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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

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30 Jan 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

What It Now Means to Be a "Moderate Republican"


Jon Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah and more recently U. S. ambassador to China, has had his true-believer GOP credentials openly questioned by the Conservative Police.

True, Huntsman believes in evolution and accepts the reality of climate change, while supporting civil unions for gay couples. But what made Huntsman suspect was his statement about Barack Obama, who appointed him ambassador: "I respect the president of the United States. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president, not who who's the better American."

Make no mistake about it: The Republican Party of 2012 is significantly more conservative and less moderate than the Republican Party that, four years ago, nominated John McCain. It's not that long ago that the Republican Party had real liberal stars such as Nelson Rockefeller, and U.S. Sens. Mark Hatfield of Oregon, Jacob Javits of New York, John Chaffee of Rhode Island and Mac Mathias of Maryland.

Not fully trusted by many liberal Democrats and disliked by many conservative Republicans, these GOP mavericks were taunted: The definition of a liberal Republican is someone who, when you're drowning some 30 feet offshore, throws you a 20 foot rope and boasts that he "went more than halfway."

Huntsman's positions on science, the environment and cultural issues are indeed unorthodox in today's Republican Party. But where the rubber hits the road — on who pays federal taxes — Jon Huntsman is no flaming moderate. He's more conservative than Mitt Romney.

This past week, Huntsman gave us his tax plan, which is enough to make Daddy Warbucks do handstands. Huntsman joins fellow GOP presidential candidates Minnesota Rep.

Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former CEO Herman Cain in calling for the elimination of any federal tax on capital gains.

According to the best estimate of the respected Tax Policy Center, U.S. households making less than $50,000 a year pay an average of less than $10 a year on investments. Even those earning between $100,000 and $200,000 annually pay just an average of $400 in capital gains taxes.

And the real winners if the capital gains tax is in fact lowered to zero? According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 1 percent of earners with an average pre-tax income of almost $7 million, who under the Huntsman plan would get a windfall tax cut of $350,000 a year. How moderate would you call that?

Not very, by recent Republican standards. During the 1996 GOP presidential campaign, Malcolm "Steve" Forbes advocated a 16 percent "flat tax" plan that excluded interest and dividend income from federal taxation. Forbes was challenged by Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who argued, "It's not fair to say that people who work with their head or with their hands ought to pay taxes, but that people who earn their living with capital ought not to."

Republican candidate Pat Buchanan was more colorful in his criticism, suggesting that Forbes' plan to exclude dividends from taxation must have been forged "by the boys at the yacht basin" because it would "let some trust-fund baby in Florida clip coupons the rest of his life and pay zero taxes."

The criticism of Gramm and Buchanan are just as valid today. Why should a firefighter or nurse or a Marine gunnery sergeant pay federal taxes on the wages each earns through blood, sweat and skill, while the lazy heir to a family fortune does not pay a dime to Uncle Sam?

You can call the candidate who wants to completely abolish the capital gains tax a lot of things, but you cannot call him moderate.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




3 Comments | Post Comment
For the most part when people invest they do so with money that has already been taxed. When shareholders make money from their investments that money too has already been taxed. Even with that stated i do agree with a capital gains tax. The article states, but fails to identify, a huge problem in this country, the middle and lower classes do not invest. The lack of long term investment from the majority of Americans has lead to instability in the stock markets but more importantly excluded that majority from the gains of the stock market.
Comment: #1
Posted by: zach
Fri Sep 9, 2011 4:27 AM
The United States is now getting to a dangerous place. It seemed that the situation comedies of the past thirty years were the key to the decline, portraying greed, lust, hate, anger, egotism, and racism as understandable or human. Now, we know it was the Baby Boomer university professors in the humanities departments who had failed. The capital gains tax issue foreshadows a communist style civil war between the privileged college graduates and everybody else, for example menial worker drop outs who owe $30k in student loans and could not succeed in college because they lacked conniving skills. In short, the west is about to bury itself. A ray of hope exists in that Obama is our Jimmy Carter, and we got through 1979 ok. The bad news is that the media is now totally aligned with the government, and there is no Reagan on the horizon to save us this time.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Mike Hayne
Fri Sep 9, 2011 8:52 AM
I'll tell you what Mark. I've been a registered Democrat all my life, and I've had it with priests who are supposed to be close to God but screw little boys and girls, and all the other false friends who know all the right words and concepts but continue to sell us all out, NO DIFFERENTLY than the Repes who have ideas like Huntsman that don't meet the dictates of political correctness.

I don't think you really know what the economic impact of treating capital gains differently than earned income would really be in a world without tax loopholes, and in which the U.S. does not get to rest on its laurels any more. Think Detroit and what happened to the auto manufacturing industry here over the decades when the CEO's and the unions they were in bed with were boss and didn't care because they didn't have to.

The failed Detroit is a poster child for the USA, Buddy. Born on third base and think we hit a triple. Not any more. It's a whole new ballgame, and we need Huntsmans who are intelligent, don't deny the kind of science that got us out of the caves, and are willing to think out loud about how to fix this big mess.

He is standing up to the Tea Party and the general trend of the Repes to self destruct. Are you standing up to the orthodoxy of the Democratic Party? Are you calling them on the crap they try to sell us every day?

All you have been saying lately is the right words, as far as I can tell. And I follow you closely.

I am done with the Democrats, just like I am done with those "priests" (see above). I don't want to hear any more certainty from pundits who don't have a clue about the subject matter they are writing about. Stick to the war stories, the nice vignettes of folks from both sides of the aisle who got along in the good old days, what you can report about what you actually saw and heard during all of those wonderful years when you were on the scene, and your insights about the political process.

What you could have done with respect to what happened in Wisconsin was acknowledge that unions in government service are a very different matter than unions in the private sector. You could also have acknowledged that government has big problems holding workers accountable because of civil service rules put in place by union pressure that in some cases are antithetical to serving the taxpayers.

Give a read to someone who should be your buddy, Nicolas Kristof, who has complained before about teachers' union protecting incompetence. That's the tip of the iceberg.

If you want to serve the Democrats, whom you still love and whom I've had it with, make them confront how anti-citizen their "pro-worker" stances have become. And lest you forget, workers happen to be citizens...

I still luv ya, you are authentic, but I'm pissed. And I really think this particular, uninformed column, is beneath you.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Masako
Sat Sep 10, 2011 7:17 PM
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