by Kevin Joseph Ryan
In the quiet shire known as the State of Vermont, it is uncommon for a great deal of focus to be placed here by presidential
candidates. So far in 2012, not a one has made a visit to the Green Mountains. President Barack Obama has us on his schedule for the end of March, but former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson beat him to it last Thursday, showing up at Block Gallery in Winooski for a small but enthusiastic crowd.
Wait….Governor Gary who?
Gary Johnson was the governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, by first beating the incumbent Democrat Governor 50% to 40%, then winning re-election by an even larger margin four years later, before leaving the office to comply with New Mexico term limits. He did so by leaving the state with a billion dollar budget surplus, 1200 fewer state workers and, impressively, creating an almost unique record. As Johnson puts it himself, “I may have vetoed more bills than the other 49 governors in the country combined when I served. I vetoed 750 bills. I had 1000s of line item vetoes. Only two were overturned. The state was two to one Democrat, it still is. So, It made a difference when it came to billions of dollars worth of spending. In a state that’s two to one Democrat, you would think that making a name for myself vetoing legislation, that I would get ridden out on a rail….” What does someone like that do for an encore? If you’re Gary Johnson, you climb Mount Everest, which Johnson did in May of 2003. Then, you run for President of the United States.
On April 21st last year, Gary Johnson announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President via Twitter. While one would think a two-term Republican governor would merit consideration for the presidential nomination, Johnson found himself barely mentioned in the news, and invited to only two out of thirteen debates. “I think that I was unfairly excluded from the debates,” said Johnson, posing the question of how one can qualify for a debate to which only candidates polling over 2% qualify for, if no one puts you in their poll? “…[T]his was a boardroom decision, in this case, CNN really set the stage.” Disappointed, but undaunted, Governor Johnson left the Republican race in December of 2011 and began to seek the Libertarian Party nomination for President.
Johnson doesn’t see any issues with making such a radical move. To hear the Governor tell it, “I’ve always been a messenger…. The liberty and freedom message is something I think is really important…. Although Id like to see Ron Paul get the nomination for president, I don’t think that s going to happen, and so when that doesn’t happen, who carries that message forward? Well I’m going to carry that message forward…. Nothing about my message has changed… I Served eight years as a libertarian governor of New Mexico under the guise of being a Republican…. I was in fact a libertarian governor.” When pressed about his Republican label being a guise, Johnson added, “I think a lot of people fall in that category,” referring to Republicans with a libertarian viewpoint.
One can tell Gary Johnson is relaxed in his outlook towards governing, as well as comfortable with the campaign trail. When asked if it would be alright to get a private interview with Johnson, event host Hardy Macia said, “Ask him anything. He doesn’t lie, so he doesn’t need to worry about changing his story.” As for the Governor himself, in his introduction to the group of about 25 attending the Block Gallery talk, Johnson began with, “I’d love to answer any questions, any comments or any insults you may have….” Johnson further pointed out that his platform is a simple one. If elected as President, he said, “I’m promising to submit a balanced budget to congress in the year 2013, I’m promising to veto expenses that exceed revenue, and I’m promising to advocate on the part of the Fair Tax.”
A balanced budget, he pointed out, is possible simply by going back to 2006 spending levels, or in other words, cutting the budget by 43% across the board. Although this may sound controversial to many, Governor Johnson disagrees. “…There wouldn’t be a loss of federal benefit(s), there certainly would not be a loss of Social Security…. [That] very simply is a system that needs to take in more money than what it pays out.” In the foreign arena, Johnson has this to say, “Israel is a important ally and will remain such. I draw a distinction between foreign aid, I’m opposed to foreign aid…. if we’re borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar, then giving it away to a foreign country, don’t we have these same needs here in this country? But I would distinguish between foreign aid and military alliances…. Military alliances being key to us being able to reduce our military spending by 43%, and having other countries take up the slack.”
Another key to bettering America, in Johnson’s view, is the Fair Tax. First proposed in 1997 to replace the Federal Income Tax system, the Fair Tax would replace all Federal taxation with a 23% consumption tax. “It would reboot the American economy for the next 100 years: it would make our goods and services 23% more competitive for export, it would end up being cost neutral, it does away with the income tax, does away with corporate tax, does way with withholdings, does away with the IRS, its fair, it would issue pink slips to half of Washington lobbyist, and then in a 0% corporate tax rate environment, I suggest that the private sector will create tens of millions of jobs, ” noted Johnson. He added, “I didn’t create one single job as governor of new Mexico, but I did create an environment…. Rules and regulations got better on a daily basis…. What government should do is create this level playing field.” In regard to the Fair Tax, Johnson also felt it was necessary to understand that people in poverty would receive a monthly $200.00 check to cover the cost of paying the tax.
Governor Johnson says he understands his campaign as a Libertarian candidate is a long shot, but said he felt it was important. “I really believe we’re really on the verge of a monetary collapse… with all the talk about Greece. You know what, we’re only 6 to 8 years away from being statistically the same as Greece. There’s no waiting around to fix all this…. My whole life, I’ve always heard that, if in college, if you weren’t a Democrat, you didn’t have a heart, and after you graduated from college, if you weren’t a Republican, you didn’t have a brain. Well, I happen to think that we all have hearts and brains and we really were compassionate for those who are truly in need, but we need to balance that with a balanced checkbook… Otherwise, were not gonna be able to help anybody at all.” Having spent two hours listening to the proposals of Gary Johnson, I considered asking him to drop out of the presidential race, and running for Governor of Vermont to handle the Legislature. It would probably be too much it ask for.