2011-08-23 "Moderate GOP Presidential Hopeful: Tax the Poor" by Sam Taxy
Jon Huntsman, former Utah Governor and current Republican hopeful for President, has until recently been charting a moderate course in the Republican primary, often echoing Mitt Romney’s talking points [http://www.care2.com/causes/huntsman-still-running.html]. That is, until Sunday when he told the Wall Street Journal his innovative new plan to fix the economy: tax the poor and elderly. In his own words, he believes that “we don’t have enough people paying taxes in this country.” [http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/08/21/huntsman-fires-from-center-at-perry-bachmann/]
The WSJ reports that this is just a case of Huntsman falling into line “with the new Republican orthodoxy that the half of American households no longer paying income tax – mainly working poor families and seniors – should be brought onto the income tax rolls.” This puts Huntsman in the same boat as his far more conservative adversaries Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann, who both think that low income households and individuals should be paying a more substantial tax burden.
Obviously, Huntsman is flat out wrong. Though they may not pay high income taxes, low income households do pay payroll taxes, which take up a larger percentage of their income than for the rich. Also, they have to pay local, state and federal taxes on staples such as food and gas in addition to state income taxes. This means that even the unemployed pay taxes. A recent book [http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520269675] by sociologists Katherine Newman and Rourke O’Brien finds that in some southern states, the sales taxes are so regressive and onerous that they are driving the poor further into poverty, exacerbating problems such as obesity and high school drop out rates.
The numbers back up this logic, showing that the poor contribute significant sums of money to the IRS: the lowest income quintile pay, on average, 16% of their income in taxes [http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html]. This compares to just over 30% for the mega rich. But those are raw numbers, not the marginal rates. On the margins, the poor have the highest tax rate in the country — in many cases for every dollar they earn, more than a dollar is clawed back [http://epionline.org/study_detail.cfm?sid=27].
Especially in these hard economic times, with high unemployment and underemployment rates, the last thing we need is another presidential candidate who wants to continue to over-tax the poor in order to coddle the rich. It’s especially disappointing that Huntsman, who has been positioning himself as a rare Republican candidate who (gasp!) believes in science [http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-huntsman-gets-vocal.html] and criticizes other candidates for being too extreme [http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-huntsman-still-after-perry.html], has joined the tax the poor bandwagon. I guess he realized that all of our corporate tax loopholes aren’t going to pay for themselves.
Since Huntsman might be positioning himself for a VP nod [http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/177809-huntsman-says-he-could-join-bachmann-as-vp-candidate] or 2016 run [http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-huntsman-gets-vocal.html], it’s important to keep on eye on not just his flashy centrist pronouncements, but also the disturbing policy prescriptions he’d rather keep hidden. It makes me wonder, though, if an all out war on the poor is now seen as moderate, what are conservative extremists hiding up their sleeves?