Friday, September 2, 2016

Gov. Gary Johnson: a credible alternative to Clinton and Trump--or another poison pill?

I was walking to work the other day when I noticed a billboard announcing an “alternative” candidate for president, accompanied by superlatives like “Stronger” and “Honest.” Well, for someone who holds to positions such as his, I suppose there is some merit to claims that former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is more “principled” than 10 Hillary Clintons and Donald Trumps combined (actually, that is a  really scary idea). Although technically a Republican, Johnson is running on the Libertarian ticket with former Massachusetts governor William Weld (“liberal” states like California and Massachusetts seem to elect quite a few right-wing governors). 

Johnson is definitely more “libertarian” than he is a Republican these days. As governor he vetoed nearly every bill he was presented from both parties, since he was a hardliner on the cost/benefit equation. While he campaigned on criminals serving their full prison terms and “not a day less,” he apparently opposed filling jails with drug users, in fact supporting legalization in some or form another all “recreational” drugs—even going so far as to criticize the Obama administration for being tepid in supporting marijuana legalization laws passed in several states. Most interesting is his stand on illegal immigration. He goes far beyond Clinton’s criticisms of Trump’s xenophobia, opposing the building a wall (they will just build “taller ladders”), and opposes any immigration quotas. Johnson believes that expanding the work visa program and making easier to enter the country will actually result in a reduced presence of immigrants, because they will feel freer to leave the country during times of lack of work knowing that it is possible to return when there is.

Obviously this kind of talk will disturb many voters, and “libertarians” do tend to be regarded an a bit “eccentric.” Some of Johnson’s other positions include:

“Prostitution is safer when legal and regulated.” Touché—except that this means that gender advocates and political opportunists won’t be able to make the blanket assertion that all prostitutes are “victims” and johns are all “victimizers.” Eliminate corporate taxes and the federal income tax, replacing them with a national sales tax. I have already discussed this matter in relation to economy of scale; sales taxes on the state-level already hurt the low-income far more than the wealthy, and now Johnson wants to add an additional burden on the poor, paying more in arbitrary taxes instead of receiving a tax refund based on direct tax deductions. 

What else? He opposes hate crime laws as criminalizing “thought crime”; this is not surprising, since he is a friend of Ron Paul, whose “newsletter” is a repository for all manner of racist opinion. But don’t accuse him of being a right-wing extremist: The War on Drugs is a complete and unmitigated disaster, and after all, “Marijuana is safer than alcohol” and “Why do we tell adults what to put in their bodies?” Johnson also supports “Prescriptions for heroin and methadone at the local pharmacy.” Just in case you are not sure you read that right, that means you can get hooked on heroin one day, and take methadone the next day to “detoxify.” 

Johnson is all over the map with this libertarian stuff; there is nothing that doesn’t fall within the purview of “freedom,” insofar as it is about his freedom. He claims to take environmental issues “seriously,” with the following exceptions: “No compromise on clean air, but no cap-and-trade”—or anything else that forces businesses and individuals to preserve it. “More state autonomy on brownfields & Superfund cleanups”—meaning “unregulated” or abiding by any standard. “Support State Revolving Loan Fund for flexible Clean Water.” The key word here is “flexible”—another euphemism for doing as little as possible. “Focus on prevention and states for Endangered Species”; again, opening the door for a toothless policy. “Collaborative, incentive driven, locally-based solutions”—in other words, endless procrastination and “studies” of the problem, not solutions. “State primacy over water quantity & quality issues”—a recipe for a lot of disagreements over “standards” and eventual invention by the federal courts. 

Not surprisingly, Johnson opposes Obamacare, asserting that “Government-managed healthcare is insanity,” failing to note that the ACA is not designed for that purpose; privately “managed” healthcare for profit is what is “insane.” Not surprisingly, he offers no plan to make health care affordable for all people.

Immigration is where Johnson really loses the customers, at least from the right: “2 year grace period for illegals to get work visas,” “Open the border; flood of Mexicans would become taxpayers” because “Mexican immigrants are pursuing the same dreams we all have.” However, “1 strike and you're out for legal immigrants who violate terms.” What does that mean? Even American citizens are allowed three “strikes” before they are taken off the streets for good for non-violent crimes. This is an impossible standard and high hypocrisy.

In foreign affairs, Johnson calls for the ending of support of Israel, declares Iran is no threat to the U.S. and should be left to its own nuclear devices, and if Israel has a “problem” with that, then they can deal with Iran by itself. Stew on that for awhile.

But Johnson runs off the rails completely with his support of the racist, anti-government Tea Party movement, and his belief in the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand (born in Russia as Alisa Zinov'yevna), as “illuminated” in her novel Atlas Shrugged.  What The Turner Diaries was for white racists and anti-government fanatics, Shrugged is for proponents of unfettered, unregulated greed, and of course for anti-government fanatics. One of the problems with Rand’s novel is that it tries to apply the same reality that was occurring in Communist Russia onto the U.S., and there is almost no comparison. The “positive” traits of unregulated greed Rand lauds occurred during the robber-baron days of the late 19th and into the 1920s in the U.S., with disastrous consequences for the country, yet Rand never considers this aspect, in fact displaying not even the most remote sign of simple human decency. Rand lauds industrialists with superlatives which are almost as laughable as they are hypocritical, and she disparages ordinary people who actually do the hard labor to create wealth for the few as "parasites", "looters", and "moochers"—who have the audacity to “demand” a living wage. In short, it is a disgusting, despicable “philosophy” in which to base one’s political beliefs.

Is Johnson a “viable” third alternative for president? Or is he just another pick-your-poison choice? Probably the latter.

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