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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Jon Huntsman talks with Telegraph reporters and editors during his editorial board interview Wednesday, November 16, 2011.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Jon Huntsman arrives for his editorial board interview Wednesday, November 16, 2011 in the television production studio at Nashua High School South.
Thursday, November 17, 2011

Huntsman eyes marketplace fix

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth in an occasional series of stories based on meetings between The Telegraph editorial board and candidates for president.

NASHUA – During his time in office, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman drove a natural gas-powered vehicle.

The SUV, a converted Chevy Suburban, got good mileage, the presidential hopeful said Wednesday in a meeting with The Telegraph editorial board. But it couldn’t get far around the state because there were no natural gas power stations available, he said.

“You can drive it 300 miles with two tanks in the back, but you got stuck there in the middle of the desert, so what good is that?” Huntsman, 51, said with a laugh.

“So we took some steps to … create a natural gas corridor linking one end of our state to another. This can be done nationally; I have no doubt about that. It just takes a little bit of leadership.”

Shifting toward a natural gas-powered system would go far in lifting the country’s dependency on foreign oil, Huntsman said. “We have more natural gas in this country than Saudi Arabia has oil,” he said, “How stupid are we?

But it would go even further in restoring ingenuity and innovation to the American marketplace, which has been slowed by the economic depression and over-regulation, he said.

“We have to fix our marketplace here in the United States,” Huntsman said. “We have to re-orient it toward one that encourages brainpower and encourages investment.”

The first step to restore the economy is tax reform, the candidate said. While his presidential opponents tout their 9-9-9 and flat tax plans, Huntsman has focused his pitch on eliminating loopholes and deductions from the federal tax code, as he did in Utah. This would lead to lower income tax rates, he said, and eliminating “corporate welfare” and federal subsidies would help lower business rates, as well.

“A 9-9-9 proposal isn’t going to work,” Huntsman said, referring to opponent Herman Cain’s proposal for a 9 percent business, individual and national sales tax. “The half measures aren’t going to work. … We’re in a bad place economically, and it’s going to take a bold, courageous proposal that’s as big and courageous as the challenges are that we face on the other side.”

To further stimulate the business climate, Huntsman said Congress must repeal several key pieces of legislation that infringe upon businesses ability to grow, starting with the federal health care reform bill.

The Affordable Care Act, known among opponents as Obamacare, has saddled businesses with high and unpredictable health insurance costs, Huntsman said.

But other federal laws have proven similarly restrictive, he said – including the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill, which has supported large national banks, while making it difficult for small banks to grant loans.

“The requirements they have to live up to now make it virtually impossible for a small-business person to get a loan,” Huntsman said. “That’s a bad place for us, as a country, to be.”

Among many foreign policy issues addressed, Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, said American troops should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan, and national leaders should focus their attentions instead on the Far East. China, which boasts high economic growth rates, is emerging as America’s chief economic rival in the 21st century, he said. But the country’s economy is starting to falter due to high inflation, among other factors, which could create an opportunity for the United States, under new leadership, to attract more foreign investment and restore its economic prominence, Huntsman said.

“We should position ourselves as that alternative (to China), and we should broadcast to the world that we’re back in the game,” he said. “People want to do it here. They want to invest in this country again. They just need to believe that leadership is behind them.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or