care reform. Furthermore, the state did not impose a health insurance mandate on private citizens, although early on, Huntsman seemed to have favored a mandate, as did former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have endorsed insurance mandates of some kind and seem to think that they’re necessary features of a workable health care reform model. On a related note, like most other candidates, Huntsman also said he would repeal Obamacare.
Huntsman has also been consistently pro-life, and has spoken very passionately on the issue. He signed numerous pro-life laws while governor, including making second trimester abortions illegal, enacting fetal pain awareness legislation, and instituting a trigger to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. He also supports a “right to life” amendment to the Constitution. He has not signed the Susan B. Anthony List pledge (Romney and Cain have not either), but his record speaks for itself, and he has been praised by numerous pro-life groups.
Plus, the former ambassador to China does know a lot about foreign policy, unlike most of the rest of the field. His only non-conservative positions, according to Austin, are his belief that global warming is real and his willingness to accept civil unions for gays. I’m not sure what’s conservative about one’s position on global warming–surely that’s a matter of opinion and interpretation of data–and, indeed, Newt Gingrich, nobody’s liberal, has accepted that man-man global warming is real. And civil unions at least stop a little short of gay marriage.
So is the only real problem with Huntsman is that he, like Romney, is a Mormon?