Jon Huntsman may not be Rush Limbaugh’s favorite Republican, with the conservative talker blasting the ex-governor as a moderate. But on one important issue, at least, the two had similar ideas. In 2009, there existed little daylight between the two men on the stimulus debate.
The pair’s consensus recovery package: A bifurcated stimulus in which taxes are cut and government dollars are concentrated where most appropriate and effective, on infrastructure.
El Rushbo, in a 2009 Wall Street Journal editorial:
This does not have to be a divisive issue. My proposal is a genuine compromise.
Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let’s say the vote was 54% to 46%. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009: 54% of the $900 billion — $486 billion — will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46% — $414 billion — will be directed toward tax cuts, as determined by me.
To be sure, Limbaugh is famously known for using injecting humor into debates, so it’s possible that even an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal was meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s also likely that Limbaugh’s proposal reflected his belief that a stimulus was a fait accompli (and thus adding tax cuts to a Keynesian spending proposal would be better than nothing).
Regardless, at the end of the day, Limbaugh’s proposal was not dramatically different from Huntsman’s — with Huntsman arguing that the spending measure “should be teamed with incentives for small and medium-sized businesses.”
As the Washington Times reported in 2009, Huntsman said “much of the spending is misdirected and more likely to bloat the government than boost the economy.” And in a earlier interview with Politico at the height of the debate, he floated a “payroll exemption or maybe even a cut in the corporate tax … for small and medium-sized businesses for three years.”
In politics, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. Huntsman will be hurt in a GOP primary by the fact that he supported the stimulus. But it would also be simplistic and inaccurate to argue that what Huntsman wanted — and what Barack Obama delivered — were the same.