Political Animal


September 12, 2011 12:35 PM Huntsman’s confusion about the American Jobs Act matters

By Steve Benen

Plenty of Republicans, including some alleged moderates, have complained bitterly about the American Jobs Act, accusing the plan of calling for “nearly $500 billion in new spending.” Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman made the charge on Fox News this morning.

BILL HEMMER (HOST): You served this president in China, would you back his jobs plan now?

HUNTSMAN: Of course not. We don’t need another $500 billion, $450 billion in spending. These are half-measures, Bill. We can’t afford, as a country with an economy that is sucking wind, we can’t have half-measures and half-steps here and there. We’ve gotta be big, we’ve gotta be bold, and we’ve gotta be honest with the American people.

Good idea. We can start by separating fact from fiction, which Huntsman neglected to do.

I’d be delighted if Republicans were telling the truth and President Obama’s plan did include $500 billion in spending. Given the economic impact of that much direct investment, that sounds to me like a terrific idea.

But that’s not quite what the American Jobs Act is all about. As it exists now, the White House plan totals about $450 billion, but of that total, roughly $250 billion is made up of tax cuts, not spending. That’s well over half the total package. The rest of the American Jobs Act includes about $60 billion for unemployment aid and job training, and $140 billion for infrastructure and saving public-sector jobs (teachers, firefighters, police officers).

When Huntsman complains “we don’t need … $450 billion in spending,” the truth is (a) $450 billion in spending doesn’t sound so bad; and (b) that’s really not what this plan is.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that Huntsman’s criticism is rather ironic given recent history. In 2009, Huntsman argued on statewide television that the Recovery Act wasn’t good enough because — you guessed it — the stimulus didn’t spend enough money. In particular, Huntsman said at the time he wanted fewer tax breaks and more infrastructure spending, putting him to the left of many congressional Democrats.

And now he’s complaining about the spending in the American Jobs Act? Please.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Redshift on September 12, 2011 12:40 PM:

    It's fascinating, in a sad kind of way, to watch Huntsman slowly transform into Romney, going from a politician who apparently had the respect of quite a few Democrats as governor because he was a sane Republican, to the desperately pandering "which nutty things do I have to pretend to believe for you people to like me?!"

  • c u n d gulag on September 12, 2011 12:41 PM:

    So, Huntsman's path to the nomination is to out flip-flop Mitt?

    Interesting strategy.

    And anyway, he's got NO chance - since he worked for the KenyanSocialistCommunistFascistMuslimAtheist Usurper.

  • flyonthewall on September 12, 2011 12:43 PM:

    Whenever the stimulus was or is discussed, the repugs seem to mention a figure of $787 million+ and equate that with all spending. Since Huntsman is doing the same with this new bill, he is saying that tax cuts are actually spending. So when the repugs suggest only tax cuts, which they consider not spending, time to mention they consider it spending.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on September 12, 2011 12:50 PM:

    When tax cuts are for working people, they are spending!

    Just more money down the drain, when an opportunity exists to eliminate capital gains and lower the top marginal tax rate so that the job creators would create more jobs.

    For example, if the job creators running hedge funds on Wall Street did not have to even pay capital gains taxes; they would create more jobs analyzing how to better manipulate the oil and gas markets. With the extra billion or two a year they could have by better market manipulation and not paying any taxes, they could buy another mansion and put construction workers into jobs in Monaco.

  • jonas on September 12, 2011 12:52 PM:

    @flyonthewall -- Pretty much: Republican tax cuts /= spending. Democratic tax cuts = spending.

    Principally because it's not spending if the tax cuts are for rich people. If the tax cuts are for middle class people, that's just throwing money down the drain. Or something.

  • ElegantFowl on September 12, 2011 12:53 PM:

    If you take Huntsman's words literally, I don't see the problem here. He's saying the AJA is a half-measure, and should be bigger and bolder. Maybe he wants it doubled in size or effectiveness somehow, it's not clear. But I'm not so sure it's big enough either, so he might be right.

  • Josef K on September 12, 2011 1:06 PM:

    Why Huntsman thought he had an actual chance at the Republican nomination escapes me. Probably thought it would be like the final season of "The West Wing".

    Wonder if he'll recant himself before next year and go back to being a Democrat.

  • bigtuna on September 12, 2011 1:21 PM:

    Currently, we in Utah are enjoying the completion of additional light -rail lines - TRAX, called here, - one line just opened to SW Salt Lake Valley; the extension from Downtown to the airport is nearly completion.

    And there is now a 24 mile long I 15 rebuild in Utah county - one of the most conservative counties in all of the U S of A, which has just passed the 50% completion mark.

    And, let's not forget the CUP effort - federally paid water systems that have altered the water landscape to deliver upper Colorado River basin water to a bundh or pathetically marginal agricultural operations.

    Oh, and all that spending in the National parks;

    ok, like any western state, the list can go on and on and on ....

    Without federal spending [and without Bob Bennett], Utah is just another crappy dry theocracy ....

    And, When Mitt bleats on in his whiny way about federal funding, remember is was the mostly federally funded 2002 Winter olympics that gave him his entree to politics ...

  • lb 22 on September 12, 2011 1:36 PM:

    "we can’t have half-measures and half-steps here and there. We’ve gotta be big, we’ve gotta be bold"

    If a progressive said this you would conclude that they thought the jobs program is too timid and small to be effective, what does it mean when Huntsman says it?

    Its especially confusing if in the past he criticized the stimulus for being too small.

  • BILL HEMMER on September 12, 2011 1:52 PM:

    Did you see me ejaculating while he was lying ?

  • max on September 12, 2011 3:00 PM:

    Huntsman will come out against evolution, gravity and the Sun being at the center of our solar system in order to harvest enough brain dead tea baggers to compete in the primaries. These guys are all hookers in three piece suits.

  • TCinLA on September 13, 2011 1:08 AM:

    Yeah, there's your usual Republican idiot, and then there's your Mormon Republican idiot. Both Huntsman and Romney prove that the way you understand that cult is to remove the second "m". Moronism it is.

  • Bill on October 11, 2011 11:37 AM:

    Huntsman has the highest job growth record of any of the candidates by far and he was ambassador to our greatest creditor China. We need a long term strategic dialogue with them. Plus he has more integrity than any candidate in history. Google "america is bleeding"