Category Archives: Libertarians

Wayne Allyn Root: Once Again, A Phony Libertarian

You may remember Wayne Allyn Root as the sports betting “expert” cum political commentator who ended up being Bob Barr’s running mate on the 2008 Libertarian Party Presidential ticket. In 2010 he was elected to a position on the Libertarian National Committee and, while many had figured he’d be running for the Presidential nomination this year, he doesn’t appear to be doing so.

Perhaps that’s because he’s decided that Libertarians need to vote for Mitt Romney.

Yes, you heard that right, a member of the Libertarian Party’s governing body said on the Cinncinnati-based Bill Cunningham show [Podcast here] that he’s supporting Mitt Romney and so should other libertarians:

I think the important thing now is to make sure Obama is not elected,and that means in my mind, I would love for a libertarian like Gary Johnson the two term governor of New Mexico would actually get elected President, but I think we all know that’s not going to happen so therefore it’s got to be Romney there is no choice.

Root purported to defend himself in a comment thread at the Independent Political Report:

I said in a perfect world I’d like to see Gary Johnson elected President, he’d be the best choice out there…I also said several times on the call that Mitt Romney is a big spending, big government Northeast liberal…that he will make very little difference because of this…

And that the difference between Obama and Romney…

Is that Romney will slow down our path off a cliff just a bit…and Obama will take us off the cliff in a matter of minutes.

But neither is good enough to save USA from long decline towards mediocrity.

And that Romney’s victory will most probably prove that neither party can change our problems enough to save the economy…so hopefully it will lead to a serious Libertarian third party threat in 2016…of which I plan to be the Presidential candidate.

That’s what I said. It’s on tape. Sorry folks but you can’t take things out of context.

Nobody’s taking anything out of context Wayne. In fact, I think your comment at IPR makes it fully clear what this is really all about. Since you can’t be the LP nominee  in 2012 you apparently have no problem with throwing the guy who most likely will be the nominee under the bus, clinging on to the theory that you’re going to somehow be the nominee in 2016. What happened to that promise in your book that you were going to be the LP nominee in 2012, 2016, and then win the White House in 2020?

Root has every right to his opinion, of course, what he doesn’t have the right to do is trash the party he’s purporting to represent for his own personal interests. If he wants to endorse and vote for Mitt Romney in 2012, that’s his choice. I think it’s a stupid one, but people have the right to make stupid choices. What I don’t understand is how he can continue holding a position of supposed responsibility in the Libertarian Party while endorsing a Republican instead of his own party’s nominee, and I’m not even a member of the LP. The point isn’t that Root doesn’t have a right to endorse Romney, but that it’s an insult to the party he claims to represent that he does so while sitting on the party’s National Committee.

Of course, I was telling people Root was a phony two years ago, and when he almost participated in a birther “trial” of Barack Obama, and then again when he took the side of religious bigots in the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

Nobody should be surprised his latest antics, really.

Quote of the Day: In Response to Van Jones’ Remarks About “so-called libertarians”

Over at Reason, Mike Riggs responded to President Obama’s former Green Jobs czar Van Jones’ tirade about “so-called libertarians” at an Occupy rally in L.A. In case you missed it, Van Jones said that libertarians “say they love America but they hate the people, the brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings.” Clearly, he has never been to a Libertarian Party convention; I have. These people are more welcome in the LP than either of the big two political parties, I assure you.

Riggs responds:

I’m going to have to mic check you there, Mr. Jones. You’re not talking about so-called libertarians, but your former boss and current president. See, it’s Barack Obama who supports “traditional marriage”; Barack Obama who supports a drug war that sends an alarming number of black men to prison and destroys their employment prospects; Barack Obama who supports a foreign policy that kills children; Barack Obama who supports regulatory barriers that require the poorest of the poor to borrow their way into the workforce; Barack Obama who supports an immigration strategy that rips apart families and sees the children of undocumented workers put up for adoption.

Whether Obama’s support for those policies means he hates gays or brown folk is not for me to say. As the scriptures tell us, “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”

Libertarians, on the other hand, love brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, and immigrants. Many of us, after all, fit rather neatly into those categories, and we show our affection for ourselves and our neighbors by supporting the right of all peoples to live free of state-sponsored violence, discrimination, undue imprisonment, and theft; as well as the entirely predictable consequences of both left-wing and right-wing social engineering.

In fairness to Van Jones, there are a fair number of social conservatives,* NeoCons, and yes, certain unwelcome elements who do advocate these things who try to call themselves libertarians, but damn man. Would it be too much trouble for Jones to go on the series of tubes that is the interweb and do a search on the Libertarian Party Platform before shooting off his mouth about “so-called libertarians”? If so, he would find that true libertarians are the polar opposite of what he described.

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Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Final Installment of “The Plain Truth”

As most of you are aware, Judge Andrew Napolitano’s final episode of “Freedom Watch” on Fox Business Channel aired earlier this week. The segment I will miss the most is the judge’s closing monologue he called “The Plain Truth.” Here is the final installment:

Could a Santorum Nomination Bring About a Libertarian Renaissance in the GOP?

A Daily Caller headline caught my eye yesterday from the Cato Institute’s John Samples: Is there a libertarian case for Rick Santorum? If Samples aim was to write an outlandish headline to bring attention to his article, it certainly did the trick*.

In the article, Samples does not make the case that Rick Santorum is a libertarian in any way, shape, or form** but makes the opposite argument (as if there is any question). So if Santorum stands against everything libertarians are for, how can anyone possibly make a libertarian case for Santorum?

Samples explains:

I think he would drive more secular and independent voters away from the GOP ticket. A ten-point Republican loss in a year when economic weakness suggested a close race would be a political disaster not just for the candidate and his party but also for the ideas they embody. Rick Santorum could be the George McGovern of his party.

Such a disaster might open the door for a different kind of GOP along lines indicated earlier, a party of free markets, moral pluralism, and realism in foreign affairs. Ron Paul has taken some steps this year toward creating such a party. He has attracted votes and inspired activism. His son or another candidate might take up the cause in 2016 and build on Paul’s achievements. Fanciful thinking? Perhaps, but it may take an electoral disaster to free the GOP from the ideas and forces that Rick Santorum represents.

Though I supported Ron Paul in the caucus and encourage everyone to do likewise, I doubt he has a realistic chance of winning in 2012 (I hope I’m wrong). In the likely event that Paul does not win the nomination, my next move is to support the Libertarian Party nominee (who will probably be Gary Johnson, my preferred choice to begin with). IF a Santorum nomination lead to a purging of the socialcons, and a resurgence of libertarian, small government principles then I would say that in the long run Santorum’s nomination victory/general election defeat would be worth it. IF it all played out just as Samples thinks it could, 2016 could be the best opportunity for libertarians to make a comeback.

But that’s a big if.

This all assumes that the GOP establishment would finally learn its lesson; not at all a safe assumption. Then again, because the establishment really only cares about winning elections rather than principle, yet another defeat for the most coveted prize (i.e. the presidency) may force the establishment to reconsider libertarianism.

We also have to consider the possibility (however unlikely) of Santorum actually winning the general election. If fuel is north of $5.00 a gallon on election day and the economy is in worse shape than it is now, the independent voter may not be as concerned about social issues or civil liberties but rather economic issues. IF Rick Santorum becomes the next POTUS, what becomes of the modest libertarian gains made within the GOP?

I say forget about the Machiavellian calculations, vote your values, and let the chips fall where they may.

Related
Rick Santorum is Not as Pro-Family as He Would Have Us Believe

Rick Santorum, The Anti-Libertarian

Rick Santorum Revives The Lincoln-Douglas Debates; Unwittingly Takes Douglas’ Side

» Read more

Gov. Johnson to Drop Out of G.O.P. Contest and Make LP Run; G.O.P. Establishment Fears Prospect of Paul Victory in Iowa

Libertarian leaning candidates Gary Johnson and Ron Paul are stirring up some trouble for the G.O.P. Gov. Johnson has apparently had enough of the Gary Johnson Rule and his treatment from the establishment. According to Politico Johnson will switch his party registration to the Libertarian Party and make an announcement that he will run for that party’s nomination.

Gary Johnson will quit the Republican primaries and seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead, POLITICO has learned.

The former two-term New Mexico governor, whose campaign for the GOP nomination never caught fire, will make the announcement at a press conference in Santa Fe on Dec. 28. Johnson state directors will be informed of his plans on a campaign conference call Tuesday night, a Johnson campaign source told POLITICO.

[…]

According to a Public Policy Polling survey of New Mexico conducted Dec. 10-12, Johnson as a Libertarian candidate could impact the vote in his home state.

PPP found Johnson would draw between 26 and 30 percent of GOP votes, between 12 and 16 percent of Democratic votes and win independents, in a race with either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich as the GOP nominee.

As for Ron Paul, the establishment G.O.P. is getting very frightened at the prospect of his possible victory in Iowa:

Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

[…]

Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.

“It would make the caucuses mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant,” said Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa Republican who helped Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 here. “It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of voters.”

If Ron Paul puts an end to this ridiculous caucus system where certain states like Iowa and New Hampshire gets special consideration over the rest of the states, then I say that in itself is a good thing. Referring back to the famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” it now appears that Paul is now in the second and third stage because the establishment can no longer ignore him, his support, or his message.

This doesn’t mean the establishment won’t try. The article continues:

Leading Republicans, looking to put the best possible frame on a Paul victory, are already testing out a message for what they’ll say if the 76-year-old Texas congressman is triumphant.

The short version: Ignore him.

“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third,” said Gov. Terry Branstad.

“If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”

Go ahead and ignore Ron Paul Gov. Branstad. Ignore him all the way to the White House.

Right wing talk radio, when not ignoring Paul, fight him by framing his supporters as a bunch of wackos. The long knives are coming out. When they aren’t mischaracterizing his sensible foreign policy they now go to the newsletter issue to try to scare away possible supporters. Funny, this wasn’t a topic of conversation until very recently. That’s the price of being a front runner I suppose.

I would only hope that those who are considering supporting Paul on the basis of the newsletter controversy to ask themselves the following question: “Is Ron Paul a racist and does he support the contents of the newsletters?”

If the answer is yes, then by all means don’t vote for Ron Paul.

Paul has disavowed the contents of the newsletters on numerous occasions. While I’m not completely satisfied with how he has handled the newsletter issue, I take him at his word. I don’t think he is a racist. I would even go as far to say that life for people of color would be much improved under a Paul administration than under the Obama administration. For starters, Paul would end the war on (some) drugs and would most likely pardon all non-violent drug offenders – regardless of race.

This is just the beginning. As Paul’s poll numbers raise, buckle up…it’s going to be a rough ride.

Polls Show Encouraging Signs in the Cause of Liberty

Just yesterday, the Libertarian Party celebrated its 40th Anniversary. In that time, no LP presidential candidate has come close to winning and few have won any office higher than at the city or county level. As someone who would like America to return to a much freer and prosperous place, it’s very easy to become discouraged. But is it possible that perhaps maybe more of our fellow citizens are finally coming around to our way of thinking? Can Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and other libertarian leaning Republicans win the struggle for the soul of the Republican Party?

According to a Gallup Poll released yesterday, 64% of a sample of 1,012 adults they polled said that “big government was the biggest threat to the country in the future” compared to 26% who said big business, and 10% who said big labor was the biggest threat. Surprisingly (to me at least), it was those who identified themselves as Democrats, who had the greatest increase in adopting this view, up 16% from the poll Gallup took in 2009, 48% now say big government is the biggest threat. What is even more remarkable is this increase happened while their guy is in the Oval Office.

Gallup’s bottom line conclusion from the poll:

Americans’ concerns about the threat of big government are near record-high levels. The Occupy Wall Street movement, focused on “fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations,” has drawn much attention and a large following. Still, the majority of Americans do not view big business as the greatest threat to the country when asked to choose among big business, big government, and big labor. In fact, Americans’ concerns about big business have declined significantly since 2009.

Additionally, while Occupy Wall Street isn’t necessarily affiliated with a particular party, its anti-big business message may not be resonating with majorities in any party. Republicans, independents, and now close to half of Democrats are more concerned about the threat of big government than that coming from big business.

Music to my Libertarian ears!

On the presidential campaign front, here’s another nugget of encouraging news in a recent PPP poll in Iowa: Newt Gingrich 22%, Ron Paul 21%, Mitt Romney 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.

Perhaps Gov. Gary Johnson holds the key to Ron Paul closing the gap in Iowa (and perhaps elsewhere). Gov. Johnson has been publicly flirting with the idea of dropping the GOP like a bad habit and running for the Libertarian Party nomination for some time now (hey, if the Republican establishment wants to treat him like a 3rd party candidate, maybe he should become a 3rd party candidate). As much as I hate to say it, the establishment has prevailed against Johnson and his supporters in this stage of the campaign. The time has come IMHO for Johnson supporters to encourage the governor to drop out of the Republican primary contest and throw his full support behind Ron Paul (while gearing up for the LP contest in the event Paul doesn’t get the GOP nomination).

Now that I am firmly 100% in the Ron Paul camp, a word of warning: the GOP establishment isn’t taking too kindly to Ron Paul’s recent success. It’s going to get nasty the more success he has (and the more nasty the attacks become, the more we know his message is resonating). Here’s one example of what I mean.

If Ron Paul can somehow overcome the establishment and win the nomination, perhaps some of the Democrats and independents who aren’t too thrilled with Obama’s atrocious civil liberties record can help put Paul into the Whitehouse. Not an easy task to be sure but probably our best (probably only) hope of slaying the dragon of big government and restoring liberty to America.

***UPDATE***
I somehow missed this story but apparently, Gov. Johnson has requested that his name be removed from Michigan primary ballot (his request was denied).

Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, had been running as a Republican, but was denied access to most of the party’s televised debates and recently announced he would seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead.

Johnson’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was unclear how Johnson’s decision would affect his effort to qualify as a Libertarian. Gendreau said Michigan law prohibits a candidate whose name appears on a primary ballot, and fails to win the nomination, to appear under another party banner in the general election.

Institute for Justice’s Bone Marrow Donor Compensation Legal Challenge Prevails

Here’s a follow up to a story I linked back in 2009 concerning the Institute for Justice’s legal challenge to the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 and the act’s applicability to bone marrow transplants. This is very good news for the roughly 3,000 Americans who die every year while waiting to find a bone marrow match:

Arlington, Va.—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a unanimous opinion granting victory to cancer patients and their supporters from across the nation in a landmark constitutional challenge brought against the U.S. Attorney General. The lawsuit, filed by the Institute for Justice on behalf of cancer patients, their families, an internationally renowned marrow-transplant surgeon, and a California nonprofit group, seeks to allow individuals to create a pilot program that would encourage more bone-marrow donations by offering modest compensation—such as a scholarship or housing allowance—to donors. The program had been blocked by a federal law, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA), which makes compensating donors of these renewable cells a major felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Under today’s decision, this pilot program will be perfectly legal, provided the donated cells are taken from a donor’s bloodstream rather than the hip. (Approximately 70 percent of all bone marrow donations are offered through the arm in a manner similar to donating whole blood.) Now, as a result of this legal victory, not only will the pilot programs the plaintiffs looked to create be considered legal, but any form of compensation for marrow donors would be legal within the boundaries of the Ninth Circuit, which includes California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and various other U.S. territories.

[…]

Rowes concluded, “This case isn’t about medicine; everyone agrees that bone marrow transplants save lives. This case is about whether individuals can make choices about compensating someone or receiving compensation for making a bone marrow donation without the government stopping them.”

The Late David Nolan’s Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Fears One Step Closer to Being Realized

Back in the 2010 mid-term election, Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan ran as a Libertarian against Sen. John McCain for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Sadly, McCain easily won the election and Nolan died several weeks after the election and just two days before his 67th birthday.

During his debate with Sen. McCain, Nolan warned voters of what he called a “dangerous, evil, un-American” bill which McCain co-sponsored called S. 3081, the “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” This bill would authorize indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. Nolan was so outraged by this bill he said that this was one reason he decided to run against Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain brushed off Nolan’s comments saying that Nolan “may be a little bit biased.”

Fast forward just over a year later, Sen. McCain has sponsored another piece of legislation hidden in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 that is very similar. One of the more concerning aspects of the bill is Section 1031:

SEC. 1031. AFFIRMATION OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.

(a) In General- Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
(c) Disposition Under Law of War- The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.
(d) Construction- Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(e) Requirement for Briefings of Congress- The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be `covered persons’ for purposes of subsection (b)(2).

The next section, Section 1032 adds some confusing language as to whether American citizens can truly be held indefinitely:

SEC. 1032. REQUIREMENT FOR MILITARY CUSTODY.

(a) Custody Pending Disposition Under Law of War-
(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (4), the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.
(2) COVERED PERSONS- The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined–
(A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and
(B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.
(3) DISPOSITION UNDER LAW OF WAR- For purposes of this subsection, the disposition of a person under the law of war has the meaning given in section 1031(c), except that no transfer otherwise described in paragraph (4) of that section shall be made unless consistent with the requirements of section 1033.
(4) WAIVER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY- The Secretary of Defense may, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States.
(b) Applicability to United States Citizens and Lawful Resident Aliens-
(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
(2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel of the ACLU points out that the language contained in Section 1032 only applies to Section 1032. To put it another way, according to Section 1031 U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely and even sent to another country without the normal civil liberties protections guaranteed in the Fifth, Sixth, and possibly Eighth Amendments.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced Amendment No. 1107 to the bill that would have mitigated much of the civil liberties concerns found in 1031 but it was soundly defeated by a 61-37 vote. Only two Republicans, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted in favor of the Udall amendment.

Now the vote for the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 is set for today, December 1, 2011. There isn’t much time left to stop this horribly unconstitutional bill from being passed.

This being said, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if these sections are still in place when it hits his desk. I’m not quite sure how the president can say on one hand he can send drones to kill American citizens while on the other say he opposes indefinite detention of American citizens but a veto would be the correct response regardless.

President Obama might well veto this bill but I have no confidence that any of the Republican challengers would veto similar legislation in the future save Gary Johnson (who is sadly very much a long shot at this point), Ron Paul, or perhaps Jon Huntsman.

We can now see that David Nolan’s concerns he expressed in the 2010 debate were well founded after all.

Quote of the Day: Libertarianism Edition

“Liberty. It’s a simple idea, but it’s also the linchpin of a complex system of values and practices: justice, prosperity, responsibility, toleration, cooperation, and peace. Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. They’re called libertarians.”

-From Cato Institute’s new website libertarianism.org

I haven’t had much time to check it out yet but I can tell there is some very, very, good stuff there. Essays, video, and audio from great thinkers such as Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard (just to name a few) as well as contemporary libertarian thinkers provide something for those who are curious about libertarian ideas and long time libertarians alike.

The Challenge of Creating an Economically Sound, Simpler, and More Just Tax Code (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1
Part 2

The challenge of creating an economically sound, simpler, and more just tax code, be it the existing code, 9-9-9, a flat tax, or a sales tax will remain an impossibility if tax revenues is the only focus of any reform. The problem that dwarfs any notion of how tax policy is implemented is how the money is spent by the government.

As I write this, the national debt is approaching $15 trillion. That’s $47,810 per citizen or $132,927 per tax payer.

Even more staggering, the sum total unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare is just over $116 trillion. The prescription drug part of Medicare is over $20 trillion by itself!

Other than the Federal Reserve creating money out of thin air, what tax policy can possibly begin to support this kind of spending? It seems stupid to even pose the question.

Yet the only answer the Obama administration seems to have to pay down the debt or turn the economy around is to raise taxes on the wealthy and continue the reckless spending. The Republicans for their part offer modest tax cuts and modest spending cuts that will have no noticeable impact on the debt.

It’s high time that we as citizens tell our public servants that the out of control spending has to stop. We must demand serious structural reforms to entitlement programs or phase them out over time.

We must also recognize the difference between military spending and true national defense spending. We can no longer afford to police the world. It’s time to tell Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan, and others that they are now responsible for their own national defense and domestic security.

That’s just a start; there’s a great deal more spending that should be cut. But before any significant cuts can be made, we need to decide just how much government we want in our lives and what we are each willing to pay. For those who believe that individuals who make under a certain income level should be spared from paying any taxes at all (i.e. too small to tax) maybe it is you who should be out front in demanding a whole lot less government.

The Challenge of Creating an Economically Sound, Simpler, and More Just Tax Code (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1

Is an economically sound, simpler, and more just tax code even possible?

The truth of the matter is that there are too many people on the Left and the Right who do not want a simpler tax code that treats everyone equally.
It’s probably not because the defenders of the existing system necessarily think the existing code is good economic policy nor does a better job funding the federal government. The most likely reasons why there is so much resistance have to do with political pandering, vote buying/special interests, and social engineering.

It’s not too difficult to figure out why the Left panders to the working poor because the poor always outnumber the wealthy regardless of how well the economy is doing overall. What would happen if there was such a tax code where everyone paid the same rate without any tax credits or loopholes and without any hidden or embedded taxes? I’m guessing it would be more difficult to raise taxes on the evil rich if it meant that everyone received the same percentage tax hike. When it comes to the tax code, equality is the very last thing the Left wants.

If there is anything I agree with the Occupy Wall Street crowd or the Left more generally it’s the special treatment politically connected individuals and businesses receive via the tax code and/or subsidies. So you say you want to get money out of politics or do something about the role of corporate lobbyists in Washington?

I do too.

The simple answer IMO is to eliminate all taxes on business and all subsidies that benefit business. If there are no taxes or subsidies, there is no reason for businesses to lobby for special tax treatment or subsidies; the main reason most industries send lobbyists to Washington in the first place. If we would like to go any further in limiting influence of special business interests, maybe just maybe we should get the government out of regulating just about every aspect of business* and restrict the government to its limited constitutional powers. What a novel concept!

Finally there’s the social engineering aspect of the tax code. Frankly, I’m not sure if those on the Left or the Right are worse when it comes to using the tax code as a tool to encourage the American people to engage in particular activities. Even with Perry’s flat tax plans, there are a handful of deductions that are sacred cows. The home interest, charitable giving, and state and local taxes are preserved for those who earn up to $500K. Those who earn under $50K can choose not to file under the 20% rate with a $12,500 per family member deduction (which would eliminate all if not most tax liability under the existing rate for those in this tax bracket). With these deductions as part of the plan, the Perry plan can hardly be called a flat tax.

While I’m critical of keeping these deductions in place (he probably could get by with a smaller rate without the deductions), it’s not difficult to figure out why Gov. Perry keeps them in place. Voters would raise all sorts of hell at the thought these deductions would go away. Maybe there’s a good argument to make that charitable giving should be deducted since these funds help people who might otherwise be on government assistance.

But the home interest deduction? Why is that held sacred? Is there some sort of right for homeowners to get a break because they choose to buy a home rather than rent? I suspect that the realtor and home building lobbies and those in government who truly believe that every person should buy a home perpetuate this notion to a point to where now home owners think they are entitled to this special treatment.

Perhaps the most sacred cow of all of the deductions is the child tax credit. This deduction is a feature of every tax reform I mentioned in part 1 (even the Fair Tax prebate is based on family size). In the last presidential debate, Rick Santorum said in so many words that the federal government should promote families via the tax code.

Is this really the sort of thing the government should be concerned with? Should the amount of taxes an individual pays have anything to do with marital status or number of dependents s/he is supporting? Is it fair to make a single person pay more taxes because s/he doesn’t have dependents?

I don’t think there is an answer that will satisfy everyone.

Part 3
» Read more

Peter Schiff to OWS: “I Am the 1% Let’s Talk”

Here’s a very fascinating video taken at New York’s Zuccotti Park where Peter Schiff has a dialogue with some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Schiff brought a sign that read “I Am the 1% Let’s Talk,” and talk they did.

One of the things that occurred to me watching this was how little true discussion is going on between the OWS movement and their critics. Notice how some of the protesters say things like “you rich people” or “you Republicans” etc. Just as its unfair for these protesters to lump everyone into these groups is a mistake, I think it’s also a mistake to assume that all of these protesters are clueless and don’t have some legitimate grievances.

Kudos to Peter Schiff for going out among the protesters and having this much needed conversation. There seems to be some common ground concerning these grievances; the real differences are what the solutions should be.

Ron Paul Unveils “Restore America” Plan

LAS VEGAS – Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul unveiled his economic “Plan to Restore America” in Las Vegas Monday afternoon, calling for a lower corporate tax rate, a cut in spending by $1 trillion during his first year in office and the elimination of five cabinet-level agencies.”

[…]

Paul does get specific when he calls for a 10 percent reduction in the federal work force, while pledging to limit his presidential salary to $39,336, which his campaign says is “approximately equal to the median personal income of the American worker.” The current pay rate for commander in chief is $400,000 a year.

Based on Dr. Paul’s speech, there’s not a whole lot not to like. Cutting $1 trillion of government spending in the first year would be a very good thing IMO.

As a Gary Johnson supporter, I can’t help but get more than a little annoyed each time one of Paul’s supporters, member of his campaign staff, or the congressman himself makes the claim that Dr. Paul is the only candidate in the race who would balance the budget. Gov. Johnson has promised a balanced budget, not merely in his first term but in his first budget in virtually every debate, interview, and speech he has given since he announced his candidacy.

That criticism aside, I hope this plan is given serious consideration by the primary voters and debated among the candidates.

Tweet of the Day: Newt Says Include Gov. Johnson Edition

Fairness requires Gov. Johnson to be included in tomorrow’s debate. I encourage Wash Post/Bloomberg to invite him.

-Former House Speaker & 2012 G.O.P. Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich via Twitter.

Some Ron Paul supporters think Gingrich is hoping to split libertarian support by saying that Gov. Johnson should be invited to the debate. That could be but it’s also possible that the former Speaker is being sincere. Either way, Gingrich is right and Ron Paul’s supporters shouldn’t feel threatened. We are on the same team!

Gary Johnson and Ron Paul CPAC Speeches

The 2012 G.O.P. candidates each gave speeches at CPAC following the debates. Below are the speeches from Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. The first video is Johnson’s presentation before perhaps the largest audience he has had in awhile. Johnson spends a good part of his presentation introducing himself before giving an overview of his proposals. In the second video, Dr. Paul who is no stranger to CPAC, gets right into his prescriptions for fixing the economy and restoring lost liberty.

John Hospers, first Libertarian presidential nominee, dies at 93

Press release from the Libertarian Party on the passing of their first candidate for president:

John Hospers, first Libertarian presidential nominee, dies at 93

WASHINGTON – John Hospers, the Libertarian Party’s first presidential nominee in 1972, died on June 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 93.

Hospers became the Libertarian Party’s first nominee for U.S. President at its first national convention in Colorado on June 18, 1972. Hospers and his running mate, Tonie Nathan, each received one electoral vote in the 1972 election from Roger MacBride, a renegade elector in Virginia.

Hospers was a professor of philosophy at several universities, including the University of Southern California.

A brief biography is available at his website.

In 1971, he wrote the book Libertarianism – A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow, which described the libertarian political and economic philosophy.

Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle said, “I’ve been involved with the Libertarian Party since voting for John Hospers for president in 1972. Dr. Hospers was very influential in the formative days of our party, and we will miss him.”

Republicans Continue Dissing Libertarians, Then Want Us To Vote For Them

Brian Doherty notes that The Washington Examiner’s Byron York seems to have had a pair of ideological blinders on when he watched last night’s Republican debate:

Byron York, in the game of reporting about right-wing and Republican politics for a very long time, delivers a bravura performance of ignoring what’s in front of his own eyes with this nearly 2,000 word account of last night’s GOP debate that pretty much pretends Ron Paul and Gary Johnson weren’t even there.

York literally mentions that Paul was there–and never mentions yesterday’s million-dollar man again. Johnson gets cred for sprinting on the stage, where apparently from York’s account he then fell through a trap door and never added anything to the very, very fascinating set of fresh ideas delivered by those other three guys, I’ve forgotten their names.

Expect to have to see a lot more of this transparently pathetic pretending that Paul and Johnson don’t exist

York’s not alone. A listener to Rush Limbaugh’s show today would’ve been led to think that the only people at last night’s debate were Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum, because the great “El Rushbo” didn’t even talk about Johnson or Paul (yea, I know, I shouldn’t be listening). And a review of many of the prominent conservative blogs today shows either the same “memory holing” of Paul and Johnson, or coverage that consists of nothing but derision of them and their supporters.

To which I ask a simple question — if conservative Republicans want to convince libertarian-oriented folks to be allied with them, wouldn’t it be better to actually treat them and their ideas with respect? I’ve seen none of it, and I’m tempted to act accordingly.

Preference Voting — Darling Of The LP, But Does It Work?

Anyone who’s read my work here over the years will have realized that I’m not very interested in political horse races. It’s not to say that I don’t think there is some importance to them (as several contributors here do pay close attention), but that others can cover that stuff far better than I can, and at the end of the day it interests me not at all.

What does interest me is structures and incentives. I don’t think we’ll be able to make a meaningful change in the direction of this country unless we find a way to get the Republican/Democrat “Beast with Two Asses” to relinquish control and have actual diversity in Congress.

The structure of our government is such that it naturally trends towards a two-party system. The centrism of the American populace aligns those two parties into a nominal one-party system, standing a few steps for and a few steps aft of the mast of the Big Government yacht, but all riding in the exact same direction. Anyone who would dare rock the boat is purged.

So how do we fix this? Well, one option is replacing “first past the post” voting with ranked balloting. The sad truth of standard plurality elections in a dominant two-party system is that voting for a third party is a vote against your preferred of the two candidates. If you want the LP to win but could live with the Republican, voting Libertarian makes it more, not less, likely a Democrat will be elected instead. In ranked voting, you rank your acceptable candidates by preference, so ranking your LP candidate first and the Republican candidate second allows your second vote to stand should the Libertarian lose.

The question is — would it make a difference? The answer, unfortunately, is likely no:

But instead, the version being offered in Britain will allow voters to write in a first preference, and leave all others blank: the professor calls this practice “plumping.”

This is very significant, Mr Bogdanor argues, and he has the data to back this up. He notes that the stated purpose of AV is to avoid the anomaly by which a candidate can win a constituency on a minority of the vote.

However, he explains, it is not correct to say that AV ensures every MP is elected by a majority. In the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, “plumping” is allowed in elections to state legislatures. And where it is allowed, it is very common. He records:

The greater the degree of plumping, the more an alternative vote election turns into a first past the post election…In Queensland, in 2009, where the Labor Party advised its supporters to “Just Vote 1″, to give Labor their first preference and not to give a preference to any other candidate, around 63% of voters plumped. Even where a party does offer advice, that advice may be ignored. In Queensland, the Greens advised that second preferences be given to Labor, but 46% of Green voters decided to plump

There are many arguments for and against AV. Many will be rehearsed here over the next few weeks (you lucky people). But for now, consider this possibility: by avoiding a dreadful form of AV (one which would make the use of all preferences obligatory), British backers of AV may have chosen a system that amounts to a gussied-up form of FPTP with added complexity and aggravation.

In a system built to be dominated by two parties at the Congressional level (not at the district level), we don’t have a system requiring multiple minority parties to work together to “create a government”. That’s more of a parliamentary system with proportional representation. Nor do we, as Americans enamored with representative democracy, seem to want that — we want to elect AN individual to represent OUR OWN interests in Washington [not that this actually happens, of course].

So it’s quite likely that Republicans and Democrats will each put their own party and zero other candidates on a ranked ballot. Those of us outside the two main parties will put our third-party preference and our second choice on a ranked ballot. And at the end of the day, you’ll end up with a Congress filled with the same Republicans and Democrats we started with. In the few cases where a minority party candidate is elected (say, for example, where a popular main-party candidate is skewered in the primary and goes third-party), it may make it easier to end up in office, but still isn’t a major change to the system.

I’m a fan of changing structure, and I see the allure of preference voting. In fact, I think preference voting is a worthy change. But I think that preference voting, in and of itself, would have effectively zero impact on the American political landscape. For it to be important, it would have to be paired with other structural changes that would improve the likelihood that minority parties would end up with a seat at the table. Like most things with the $3.5T Leviathan, it’ll take more than preference voting to make a real difference.

Libertarain Party Erects ‘Republican Wall of Shame’ at CPAC

The Libertarian Party sent out a press release today targeting ‘small L’ libertarians and Tea Party members at CPAC:

Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict commented, “Our goal at CPAC is to reach out to libertarians who have been misled into thinking of conservatism as a small-government ideology. In fact, conservatives just want their own version of big government, as we pointed out last year.”

Benedict continued, “We’ve already heard some talk about the Republican ‘three-legged stool.’ My view is, Republicans are wrong on foreign policy, they’re wrong on social policy, and they’re lying hypocrites on economic policy. Their stool has no legs.”

Full Libertarian Party press release here.

At their booth at CPAC (they were able to get a booth at CPAC?), they erected what they call the “Republican Wall of Shame.”

The State of the Union: the Liberty Movement Responds

Executive Director of the Libertarian Party Wes Benedict:

President Obama says he wants a freeze in non-security, discretionary spending. In the unlikely event that happens, it won’t really matter, because to make a real dent in the deficit, it’s necessary to cut spending on the military and entitlements. The president promised big government in the past, and he delivered. I expect more of the same.
However, Obama has truly been a hypocrite on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a candidate, he promised to end them. Tonight we heard more hollow promises. The fact is, as president, he has kept those wars going, and has greatly escalated the war in Afghanistan. As a percentage of GDP, military spending is higher now than it was during any year of the George W. Bush administration.

Unlike President Obama, Libertarians would bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce the military budget.

Benedict also saved some much needed criticism for Paul Ryan’s Republican response

On the Republican side, I found Congressman Paul Ryan’s hypocrisy appalling. He claims to want big cuts in government spending. But he didn’t seem to be too worried about cutting spending when Republicans were in charge. He supported the huge Medicare expansion in 2003, and the expensive No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. He supports the expensive War on Drugs. In 2008, he put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at risk by voting for the massive TARP bailout, and he even voted to spend billions on the GM and Chrysler bailout.

Just one month ago, Congressman Ryan voted for the tax compromise that included a big increase in unemployment spending, and even extensions of government spending on ethanol.

Republicans don’t want to cut spending — they want to talk about cutting spending.

At Reason.com Veronique de Rugy and Nick Gillespie responded with a post “We Can’t Win the Future By Repeating the Past”

How can we “win the future,” as President Barack Obama exhorted us to do in his 2011 State of the Union address, when our top elected official remains so drearily stuck in the past? And despite the commanding role of what can only be called Sputnik nostalgia in his speech, Obama was not even channeling the distant past in his remarks.

Instead, he served up the equivalent of a microwaved reheating of the sentiments of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush. That’s some sort of groovy, space-age technological feat, for sure, but we shouldn’t confuse left-over platitudes about cutting wasteful spending on the one hand while ramping up publicly funded “investment” on the other for a healthy meal.

Neal Boortz:

Sure enough, as I told you, Obama replaced the word “spending” with the word “investing”. I’ve gone through this routine with you before, people just react better to the word investing than they do the word spending. Investing good, spending bad. What Barack Obama proposed last night was not investing at all, it was pure stimulus spending. Space and we all know how well the last stimulus plan worked. Where’s the unemployment rate now? About 9.5%? Yeah, that worked. One of the mainstays oval bomb his new stimulus program is this high speed rail boondoggle. Obama said “Within 25 years our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail.” Space you do know, don’t you, that Amtrak has never made money. Amtrak is a constant drain on taxpayer dollars were ever those trains run. And how is it going to be any different with high-speed rail lines. Experts not working for the government or not working for the building trades unions, are pretty much unanimous in their opinions that high-speed rail in our widely disseminated population simply will not work. It high-speed rail doesn’t work between New York and Philadelphia, or New York and Washington DC without losing money, how in the world isn’t going to work between Orlando and Tampa or any other two urban areas in this country. Space the fact is that this whole dream about high-speed rail is nothing but a payoff to unions in order to put construction workers to work building rail lines, joining unions, paying union dues, and allowing unions to make massive political contributions to candidates. Democrat candidates.

Gene Healy at Cato says the problem with the SOTU isn’t the seating:

Bipartisan symbolism’s all the rage on Capitol Hill right now, with members scrambling for a cross-aisle BFF to sit with at the State of the Union (SOTU). Tonight, the lion will lie down with the lamb — or at least Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will sit elbow to elbow and try not to bite each other.

Maybe these gestures will lead to a nationwide surge of oxytocin — the togetherness hormone — healing partisan rancor across the fruited plain. But that’s highly unlikely, given how polarizing the modern SOTU and the modern presidency have become.

Over at United Liberty, former Liberty Papers contributor Jason Pye warns readers to not be fooled by the president’s favorite buzzword from the SOTU: “investing”

Consider this, in the same speech President Obama was pitching a paltry speeding freeze, he spoke often of investment. Of course, since “stimulus” has become a political non-starter; thanks largely to his behemoth spending bill passed shortly after he took office two years ago, “investment” is the new buzz word for statists to push their wasteful pet spending.

Among these “investments” will be more spending for high-speed rail projects, high-speed internet, tax credits, more education spending, energy subsidies, and more spending for our seemingly endless operations in Afghanistan – although he promises that we will soon begin withdrawal from the country, don’t believe it; we’re going to be there for years to come. Obama claims to want a spending freeze, but he also wants to spend more money. On what planet does that make sense?

Former Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr called the speech a “yawn”

A little bit of something for everybody; but a really big something for government. This was the essential thrust of this 44th President’s second — and longest, state-of-the-union speech last night. While Barack Obama did not include quite as lengthy a shopping list in his state of the union speech as did his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, his list was long nonetheless.

Even though Obama paid lip service to regulatory reform, community-based education, tax reform, and reform of last year’s health care reform (among many other tid-bits), in virtually every instance, the ultimate solution to which he kept returning was more government spending and increased government prioritization.

Finally, John Stossel offers a State of the Union address of his own (to which I won’t excerpt because the whole thing should be read; I’ll post the video if I can find it).

***UPDATE*** Cato offers a more complete response to the SOTU by getting into some of the details of the speech and other observations.

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