5 Questions For: Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson on tax and entitlement reform

By Megan Carpentier
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 17:00 EDT
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Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson (R-NM) is now the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, but much of what mainstream press coverage he’s managed to get has focused on his positions on marijuana policy or his outsider status. With the nominees of his current party focusing extensively on tax and entitlement reforms, Raw Story asked him where he stood on those issues, and what makes his positions different.

Read Johnson’s interview about how he got screwed by the GOP and his positions on civil liberties and women’s rights, and his answers on marijuana policy.

Raw Story: You were known during your governorship as a fiscal conservative, and you’re supporting a total overhaul of the tax code. Why do you think we need to scrap what we have now.

Johnson: I think crony capitalism is alive and well in this country, and it’s alive and well because of the tax code. Loopholes are for sale. Both parties sell ‘em, and individuals, groups, corporations, they buy them. And when you eliminate income tax, and you eliminate corporate tax, and you abolish the IRS, I think pink slips go out to half of Washington lobbyists. I think crony capitalism gets kicked in the rear end.

Raw Story: So you’re in favor of something called the fair tax. Can you explain that?

Now, what I’m favoring is replacing all the tax with a single federal consumption tax. I am embracing the Fair Tax because it is a very specific proposal. It would be terrific if we could have the debate and discussion over the finer points of a fair tax. The Fair Tax is a proposal: 90 Congress men and women have signed onto it; there are millions of followers of the Fair Tax. So it really gets the debate and the discussion down the road.

Raw Story: I don’t think a lot of liberals or even a lot of conservatives have really heard a lot about the fair tax issues other than as being a “fringe” tax policy idea. What would you say to liberals who like a lot of your positions on social justice and reform, but are iffy about getting rid of the progressive tax system?

As an example, a consumption tax is regressive by nature, that’s an absolutely fair criticism. The Fair Tax deals with that by issuing you and I, all of us, a $200 a month “probate” check which allows all of us to pay the fair tax up to the point of the poverty level. That’s how the Fair Tax addresses the regressive nature of a consumption tax. Is that the best way to go about it? It would be great to have the debate and discussion over whether this is the best way to deal with it.

I just think that, without exception, this is a dramatic improvement over what we currently have.

Raw Story: By picking up Rep. Paul Ryan as the VP nominee, Romney has effectively attached Ryan’s Medicare proposals — supposedly no reduction in benefits for those under 55, but big cuts for people under 55 — to his campaign. Where do you stand on Medicare reform?

Johnson: We have to do that. We absolutely have to do that or we’re going to find ourselves in a monetary collapse. I don’t think there’s any avoiding the mathematics of borrowing and printing money to the tune of 43 cents out of every dollar that we spend. A monetary collapse very simply is when the dollars that we have don’t buy a thing because of the accompanying inflation that is going to go along with this.

Raw Story: So do you have a specific proposal?

Johnson: Yeah. On Medicaid and Medicare, I oversaw the reform of Medicaid in New Mexico as governor of New Mexico. We took it from a fee-for-service model to a managed care model.

I’m of the belief that… First of all, I do believe that there are those that are truly in need and that, but for government, perhaps they don’t receive those service that they truly need. I just think that we’ve gone way over the line with regard to those truly in need.

So the model to fix that is, back to my reforming Medicaid in New Mexico, if the federal government would’ve block granted the state of New Mexico 43 percent less money, no strings and no mandates on how to deliver health care to the poor, I think I could’ve effectively overseen health care delivery to the poor. I believe that. I believe that same model would apply when it comes to Medicare — health care for those over 65.

For anyone who falls off their chair when they hear about a 43 percent reduction in either Medicare or Medicaid, the alternative is no Medicare or Medicaid. The alternative is a collapsed government when we will be living in a police state with the shelves bare because money doesn’t buy anything. And all you have to do is just look at Russia in the late eighties as the last greatest country to come to a monetary collapse.

Raw Story: What about Social Security?

Johnson: Social Security absolutely fixable, a problem that is pale in comparison to Medicare. The Fair Tax, there would no longer be any withholding from your payroll check, no more Social Security withholding, no more Medicare withholding, no more unemployment withholding, that would come out of the proceed of the fair tax. There would no longer be an employer match, that would come out of the proceeds of the fair tax.

But there are some reforms to Social Security that have to take place also. One is raising the retirement age. Changing the escalator built into Social Security from the wage index to the inflation rate. You could have a very fair means testing that would apply to Social Seucrity: how much you are getting back vs. how much you paid in vs you income. Should you get back more than what you paid in given a certain income? Perhaps not. I think that’s fair. And they you could have an opt-in/opt-out provision also for a percentage of it or all of it. And, in my opinion, that would also be very fair.

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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