Monday, December 05, 2011

George Will [Hearts] Huntsman

George Will offers a tepid endorsement of his wife's employer,
Rick Perry (disclosure: my wife, Mari Will, advises him) has been disappointing in debates. They test nothing pertinent to presidential duties but have become absurdly important. Perry’s political assets remain his Texas record and Southwestern zest for disliking Washington and Wall Street simultaneously and equally.
As a commenter noted in response to a reaction by Daniel McCarthy,
In his framing of the situation, that is, it’s as if Bush Jr. and his tenure never existed. It truly is as if we are back in December of 1979, debating who to best take on Jimmy Carter.
Will embraces Huntsman as "the most conservative" candidate in the race, which translates unsurprisingly into "The candidate I believe agrees with me on the issues most important to me."
Jon Huntsman inexplicably chose to debut as the Republican for people who rather dislike Republicans, but his program is the most conservative. He endorses Paul Ryan’s budget and entitlement reforms. (Gingrich denounced Ryan’s Medicare reform as “right-wing social engineering.”) Huntsman would privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Gingrich’s benefactor). Huntsman would end double taxation on investment by eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends. (Romney would eliminate them only for people earning less than $200,000, who currently pay just 9.3 percent of them.) Huntsman’s thorough opposition to corporate welfare includes farm subsidies. (Romney has justified them as national security measures — food security, somehow threatened. Gingrich says opponents of ethanol subsidies are “big-city” people hostile to farmers.) Huntsman considers No Child Left Behind, the semi-nationalization of primary and secondary education, “an unmitigated disaster.” (Romney and Gingrich support it. Gingrich has endorsed a national curriculum.) Between Ron Paul’s isolationism and the faintly variant bellicosities of the other six candidates stands Huntsman’s conservative foreign policy, skeptically nuanced about America’s need or ability to control many distant developments.
Jon Huntsman, billionaire's son, is a champion of eliminating taxes on unearned income, while George Will cheerleads? I'm shocked. (Will gets bent out of shape at the notion of heirs potentially paying taxes on their inheritances, even if only in the form of capital gains, but he has no apparent concern about the double-taxation of wages through income taxes and FICA.) And note that balancing the budget is irrelevant, unworthy of mention in a column endorsing massive tax cuts for the rich, although Will is happy to implicitly endorse massive cuts to both Social Security and Medicare - does he care about balancing the budget, or is it all about savaging people who have to work for a living in order to benefit the rich?

Unless you view military adventurism as a conservative value, it's difficult to see what's "conservative" about the Will/Huntsman approach to foreign policy.

It's not that Will is wrong on everything - he's correct about the poll-driven opportunism of Romney and Gingrich, and he's right about certain bad policies those candidates endorse. You don't win Iowa by promising to eliminate agricultural subsidies. But in his effort to flush the past few decades down the memory hole, Will wants to wash away his own sins - the sordid history of a Republican Party that, in taking an approach you would think Will would endorse. As Daniel McCarthy puts it,
George W. Bush was quite the free trader, aberrations on steel notwithstanding; he certainly cut taxes; and he wasn’t as much of a regulator as the present incumbent. All of that was nowhere near enough to guarantee the economy’s health and stave off the Great Recession.
No connecting of the dots required: You can draw a direct line from deregulation of the financial industry under Reagan to the S&L debacle, and of the larger financial industry deregulation under Clinton and Bush to the financial industry's collapse. And as McCarthy points out, today's economic woes do not echo those of the 80's and there's no reason to believe that a further embrace of free trade or supply side economics would contribute to an economic recovery.

Huntsman just might be the guy to bring huge new tax cuts to the privileged few, slash benefits for the working masses, run the deficit up to new heights (as would seem to be an inevitable consequence of his policies), and further erode the domestic manufacturing industry. But it's odd that Will sees those as reasons to rally behind him.

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