Republican Jon Huntsman comes across as the most reasonable of the presidential primary candidates. He is generally viewed as moderate, as well. This morning, Ezra Klein disabuses us of that notion, despite a confusing headline.
In the end, the polls were right. Mitt Romney took first, Ron Paul took second, and Jon Huntsman took third. Huntsman’s weak finish led many to suggest that the GOP was no place for moderates. But the truth is that Huntsman’s campaign didn’t prove that, or anything like it. For all Huntsman’s signaling and hinting, his policy platform is no more moderate than Romney’s. In fact, it might be less moderate.Huntsman’s tax plan is more radical than Romney’s. It wipes out every deduction and exemption and then uses the savings to cut the tax on capital gains and dividends to zero. That amounts to a massive tax cut for the wealthy — and it comes at the expense of benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which go to the poorest Americans, and the mortgage-interest tax deduction and the exclusion for employer-based health insurance, which go to many middle-income Americans.
Romney’s plan, by contrast, only cuts the rate on capital gains and dividends for those making less than $250,000. The two candidates have mostly the same position on corporate taxation — drop the rate from 35% to 25% — but Huntsman adds a temporary tax holiday for overseas profits.Similarly, Huntsman’s spending cuts are more radical than Romney’s. Though his entitlement reforms remain vague, he promises they will be “based on the Ryan Plan.” Romney, meanwhile, broke with the Ryan plan to preserve traditional fee-for-service Medicare as an option in his entitlement reforms.
Huntsman is a bit of a sheep in wolves’ clothing. I doubt he has a chance to win the nomination but it’s worth knowing what he’s all about.
Also, too, for all of Ron Paul’s apparent appeal, I can’t believe that Republicans will vote for an anti-war candidate. They’ll never support a candidate that doesn’t think we should bomb the hell out of Iran at the first available moment.