Jon Huntsman calls Obama speech ‘political theatrics’

Laying out an economic blueprint in advance of his GOP rivals and President Obama, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. called for a major overhaul of the income tax system that would eliminate popular deductions for home mortgages and charitable deductions as part of a sweeping reduction in tax rates.

Huntsman, criticizing his Republican opponents and Obama for failing to provide leadership on the nation’s most pressing issue, called his ideas “straight-forward and common sense.” But he acknowledged to a New Hampshire voter afterward that some of the provisions would probably provoke controversy.

The former Utah governor was critical of Obama’s decision to schedule his economic speech in competition with next week’s previously planned GOP debate in Simi Valley. In answer to a reporter’s question, he called the timing “political theatrics” and “no coincidence.”

Huntsman, who is running last in national polls, has taken a more aggressive tack against his GOP opponents in recent days. His speech was part of an effort to add more substance to his candidacy as well.

His economic plan draws heavily on existing proposals, including Republican House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s debt reduction plan and last year’s report by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission.


Huntsman described himself as an “outspoken supporter” of the Ryan plan, which has prompted criticism for provisions that would effectively make Medicare a voucher program. The Huntsman plan released Wednesday did not include any details for overhauling government benefit programs like Social Security and Medicaid.

His tax proposal, a modified version of the “zero” option in the Simpson-Bowles report, would make the income tax system more progressive by reducing the after-tax income of the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers, and especially those in the top 0.1%, according to an analysis of the 2010 proposal by the nonpartisan tax policy center of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.

At the same time, Huntsman called for elimination of the taxes on capital gains and dividends, which would disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans. Huntsman said during a brief news conference afterward that his campaign had not yet fully analyzed the effects of his economic proposal.

In his speech, delivered in the shop area of the Gilchrist Metal Fabrication Co. in Hudson, N.H., Huntsman said Washington “suffers from a vacuum of leadership.” He said he would win in 2012 by providing “real solutions”

The main points of the plan were released earlier in the day, and Huntsman spoke for just 15 minutes. He told a New Hampshire voter afterward that his plan was “not without controversy, perhaps.”

Huntsman has been promoting himself as a believer in the science of climate change, unlike most of his GOP rivals. But he said today that he opposed an effort by the EPA to revise the national standard for ozone, the main ingredient in smog. The Obama administration, bowing to political pressure, has repeatedly delayed plans to issue new science-based rules.

A fact sheet issued by the Huntsman campaign said the ozone revision “threatens to hinder job growth” and “benefits no one more than China.”

Huntsman also called for an overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration’s “ridiculous approval process” for new prescription drugs, but again provided no specifics.

He called for rolling back regulations, including repeal of the Dodd-Frank law designed to avoid the worst excesses that led to the 2008 financial collapse on Wall Street.

Huntsman said Dodd-Frank would not prevent the government from bailing out large financial institutions and said “increased competition between smaller entities is more efficient.” He did not provide specifics.

The former Utah governor also proposed an immediate “tax holiday” to allow for repatriation of hundreds of billions in corporate profits earned overseas by U.S. companies.