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Should Liberals Support Gary Johnson?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Carl Milsted Jr.       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Gary Johnson is not a liberal, and he does not play one on TV, yet some of you reading this would be better served supporting Johnson instead of the Democratic incumbent. It depends on what kind of liberal you are. Take this test to find out.

If you are an economic liberal, if stimulus spending and socialized medicine are your passions, then by all means heed Samuel L. Jackson's call to Wake the f*** up and put some passion into your support for Obama. On the other hand, if you are a social liberal, if you are greatly disturbed by drone strikes, kill lists and undeclared wars then you might want to tell Samuel L. Jackson to wake the f*** up and support Gary Johnson instead.

This is not to say that Gary Johnson is a social liberal. He isn't. He is a libertarian. But he is a sane libertarian, not some kind of anarchy-next-Wednesday sort of libertarian that the Libertarian Party too often features. And unlike most third party candidates, Libertarian or otherwise, he has a sufficient resume for being U.S. President. He is a successful former governor, from a very blue state at that.

Johnson is running as a left-libertarian. He is emphasizing social issues such as marriage equality and ending the drug war. He is calling for bringing the troops home. And he is an avid outdoorsman, not a pave-the-planet Objectivist, so environmentalists can breathe easy.

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But he is a libertarian. He would cut the size of government, far more than any Republican. History shows that he is not shy about wielding the veto pen. Some favorite liberal programs would get the ax. Is it worth the trade-off?

It just might be if those cuts go to balance the budget. Deficit spending subsidizes the rich. The main things being stimulated by stimulus programs are profit margins and trade deficits -- at the expense of the working class. Bill Clinton understood this back when he was President. Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton.

Gary Johnson also advocates replacing the income tax with the Fair Tax. I personally have mixed emotions about the Fair Tax. I'm not convinced that a 30% sales tax is feasible. (I would, however, like to see the income tax replaced by a mix of consumption and property taxes. This could be the subject for a future article") And a national sales tax would allow the very rich, who save more than they spend, to defer taxes for generations. But let us also consider the very liberal implications of the Fair Tax:

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  • It is simple. Mom and Pop businesses struggle more with complex tax laws than mega corporations like Wal Mart. Simplicity is progressive.
  • A 30% national sales tax would be a honking big carbon tax in disguise. Compare 30% of today's pump price with the current 18.4 cents/gallon federal gasoline tax. Today we tax labor more than natural resource use. The Fair Tax would tax both equally. Environmentalists take note.
  • A 30% sales tax would tax imports at 30%. This would be a huge tax increase on goods from Asia. According to Wikipedia, we imported $2.3 trillion in 2011. My 2011 tax instructions booklet [page 97] says the U.S. collected 6% of its $2.2 trillion in taxes via excise, customs, estate and miscellaneous taxes combined. The Fair Tax would increase average taxes on imports by a factor of five at least. Here that giant sucking sound? It's union jobs returning to the U.S.
  • And by the way, clever capitalists get to defer their income today by structuring their income as capital gains -- which are taxed at 15%. The Fair Tax doubles their tax when they finally get around to spending the money.
  • And the prebate could be expanded into a true basic income guarantee with a little prodding by liberals in Congress.

Hmmm, a Gary Johnson administration could be more progressive than the Obama administration economically. Maybe economic liberals should reconsider their support as well.


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Carl Milsted is a physicist by day and dabbles in economics and political activism in his spare time. For a quarter century he was a member of the Libertarian Party, but has since realized that narrowing the wealth gap and preserving the environment (more...)

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