That bell you hear is the happy discovery of the other sane Republican left in the country, sharing a lonely seat with Chuck Hagel. Ring ring goes the bell for the former U.S. Ambassador to China and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.
Huntsman broke with the Republican Party on the economy, telling Bloomberg TV’s Al Hunt that we need bipartisan solutions to the budget including curtailing tax loopholes in order to generate revenue (imagine that!). Huntsman said, “Some see it as revenue raising. I see it as cleaning the tax code of all of the encumbrances that keep us from growing.”
Watch Jon Huntsman talk with Bloomberg’s Al Hunt about the Republican Party platform for Bloomberg TV:
Huntsman urged bipartisan solutions for avoiding $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts per the sequester. “Some see it as revenue raising. I see it as cleaning the tax code of all of the encumbrances that keep us from growing.”
Huntsman also recommended cutting “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare. While I don’t agree with Huntsman’s qualification of Social Security as an “entitlement” since we all pay into the earned benefit of the Social Security trust fund, with a serious Republican like Huntsman this debate can and should be heard.
If the modern day Republican Party were not so steeped in crazy rhetoric about legitimate rape and self-deportation, we could have real debates over ideology – the kind of vigorous debate this country was founded upon. However, given the fact that Republican ideology has failed over the last 40 years, it’s no wonder that they prefer to avoid a real debate.
Huntsman is a sane, logical Republican with whom real work could be accomplished. With someone like Huntsman, we can debate the fact that austerity is not a good idea in the middle of a recession. We could ask why Republicans are so focused on cutting spending when independent economists agree that the deficit is not the emergency. The emergency is that the American people need decent paying jobs.
We hardly ever hear about the emergency of the unemployed and underemployed. All we hear about is the deficit, yet it is not the thing threatening to destroy our economy immediately.
Referring to the Republican Party’s focus on political strategy rather than ideas, Huntsman used Republican Governor Bobby Jindal’s birther bill as an example of the sort of Republican pandering that needs to stop, “It’s a message bill. Messaging and pandering and pledge-signing are all things that take our eye off the ball. We ought to be focused on a strategy for this country that speaks to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, growing the economic base, and giving people opportunity. If we’re not focused on that, we’re wasting time.”
Huntsman’s words serve to remind us of the days when the Republican Party was sane and offered needed balance to the Democratic Party. Reasonable people know that no one ideology should rule the country, and that the best solutions come as a result of being tested through smart, fact-based debate. There’s also merit in the conservative push-back against change, which used to serve as a check but now serves only to obstruct due to their refusal to even participate as reasonable actors in the debate. The problem for Republicans is that the facts have a liberal bias these days, and instead of regrouping, they keep trying to deflect.
Imagine if we were having a real debate about the economy: Instead of following the Republicans over every drama-filled fiscal cliff of their creation, we might actually be debating whether the deficit “crisis” is really an emergency and if it supersedes the unemployment crisis. Economic data suggest that the employment crisis is the issue of the day, and yet the Republicans and the media act as if it does not exist — until it’s campaign season.
Jon Hunstman was one of the few Republicans deserving a look in 2012, but he wasn’t crazy enough to win the GOP base. He’s speaking hard truths to the party, but even if they’re listening, they’re too busy following Luntz and Rove off the rebranding cliff to really get the message.