Huntsman says he would end corporate welfare, negotiate fair trade with world
By Simón Ríos Union Leader Correspondent
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman takes a minute to speak with Windham resident Bob Keenan about crony capitalism and income inequality at Rivier College. (Simón Ríos)
NASHUA - Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman spoke at Rivier College in Nashua Tuesday morning, flexing his intellectual muscle on a gamut of topics ranging from the prospect of a nuclear Iran to the two greatest deficits he said the country faces - economic and trust.
"I think it's totally unacceptable that we are about to pass down the greatest nation that ever was to the next generation, less good, less productive, less competitive, more divided, (more) saddled with debt than any time in recent history," Huntsman said to a crowd of 110.
Huntsman ranks fourth in the latest WMUR/UNH poll with just over six weeks remaining before Granite State voters make their selection on Jan. 10.
Following the event the former Utah governor said he would not veto the current Democratic bill to extend payroll tax cuts.
"I'd simply put it together with a larger negotiation on tax reform," he said, part of which would look at phasing out "corporate welfare."
Huntsman stressed repeatedly that his number one concern is the economy. With the decline of Japan, Greece, and Italy, the rise of China is causing tectonic shifts in the global market.
"When I was born in 1950, we exported $3 for every $2 we imported. We controlled 36 percent of the world's GDP," Hunstman said, and 25 percent of the GDP came from manufacturing, a number that has since sunken to nine percent.
Hunstman called for a manufacturing renaissance to fortify the U.S. economy, saying stunted economic growth is a threat to national security.
Having lived overseas four times, Huntsman said he's seen what the rest of the world is doing economically, and knows "we've got our work cut out for us."
"We're not doing trade agreements with people anymore," he said. "President (Obama) has been completely missing in action for three years on any kind of international economic engagement."
But Huntsman's remarks come hours after the president of South Korea signed a series of laws to facilitate the U.S.-Korea free trade deal. In the face of trade unions and some Democrats in Congress, Barack Obama signed the agreement in October alongside similar deals with Colombia and Panama.
Huntsman inspired applause when he called for congressional term limits: "There's this thing called incumbency, where the roots are very deep and people hang around for way too long and become part of the structure, and find it impossible to leave. That's nonsense."
The former ambassador to China wasted little breath slinging mud at the other candidates, and only took one jibe at Obama saying that he couldn't lead.
But he did distinguish himself from the Republican status quo. "I'm not gonna sign those pledges," he said, apparently referencing GOP activist Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. 238 of 242 Republican House representatives and 41 of 47 Republican senators signed Norquist's pledge against tax hikes, which Democrats blame for the failure of the supercommittee for deficit reduction.
Windham resident Bob Keenan approached Huntsman to raise the concern of economic inequality. A decidedly Democratic voter, Keenan later said "Jon Huntsman is the most sane person I've seen out here on the Republican side."
Keenan said he voted Obama in 2008, but in a general election against Huntsman it would be a hard choice. "With any other Republican candidate there's no chance."
Paul Chevalier, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, said he's worked for the Huntsman campaign since it first entered the fray. "He talks about reinstalling pride in America, and patriotism, and things that I see disappearing. We got young men and women putting their lives on the line every day for America… and I think that Gov. Huntsman has all the answers."
Chevalier, who has a grandson in Afghanistan, agrees with Huntsman that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should come to an end. "We don't need that," he said.
"He's looking for the best way to do things, and not necessarily the Republican way or the Democrat way, but the American way."