Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor running for the Republican presidential nomination, debuted a tax plan that eliminates almost every tax deduction and credit and lowers the rates. He won plaudits from the Wall Street Journal, and the general thrust of his plan indeed deserves praise. But with housing markets weak, is this really the right time to end the mortgage-interest deduction? And the child tax credit, which Huntsman would eliminate, is no more a distortionary tax break than are the low taxes on capital he favors. The credit partly offsets the double taxation of parents contained in our entitlement system, to which they contribute through both payroll taxes and the raising of children. Any flat tax that aims to raise roughly the same amount of revenue as the present system is likely to raise taxes on the middle class. By opting for a version of the flat tax that ends the child credit, Huntsman ensures that the burden will be borne disproportionately by middle-class parents, who are also known as the Republican base. Huntsman has not found the solution to the problems in our tax code, or to his low poll numbers
Robert P. George, the Princeton constitutional scholar, surprised the presidential candidates at a debate by asking them whether they believed, first, that the Fourteenth Amendment gives the elected branches of the federal government the power to protect unborn life, and second, that those branches should exercise that power despite the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. Governor Romney balked, expressing fear of a “constitutional crisis.” This fear is overblown. When the Supreme Court declared partial-birth abortion a constitutional right, Congress defied it by passing a federal ban. The Court, wiser for the replacement of Sandra Day O’Connor by Samuel Alito, reconsidered its earlier decision. (There was a face-saving pretense that the new ban was actually compatible with that earlier decision, but everyone understood the game.) Abraham Lincoln, as Professor George’s question noted, had it right: For Congress and the president to accept the infallibility of the Supreme Court would be the real constitutional crisis.
Another GOP presidential candidates’ debate a couple of days later was moderated by Brian Williams of NBC and John Harris of Politico. Well, most of it was. Halfway through the scheduled time, Williams introduced Jose Diaz-Balart from the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo. Mr. Diaz-Balart proceeded to ask the candidates questions about immigration policy, and about nothing else. We don’t doubt that Mr. Diaz-Balart (American-born, to Cuban parents) is a thoroughly professional journalist and a credit to his network, but . . . why was this particular person brought in to help moderate this particular topic? Do Spanish-speakers now “own” immigration policy? If so, why? Did Messrs. Williams and Harris not feel competent to deal with immigration issues? Are the nation’s policy discussions now to be allotted by ethnic interest, with Hispanics owning immigration, blacks owning poverty, Muslims owning religious accommodations, and so on? Are the rest of us to be permitted no opinion? Who gets to own agriculture — the Amish?