Sent to IPR by Mike Kane:
I’m writing you today to express some concerns I have with some of Gary Johnson’s recent statements and policy platforms.
I ask that you please read through this entire letter before making a decision on who to nominate at the Convention.
In this letter, I will address Gary Johnson’s foreign policy, his advocacy for the “Fair Tax”, and his positions on welfare/entitlement programs. I have contributed to Johnson’s campaign financially, and will support him should he be the Libertarian Party presidential candidate. I cannot guarantee that I will contribute to his campaign as much as I would a different nominee though. I had the opportunity to address some of my concerns with him directly, and I will post his responses throughout this letter.
To those of you I haven’t met personally, here’s a bit of background. I have been a member of the Libertarian Party since 2007, and I’ve worked extremely hard in the past to promote the ideals that our party stands for. I’ve gone door to door, written blog posts, petitioned for ballot access, held fundraisers, contributed financially and ran for office myself. I currently sit on the board of the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia.
Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, had a very impressive record in limiting the growth of government during his time there. Vetoing over 700 bills and his efforts to cut spending at the state level are tremendous feats. When he took office New Mexico had a deficit, and when he left there was a surplus. I also commend his work on the school voucher program in New Mexico. Lastly, his 43% federal budget cut proposal is one I fully agree with.
That said though, there are plenty of reservations I have about him representing the Libertarian Party as our presidential candidate. I do understand he will get significantly more media attention than some of the other potential candidates, but I question if someone with these views is someone we want representing the Libertarian Party. If media attention is the only goal, I’m sure there are many other candidates who would get more media exposure.
The Libertarian Party Platform states, under section 3.1 National Defense:
The United States should both avoid entangling alliances and abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world.
Thomas Jefferson also said it ” *peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none”.
Gary Johnson’s stance on both Israel and Uganda are in direct conflict to the party platform and the words of the great Thomas Jefferson.
When I asked Johnson asked about this publically, he couldn’t give me a straight answer, and he stated that distancing himself from military alliance with Israel would be politically disadvantageous for anyone seeking the office of the President. I also asked Johnson whether we should end all financial support to Israel, and he replied that we should not. Privately, he asked me if I thought it would be better to just have Israel fight the war for us, to which I replied, I think it would be better if they fought their own war and we stayed out of it. I told him that our tax dollars shouldn’t ever go overseas, but especially to a country that can defend themselves. I compared the current Israel/Iran situation to during the Cold War, and reminded him that Iran feels threatened no different than we did. He still refused to state that we should end all foreign aid to Israel.
In October 2011, Johnson stated he would authorize military action against Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army and their leader Joseph Kony 2012. His words: “It’s go in, get the job done – period — and get out,”. At the time, Obama had already sent 100 troops to look for Kony, who by all reports had already fled Uganda. Judging by the fact that no troops have yet identified his location, it’s safe to say the reports were correct. Regardless, Johnson is advocating using U.S tax dollars to intervene in other countries affairs.
The LP’s 2012 convention website has a clear statement: The Libertarian Party is committed to the same freedom which earned America its greatness: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings; a dedication to civil liberties and personal freedom; and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade as prescribed by America’s founders. For more information visit LP.org.
Gary Johnson says that humanitarian wars are OK to fight, and that our tax dollars should go to fighting them: “If there’s a clear genocide somewhere, don’t we really want to positively impact that kind of a situation?”. This is again in direct conflict to the party’s platform.
His website itself even states “The U.S. must make better use of military alliances” .
The United States can no longer afford any military intervention globally as this country is on the verge of financial collapse. The U.S. would be better off leading by example, promising not to intervene militarily unless outright attacked by another country. We no longer should serve as a peacekeeper in the world, as it only fuels the outrage while we occupy other countries.
Gary Johnson is a known and proud Fair Tax supporter. He is making it the centerpiece of his campaign. According to his website he advocates
- Abolish the Internal Revenue Service.
- Enact the Fair Tax to tax expenditures, rather than income, with a ‘prebate’ to make spending on basic necessities tax free.
- With the Fair Tax, eliminate business taxes, withholding and other levies that penalize productivity, while creating millions of jobs.”
While I personally support abolishing the IRS and the income tax and agree with him on that, I have some serious reservations about the Fair Tax. There’s a strong chance that the Fair Tax could end up being an additional tax, which Libertarians strongly oppose as there is no guarantee that the clause repealing the 16th amendment couldn’t be removed during committee negotiations in Congress. The advertised rate is 23%, but the real amount of the tax is 30% under current proposals. The vast majority of Americans examining the FT would agree that the tax is really 30% as opposed to 23%. By Johnson making this the centerpiece of his campaign, he looks dishonest to the general public. There’s nothing preventing future congressional sessions from increasing the Fair Tax rate.
The fair tax will also destroy the new housing market. I highly doubt that a bank will finance the 30%, so buyers will have pay the 30% out of pocket upfront to simply purchase a new house. If the banks will finance the 30% tax, home buyers will then have to pay interest on the tax. The majority of a mortgage is interest anyways, so the total amount of money paid out would be considerably more than 30% over the long run. Some advocates say that if fair tax is implemented, there will be some items that are exempt, such as new houses. This will cause a tremendous deadweight loss from lobbying from special interest groups for exemptions/reductions on their products, such as new homes and auto manufacturers. There are already highly influential groups lobbying over a few percentage points in change of corporate tax rates and tariffs, one can only imagine how strong the lobbyists will work to get special breaks. Overnight, the fair tax will shift the demand from new goods to used goods, until the new goods manufacturers lobby for the tax to be imposed on used goods as well. As with any form of lobbying, Congress will choose winners and losers. In the rare event, these lobbyists are unsuccessful, this tax will kill the already struggling car/home/any other goods, services market.
When I asked Governor Johnson about the 30% and it’s impact on the housing market, he dodged the question, and replied that the fair tax would be revenue neutral. The problem is that revenue neutrality doesn’t address one of the most fundamental views of the Libertarian party, which is drastically lower taxes. Revenue neutrality also doesn’t address the redistributive aspect of the tax, which is that although higher spenders will pay considerably more than people spend less, they will receive the same in government services. Regardless, he couldn’t give me a clear answer regarding the housing market, and special interest groups.
The fair tax will also cause individual states and businesses to become tax collectors. While not authorized by the U.S. constitution, this will create additional bureaucracies at the state level. Fair tax agents, instead of current IRS agents will be ultra-aggressive in enforcement tactics, not much different than the current IRS. The only difference is now they will be monitoring all commercial activities. Eventually, the U.S government will create another federal agency to reduce evasion. They will monitor everything a person buys or sells. One may eventually need a National ID card to buy or sell any goods/services. There will be high fines and likely prison time for offenders. It will totally remove the anonymity of cash.
Lastly, the prebate system advocated by Fair Tax folks will create another government entitlement program, which will not be easily removed, and the amount of the prebate will likely rise over time for lower income folks. The end result is a progressive tax.
Most libertarians would advocate for a drastically lower consumption tax rate, maybe 1 or 2%, without the prebates, and one that imposed a tax on all goods and services equally. It could be written into law that no goods/services would ever be exempt. That way congress wouldn’t have ultimate authority to directly/ indirectly change economic behavior.
In FY2013, mandatory entitlement programs will represent over 60% of the national budget. Johnson advocates for the use of block grants to states for entitlement programs as opposed to our current federal system. While I’m sure states will be able to manage the programs marginally better than the federal government, the only change in the system will be who administers the programs. It will, like the Fair Tax, setup enormous state bureaucracies to then redistribute money. The actual programs themselves will not go away, and giving states block grants only serves to perpetuate the cycle. When I discussed these concerns with Johnson, he stressed that medical services represented a much higher percentage of entitlement liabilities at the federal level, so we shouldn’t really be talking about Social Security because it’s very small in comparison. While I understand that medical entitlements in the long run may pose much more of an issue, in FY2012 medicare/medicaid combined expenditures totaled $806 Billion, and Social Security equaled $820 billion. Regardless though of whether it’s $820 billion, $820 trillion, or $820.35, Social Security is by very definition a ponzi scheme, and institutionalized theft. People should be able to opt out of the program, and the U.S. government should design a program to refund all monies paid into it. I’d like Johnson to advocate for the voluntary retirement savings programs as opposed to forced retirement programs, which is what the party advocates as well.
In regards to government welfare/entitlement programs Johnson said “I would like to see the government help out those truly in need”. While we can all agree that taking care of the poor/sick/needy is an important aspect of a good society, virtually any private charity would be able to provide better care more cost effectively than the government. In addition, eliminating these entitlement programs in the long run will fix a good portion of the federal debt, plus the federal government wouldn’t be in the business of stealing your money to give to others. The fact that Johnson doesn’t want to totally eliminate medicare/medicaid is disappointing, and non-libertarian.
Impact on the Party
The Libertarian Party is poised for tremendous growth over the course of the next few years. The vast majority of America is fed up with the two party monopoly on politics, and would be willing to vote third party. Unfortunately though, the end goal for this current election cycle is to promote the party’s ideals, those of non-intervention and non-aggression, ending all wars (not just the one on marijuana), and significantly reducing the size and scope of government. This year’s Libertarian presidential candidate, barring a Ron Paul nomination, will be fortunate to receive over 1% of the vote in this November’s election; although Johnson and his campaign staff may tell you otherwise.
History shows us this – out of the 10 Libertarian presidential candidates, no one has received more than .5% of the popular vote, with the exception of Ed Clark in 1980 who received 1.1%.
That said, many potential future party members may confuse Johnson’s aforementioned policies of military intervention, the fair tax, weak entitlement reform, with those of the Libertarian Party. This will cause a disconnect, and could potentially stifle the future expansion of the party. In addition, these policies do very little to differentiate him from the status quo. Many career politicians support entangling alliances, a new tax, and forced participation in a ponzi scheme. Many libertarians are frustrated with these issues, myself included, and it’s hard to get motivated when some of Johnson’s main campaign issues are in direct conflict to the party’s platform and ideals. While Johnson may garner external support for his campaign because of these issues, he will unquestionably lose internal supporters. He’s also stated that he intends to seek the 2016 nomination as well. If this happens, we can only hope that four years is enough for him to reconsider some of his positions.
For these reasons, I would urge you not to vote for Johnson as the Libertarian presidential nominee. Instead, I feel Lee Wrights will represent our party better on the national stage, and you should nominate Johnson as the Vice Presidential candidate. However, should Johnson receive the presidential nomination at the convention, I would strongly urge you to contact him and his campaign staff and ask him to address these issues. If he changes these non libertarian positions, it would certainly act as a spark to the torches of the many libertarians who share the same beliefs that I do, and are somewhat reluctant to support Johnson as is.
Your friend in liberty always,