WASHINGTON, April 22, 2012 – Self-made millionaire and former two-term governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson initially sought the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
After being largely excluded from the early debates, Johnson left the Republican Party and now seeks the Libertarian Party’s nomination.
“It’s always been about the message,” Mr. Johnson says. “I’m a messenger. I think for the most part I’m delivering the same message as Ron Paul. I think that the message is identifying the solutions to the problems that this country faces and genuinely recognizing the solutions. Having been excluded from the Republican debates, that really was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
So what are the solutions that Johnson proposes?
“I’m making three promises as president of the United States,” Mr. Johnson says. “The first promise, I promise to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013. Now that’s not promising to balance the budget, because that’s going to require Congress to cooperate with that, but I’m promising to submit that document. That’s a 1.4 trillion reduction in federal spending. I’m also promising to veto any legislation where expenses exceed revenue, believing that with those two promises, spending will be lower than any other scenario that you could come up with.”
Johnson’s third promise is to propose throwing out the current federal tax system and replacing individual income taxes, corporate taxes and payroll taxes with a consumption tax. That would include eliminating the IRS.
This would also require the support of the Congress.
There’s not much doubt about Johnson’s willingness to use the veto power. As governor of New Mexico, Johnson says he may have vetoed more legislation than the other 49 governors combined. That was one reason he was generally called “the libertarian governor,” a moniker Johnson is proud of.
The Libertarian Party bills itself as “The Party of Principle.” The fundamental principle of libertarianism is non-aggression. No one has the right to initiate the use of force against anyone else.
“Government’s only role is to help individuals defend themselves from force and fraud,” according to the party website. This non-aggression axiom defines the limits on government power.
However, Johnson has always maintained that policy decisions should be based upon a “cost benefit analysis,” rather than the non-aggression axiom. I’ve previously argued that this means that he is not really a libertarian and that his reasoning would lead to “non-libertarian” policies, to which Mr. Johnson replied.
“I was asked about this as governor more than a few times - the notion that a cost-benefit analysis might not serve the citizens of New Mexico in the best way. My response was always ‘Just give me one example.’ Can you think of one example of where, from a cost-benefit standpoint, citizens would not be ahead with this notion of shouldn’t government always be looking for best product, best service at the lowest price? And with the caveat that there are a lot of things the government does that it shouldn’t be doing at all and just to make it less expensive, that’s better than the way it currently is, but the best would be to not have any of it at all.”
Which returns the conversation back to the original question: How does the POTUS decide which things “the government shouldn’t be doing at all.” It’s not clear where Johnson stands on this, but we can certainly look at the positions he’s taken, regardless of how he arrived at them.
Most of Johnson’s positions, including legalizing marijuana, repealing the Patriot Act and getting rid of the income tax take the government in a more libertarian direction.
However, there are some questions about whether his foreign policy does likewise. Generally Johnson wants to cut military spending, yet he has also said that he would maintain a military presence in the Middle East, continue drone attacks in Pakistan, and even consider military intervention for humanitarian reasons.
Mr. Johnson cites going into Uganda to get Joseph Kony as an example.
“I really want to draw a line of distinction between non-intervention, which is something I absolutely, completely believe in and the notion of isolationism. I don’t think we should be isolationists, but I don’t think we should be interventionists either.”
For Johnson, that distinction is defined as not interfering with the internationally recognized governments of other nations unless they commit acts of war against the United States. However, he would use the U.S. military for a humanitarian mission if that government asked for U.S. assistance and the Congress authorized use of the military for that purpose.
How does a libertarian president justify taxing American citizens to provide protection to people in other countries? If the government can, then why can’t it tax U.S. citizens to provide healthcare for other U.S. citizens?
These are positions that Johnson should be challenged on during the vetting process for the LP nomination. However, on the whole, he certainly sounds a lot more like Ron Paul than either Romney or Obama.
“When I dropped out of the Republican Party, I asked everybody that was supporting me to support Ron Paul,” Mr. Johnson says. “I hope he’s successful. I hope he gets the Republican nomination, but I don’t think he is going to. I think at the core of Ron Paul’s support are people with brains. I don’t know if they have to be told anything. I think they’re going to recognize that there is a viable alternative to just a write-in [a write-in vote for Paul if he is not the Republican nominee].”
If Romney succeeds in getting the Republican nomination, the presidential debates won’t have much substance. Romney and Obama simply don’t disagree on much when you peel away partisan rhetoric.
It very well may come down to who is meaner to dogs.
With the U.S. economy in shambles, federal deficits in the trillions and no indication that either major party will change anything, Americans deserve better than that. It’s time they seriously considered a third party candidate. Gary Johnson’s message deserves to be heard.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
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