Huntsman calls for overhaul of tax code

Zachary Roth

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman unveiled his economic plan in New Hampshire this afternoon, calling for far-reaching structural reform of the U.S. tax code.

Huntsman seeks the removal of "loopholes, deductions, and tax expenditures," as well as an elimination of the capital gains, dividends and alternative minimum taxes. The former Utah governor's plan, "Time to Compete," also would reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, from 35 percent, and create three individual tax brackets--8, 14 and 23 percent. These changes would significantly reduce the rates paid by the highest earners.

But at a time of anemic economic growth and sky-high unemployment, there appears to be little in Huntsman's plan that would jolt the economy in the near-term.

In embracing tax reform, Huntsman, who has struggled to gain traction in the race, is picking up on an issue that Congress and the Obama administration also have been mulling. But the White House, citing concerns about the deficit, has said it wants to use an overhaul to increase revenue. Huntsman's plan, by contrast, promises to be "revenue neutral."

Conservative commentators appear split on the plan. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review writes that by eliminating deductions like the child tax credit, Huntsman's plan would result in "a higher tax bill for most middle-class parents, also known as Republican voters."

But James Pethokoukis of Reuters calls the proposal "perhaps the most pro-growth, pro-market (and anti-crony capitalist) tax plan put forward by a major U.S. president candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980."

And Politico suggests the plan could help make Huntsman "the white-paper candidate"--presumably because he's so far one the few GOP contenders to have offered an economic plan that spells out any specific measures.

Beyond tax reform, the plan also focuses on free trade, energy independence, "regulatory reform,"--including a call to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation--and an effort to spur domestic manufacturing.

"We need American entrepreneurs not only thinking of products like the  iPhone or Segway; we need American workers building those products," Huntsman declared. "It's time for 'Made in America' to mean something again."