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Huntsman Hopes Jobs Plan Gets Him President's Job


Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman did not wait until after the Labor Day weekend. Yesterday, he unveiled a jobs plan that calls for lower taxes and fewer regulations. He did that in New Hampshire. Huntsman enjoyed a strong track record of job growth as governor of Utah, which he hopes to use to improve his track record in national polls. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: New Hampshire's economy is doing better than most of the country. The unemployment rate - 5.2 percent - is among of the lowest in the United States. Even so, Jon Huntsman expects jobs to be the number one issue here and his ticket up from what he's jokingly called his margin of error standing in the polls.

JON HUNTSMAN: I'm here to tell you that 2012 is going to be about nothing beyond expanding this economy and creating jobs, plain and simple.

HORSLEY: Huntsman's especially concerned about manufacturing jobs. While U.S. factories have been a relative bright spot in the still tepid economic recovery, Huntsman complains manufacturing's share of the economy is a shadow of what it used to be.

HUNTSMAN: Twenty-five percent when I was born in 1960, 10 percent today. You can't live off services alone, I hate to tell you. As good as we are in the services sector, we've got to get back to where we can make things in this country anymore.

HORSLEY: They're making all sorts of things at the Gilchrist Metal Fabricating plant in Hudson, New Hampshire, where Huntsman spoke yesterday. Chris Wulf was busy guiding a computer-controlled laser as it carved raw pieces out of sheet metal in a shower of sparks.

CHRIS WULF: Glorified game of Battleship. The X and Y coordinates, you know, certain places it'll fire, drag the laser beam, shut it off, pick up, move to a new one.

HORSLEY: Wulf says the factory's good wages and benefits have kept him on the job for more than a decade. It's the kind of skilled manufacturing any government would like to encourage. But the owner complains his sales to offshore oil drilling rigs have dried up since last year's BP spill. Huntsman argues heavy-handed regulation is costing U.S. jobs.

HUNTSMAN: Our creative and entrepreneurial class is being strangled by a complex and convoluted web of misguided and overreaching regulations.

HORSLEY: Huntsman's jobs plan calls for rolling back environmental, banking, and health care regulations championed by the Obama administration. He also wants to overhaul the tax code, to eliminate deductions in exchange for deep cuts in personal and corporate rates. And he'd do away with taxes on dividends and capital gains altogether.

HUNTSMAN: Rather than tinker around the edges of what is a broken system, I'm going to drop a plan on the front steps of the Capitol that says: We need to clean house.

HORSLEY: There's nothing in Huntsman's plan to distinguish him from the rest of the GOP field. His plan could have been cribbed from the talking points of just about any Republican in Congress. Huntsman acknowledged as much, but said novelty is not the point.

HUNTSMAN: Washington has never suffered from a vacuum of ideas. It suffers from a vacuum of leadership. I'm not running for president to promise solutions. I'm running to deliver solutions.

HORSLEY: And Huntsman can argue he did deliver in Utah, where he was governor from 2005 to 2009. Retired Wells Fargo economist Kelly Matthews says Utah, Arizona, and Nevada led the nation in job growth for the first three years of Huntsman's administration. And unlike its southwestern neighbors, Utah was not as hard hit when the housing bubble burst.

KELLY MATTHEWS: We were among the very best in the boom, and we are beginning to recover much more quickly than those states that we were competing with.

HORSLEY: Matthews says low taxes and a friendly regulatory environment were part of Utah's success, but not the whole story.

MATTHEWS: I think if you ask any business, perhaps the most important thing is the type of people that they can hire, both in terms of being educated and the integrity of the labor force, and then the quality of life.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, Manchester, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.