Huntsman, Romney Unveil Growth Strategies

The two centrist Republican candidates offer plenty of conservative orthodoxy.

Republican Party presidential contenders Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney unveiled their economic plans ahead of Barack Obama’s address to Congress about restoring job growth in America which is scheduled for Thursday night.

The two conservative politicians touted their private-sector roots before urging lower tax rates, less regulation and freer trade.

Romney’s jobs proposal is the most detailed from any of the Republican presidential contenders to date. Huntsman’s was endorsed by The Wall Street Journal in a sign of establishment support for the United States’ former ambassador to China.

Ahead of his speech, Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who also attempted to win his party’s presidential nomination in 2008, distinguished himself from “career politicians” in a USA Today opinion article, writing that he knows “why jobs come and go.”

Only the individual initiative of entrepreneurs, workers, investors and inventors enables companies, and our economy as a whole, to flourish.

“The contrast between what the Obama Administration has done and what I would do as president could not be starker,” Romney added who blamed the Democrat’s regulatory zeal for the country’s lack of economic expansion.

For the first time since the end of World War II, the American economy added no new jobs last month as employment stuck at 9.1 percent. Fourteen million Americans are out of work. Millions more are part-time employed although they would rather have a full-time job.

If elected, Romney promised to review every regulation enacted during Obama’s administration and repeal those that “unduly burden job creation.” Moreover, he vowed to direct government agencies to limit annual increases in regulatory costs to zero.

Like Huntsman, Romney urged tax reform but the former Utah governor’s proposal was more radical. He suggested to replace the existing income tax code with three rates and reduce America’s corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent. Both are in favor of eliminating taxes on dividends and capital gains although Romney may keep them in place for high-income earners.

Both candidates urged an immediate ratification of pending free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea and want to pursue additional trade opportunities with other nations. Huntsman specifically mentioned India, Japan and Taiwan. Romney called for the creation of a “Reagan Economic Zone,” named after Ronald Reagan who was president in the 1980s, with countries that are committed to lowering restrictions on international commerce. He wrote that he had “no interest in starting a trade war with China,” which protects its own market from foreign goods while subsidizing exports, but added that he could “not accept” what he described as America’s “trade surrender.”

Republicans have criticized President Obama’s China policy because it has failed to persuade the Chinese to appreciate their currency. The yuan is undervalued which makes Chinese manufacturers more competitive than America’s.

Huntsman, who served as the president’s ambassador in Beijing for one and a half year, could be subject to attack from the Romney campaign on the issue of Sino-American relations if he emerges as a threat.

On energy, both candidates advocated higher domestic coal, oil and natural gas production to lessen America’s dependence on the import of foreign hydrocarbons. Huntsman cited the potential of shale gas development which is sometimes controversial and generally unpopular on the left. Romney stressed that America’s “nuclear know-how” should be fully utilized and he chastised the “environmental extremism” of Democrats in Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency for forcing Americans to live in “an energy poor country.”

The two presidential hopefuls, who are considered most centrist in the Republican nominating contest, both favor repealing President Obama’s health-care and financial reform legislations. On social issues, however, they are perceived as less conservative than the average primary voter. Huntsman supports civil unions for homosexual couples and called out those of his opponents who do not believe in evolution and climate change for being “anti-science.”

Romney seemed to support abortion rights during his 2002 campaign for governor but reversed his position when he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2007. As governor, he led a health-care reform effort in Massachusetts that was a template for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including a mandate that forced people to buy insurance. Many conservatives believe that this is unconstitutional.

On the greatest fiscal challenge that the next president is likely to face, none of the candidates has been particularly forthcoming. Major entitlements including public pension and federal health support programs as well as unemployment insurance will no longer be affordable in less than a generation unless their scope is significantly reduced.

Huntsman has yet to offer a plan for entitlement reform. Romney’s is scare on details. He follows Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan with regard to Medicaid, which finances health care for the poor, by block granting future spending to the states to allow them to prioritize some programs and reform or cancel others. With regard to Medicare, which pays health care for seniors, Romney said that he appreciates the “market based dynamics” in Ryan’s solution but will opt for a different approach.

House Republicans in April voted for a Medicare overhaul that effectively privatized the program for future generations, providing “premium support” or a subsidy for pensioners to buy health insurance on the market. The Democratic majority in the Senate blocked the effort, which was spearheaded by the opposition’s budget hawk Paul Ryan, because, according to President Obama, it would have left seniors “at the mercy of the insurance industry.”

The Republican candidates take to the stage on Wednesday in a debate that includes Rick Perry for the first time. Since announcing his candidacy four weeks ago, the Texas governor has eclipsed Romney as the frontrunner in nationwide opinion polls although the former Massachusetts chief executive can still expect to win in the early primary state of New Hampshire where Jon Huntsman also hopes to do well.