Huntsman: Tax Code Needs Revamped

2012 candidate on his campaign strategy, tax reform


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF, "YOUR WORLD": In the meantime, on the hunt for votes, Republican presidential Jon Huntsman just announcing a very big money team in South Carolina.

The former governor with me right now.

Governor, good to have you.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Neil, great to be with you.

CAVUTO: Planning any Manhattan fund-raisers in the next couple of days? You might want to get them out of the way.

HUNTSMAN: Funny you would ask. Funny you would ask. It better not be Saturday night, which ours is, so...

CAVUTO: Is it really?

HUNTSMAN: ... we hope everybody is still going to show up.

CAVUTO: Where exactly?

HUNTSMAN: Oh, it’s somewhere on Long Island.

CAVUTO: Oh, nothing to worry about there.


We talked a little in the last segment, Governor, about this Gallup poll. You did not fare well in that one. It's a national survey, but you were dead last in that.


CAVUTO: You getting nervous?

HUNTSMAN: Can I say, Neil, I like my chances? If this had been the reality last go-around in 2008, Fred Thompson would be president if you kind of read the polls then. Howard Dean would have been president in 2004. How many front-runners have we had in this race already in several months? Probably four or five.

Nobody's paying attention; nobody is tuned in, with the exception of the insider crowd. I like our chances because our message is straightforward, it’s honest, it's based on my record, and it’s based on a commonsense conversation with the people who are facing a Category 5 economic storm in this country.

And it’s almost like people don't want to face reality. And that is, we’ve hit the wall. We are bankrupting the next generation because of the debt that we are carrying. And we are trying to pretend like we are going to compete against the 21st century players across the Pacific Ocean.

I've lived in those countries. I've seen how they are prepared to deal with the 21st century. And, Neil, we've got a lot of work ahead of us if we are going to maintain our position of preeminence in this world.

CAVUTO: You raised eyebrows, Governor, then, as you did last night on PBS, when you talked about this share sacrifice issue. You said, "As president, I wouldn’t hesitate to call on a sacrifice from all of our people, even those at the very highest end of the income spectrum."

A lot of Tea Partiers read that, sir, to say, well, maybe they should pay more in taxes.

HUNTSMAN: I don't believe in more taxes at this time in our nation’s history. It's the worst thing we could do when we have got to get back on our feet.

But are we all going to have to step up and recognize the reality of where we are? And that is, entitlements cannot continue as they are today. It will bankrupt our future generation. We’ve got to change Medicare. We've got to change Social Security. We’ve got to revamp defense.

CAVUTO: Then why mention that the upper income have to do their part? Were you saying that they’re not as...?

HUNTSMAN: That was in response to a question. You have got to be careful about that.

CAVUTO: Right.

HUNTSMAN: All I saying is, everyone in this country is going to have to recognize the new reality. And that is we have got to fundamentally change the way we do business.

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: Does that include paying more to the government, if there are only so many cuts you can get?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it means reforming our tax code. We have a broken, dilapidated tax code that’s got to be completely revamped for the 21st century.

Do we need to phase out loopholes and deductions and get rid of corporate welfare? Absolutely we do. And you raise that and you reinvest it back in the tax code. That's exactly what I would do. We did that in the state of Utah, creating effectively a flat tax. And you buy down the rate. You broaden the base, buy down the rate.


CAVUTO: Well, what of the Tea Partiers, then, Governor, or the more conservative members of Congress who say, no, you don’t do that, or even address subsidies or special allowances at this time, because that is subsequent to a tax increase -- tantamount to a to a tax increase, so, by hook or crook, they don’t entertain it, don't even put it out there, don’t even issue it?

HUNTSMAN: May I say that I live in the real world? In the real world, you’ve got to get things done.

CAVUTO: Are you saying the Tea Partiers do not?

HUNTSMAN: I'm just saying let's recognize the reality of a situation.

We're now at extreme ends of politics. The president's on one extreme. We have got people on another extreme, and they are kind of shouting past one another. At the end of the day, we've got to make this country work. We have got to get a tax code that actually is 21st century competitive. You can't bark at each other and expect to get results. You've got to deal realistically with how it is broken. And it is broken because we have got corporate welfare. We have subsidies to the tune of $90 billion in this country. We have got loopholes and deductions that have created huge disequilibrium’s economically speaking. They have got to be phased out. You’ve to buy down the rate. You've got to make a 21st century...


CAVUTO: So, do you think that some of the more conservative members in the party -- we always tend to call them Tea Partiers, maybe just a general -- extreme conservative part of the party, Governor, doesn't see that, because this "not in the real world thing" echoes a comment you had made about Michele Bachmann and her idea that maybe she could force $2 -- or under-$2 gas.

You had responded at the time, "I just don't know what world that comment would come from."

HUNTSMAN: Everybody gets into personality politics.

All -- all I want to tell you, Neil, is, this country is broken and it breaks my heart. We are not creating jobs. We are carrying $14.5 trillion, and going up, in debt, $51 trillion, $52 trillion, private and public combined. We've got to get this country moving again. Everything else is a sideshow, personality politics, what one person says about the other. That's all a sideshow.

CAVUTO: But, Governor, you are a very smart and astute man. You have been an ambassador. You’ve been a governor, speak a variety of languages.

You -- so you know the power of your comments. So when you come out with a comment like that regarding Michele Bachmann, or you talk about some in the party who don't even believe in global warming, and you call them out on it, you must know how people are going to respond to that. And you must know that it might not put you in favor with the more conservative elements in the party, but maybe, by design, you don't care.

HUNTSMAN: Neil, I don't care. I live in the real world, and I'm going to say what the truth is, how I see the truth. I'm going to run on my record. It is what it is. I'm not going to obfuscate and make something up...


CAVUTO: So, when Governor Perry has doubts about global warming, does he not live in the real world?

HUNTSMAN: How -- I said I believe in science. And I believe, when people begin to distance themselves from established scientific principles; we then become a party that is anti-science.

And you extrapolate that a little further; you can’t win as the anti-science party. You simply can't win elections. We want to win in 2012. We want to make sure that we defeat President Obama. We’ve got to get this country back on track for basic economic reasons.

That's going to require a serious, commonsense, pragmatic conversation with the people of this country. And it means we've got to square with them. We can't -- we can’t distance ourselves from established science. We can't pretend like we're not in the real world. We can't step away from a debt ceiling discussion that says just allow this country to default, 25 percent of the world's GDP.

That's nonsense. We've got to step up and recognize that we are in the real world. You've got to make this country work. We've got to come forward with solutions to speak to dealing with the cancer called debt and creating jobs. And that’s only going to happen when we bring certainty and predictability to this economy.

We don't have it today. The president has failed the last two-and-a-half years to do what the American people expect. We get Obamacare, which is a trillion bucks dropped on this country, when we least can afford it, no predictability, no certainty, therefore, no capital expenditures going...

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: Then let me ask you this. Do you think a real hard-and-fast conservative with the views that maybe you do not espouse can get elected president?

HUNTSMAN: You know, this is a discussion about jobs and it's about economic expansion.

CAVUTO: But you do not entertain some of those views. You seem to be saying they are unelectable.

(CROSSTALK) HUNTSMAN: I think a lot of what we are talking about here is part of the political sideshow.

I’m going to respond to questions asked based upon reality. But I'm here to tell you that the American people, they want jobs and they want economic expansion.

CAVUTO: If those type of nominated, Governor -- understood. But if they're nominated, are you saying as a warning to Republicans, we go down that route, we're going to lose?

HUNTSMAN: Absolutely.

We have got to have numbers on our side to win elections. You've got to be realistic about the world in which you live in order to win elections. We've got to be realistic about what it’s going to take to create jobs and get this country back on its feet.

I like the idea that somebody comes from the private sector, they understand the fragility and the magic of the free market system. I like the idea that I come from having been a governor, number-one job creator in this country. And I like the idea that I've been overseas four times, an ambassador three times, understand this world.

CAVUTO: All right.

Governor, thank you very much.

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