CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

By:  Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Date: Sept. 2, 2011
Location: Unknown

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SCHIEFFER: Back with another Republican presidential hopeful, the former Utah governor and more recently former ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. He joins us from Bedford, New Hampshire this morning.

Let me just ask you a quick question, here, Governor. What's -- how are you and -- and Michele Bachmann different?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say that we have put forward, Bob, a very, very specific proposal on how to get this economy moving again.

This economy has hit the wall. It is sucking wind right now. And we're never going to be able to come together as a country. Let's face it. Today we are divided. And it's totally unnatural and un- American for us to be divided as a country. We're not going to be able to get other act together until such time as we improve our economy and get back on our feet.

I put forward a very, very specific list of proposals. And I think that's probably unlike anyone else in the race. This is a proposal that's been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal.

But moreover, this is a proposal, Bob, that comes right from what I have done as governor. And I do believe the next president of the United States in 2012 will be a former governor. When I talk about tax reform, it's hard-hitting; it's bold. It's big-picture. I'm drawing from exactly what I did as governor of a state. I'm not talking hypotheticals. I'm not talking political hyperbole. I'm drawing from exactly what I did as governor, because what I did as governor, I want people to see as being completely relevant to where this country needs to go in terms of improving its competitive dynamic.

Because that, first and foremost -- if we can't do what needs to be done in terms of a competitive environment that will attract and keep brain power, that will allow for the aggregation of capital and allow this country to expand and create jobs, we are going to see the end of the American century. And one of the reasons I'm running for president, Bob, is I refuse to see the end of the American century.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me -- I'm going to -- here's, kind of, how you describe the proposal you put forward. I just want to play this because it pretty much sums it up.

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HUNTSMAN: I'm going to drop a plan on the front steps of the Capitol that says we need to clean house, get rid of all tax expenditures, all loopholes, all deductions, all subsidies, all corporate welfare. Use that to lower rates across the board and do it in a revenue-neutral fashion.

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SCHIEFFER: That's pretty clear. Let me just ask you some details on that. Does that mean that there will be no deduction for interest on mortgages, Governor? Does it? That's what it means?

HUNTSMAN: That means no deductions. That means no deductions at all.

SCHIEFFER: What about -- what about no child tax credit? I guess it means none of that, no earned income tax credit...

HUNTSMAN: None of that.

SCHIEFFER: But let me ask you this, does that mean that Social Security recipients are now going to have to pay taxes on their income?

Will veterans have to pay taxes on their disability checks and their benefits?

HUNTSMAN: Bob, what I'm asking for is a complete remake of our tax code. And in order to get where this country needs to be, in a position for the rest of the 21st century, given where of our other competitor nations have come since 1986 tax reform, which I thought was very successful under President Reagan -- we forget we just haven't made a whole lot of progress in the last 30 years.

HUNTSMAN: All the while you have a lot of our competitor nations in the world who have made tremendous strides towards becoming more competitive.

We're sitting kind of a little bit fat, dumb, and happy as still 25 percent of the world's GDP without having made the steps necessary to get us back in the game. So I'm calling for that which is bold.

I know it's going to be politically controversial, but I think it is absolutely needed at this point in our nation's history.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you this...

HUNTSMAN: Clearing out the cobwebs, clearing out the cobwebs, clearing out the deductions, the corporate welfare, the subsidies, buying down the rate. And when I hear people saying you can take it down to zero, all I'm saying is you have got to be real about the math here. You have got to raise some revenue and you've got to be able to buy down a rate to a level that mathematically makes sense.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what about what Sarah Palin said yesterday, let's just do away with corporate taxes. Do you think -- would you be willing to go that far?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, that's a great political bromide. And everybody would love to go down to zero in terms of corporate taxes. How do you do it? How do you make the numbers work? All I'm telling you is I have been there and I've done that. I have worked on tax reform, the most sweeping tax reform we ever saw in the history of our state, the kind of tax reform where people like Art Laffer and others came into our state and said, this is exactly what needs to happen in every other state, effectively creating a flat tax.

I've been there and I've done that. I know how difficult it is to make the numbers work. You have got to find the revenues somewhere that you can reinvest back in the tax code to bring down the rate for everybody.

I've looked very carefully at the numbers. I've looked at what the Simpson-Bowles Commission report did. And this was a bipartisan group of very thoughtful people who looked at our tax code. I looked at their work. I thought it was outstanding.

I took their work and built upon it, I think made it even better. So I believe that ours is based on the real world and where we can make the numbers actually work. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about something else in the real world, Governor. You have styled yourself as the moderate in this race. But when I look at these polls I see Rick Perry now getting 26, 27 percent of the Republicans favoring him.

You heard Congresswoman Bachmann. She's scoring 10 to 16 percent favoring her. Ron Paul getting 10 percent in some polls. Now Palin getting in with another 10 percent or so. That means that at least 50 percent, perhaps 60 percent of the Republican electorate seems to favor very, very conservative candidates.

Do you think you can keep on styling yourself as a moderate? Or are you going to have to move to the right here?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say, everybody kind of gets a label slapped on their forehead, which I think is unfortunate. All you have to do is look up at my record. My record is what it is. I'm running proudly on my record. I am who I am as a politician and as a human being.

And when people look at my record, they're going to see that I'm pro-life. I'm pro Second Amendment. I'm pro growth. We've created the largest environment for tax cuts and economic rejuvenation in our state.

When people look at my record, they're going to find a lot to like about it. But the early polls, Bob, are absolute nonsense at this point in the game.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

HUNTSMAN: I mean, if we had gone by the polls back in 2008, Fred Thompson would be president. Howard Dean back in 2004. I believe we've always had -- we've already had about four frontrunners in the race so far.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Clock just ran out.

HUNTSMAN: So stay tuned. There's a lot to play out this fall season.

SCHIEFFER: The clock just ran out, Governor. I'm very sorry. Thank you so much and good luck down the trail, and see you again.

HUNTSMAN: Thanks again from "American Gothic." I appreciate it.

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