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August 8th, 2012 MARK ZUSMAN | Q & A
 

Hotseat: Gary Johnson

The Libertarian candidate for president says he’s all about momentum.

news2_garyjohnson_3840LIBERTARIAN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GARY JOHNSON - IMAGE: Nate Miller
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, isn’t going to win in November. But were we to challenge him to a bike race, a 400-meter sprint or even water polo, the 59-year-old New Mexico ex-governor would skunk us.

Johnson’s athletic accomplishments—he’s climbed Mount Everest and finished Ironmans—sound like the bucket list of an obsessive compulsive. But his biggest marathon might be his presidential run.

He visited WW to talk about saving the country from bankruptcy, legalizing marijuana (but not necessarily all drugs) and ending government intrusion into Americans’ private affairs.


WW: How is this campaign going vis-à-vis your expectations?

Gary Johnson: Politics is two things. One thing is exceeding expectations. I think the expectation is zero. The other is momentum. I believe I am the voice for the fastest-growing segment of American politics today. 

It’s the same message as [U.S. Rep. and GOP presidential candidate] Ron Paul [R-Texas]. He says, “I’m not going to drop out—the people who are coming out to see me are growing in number, and this is where the action’s at.” That’s my vantage point.


Do you and Rep. Paul differ on the issues?

Not really. This is not a criticism, but Ron Paul has come off as labeled kooky. I don’t get the label kooky.


Your support for legalizing marijuana is well documented. What’s your attitude on drug laws for heroin or crack cocaine?

The only drug I’m advocating legalizing is marijuana, but I think we are on a tipping point. When we do this we take giant steps forward toward rational drug policy, looking at drugs first as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.


What would be the Johnson administration tax policy?

I am advocating eliminating the income tax, corporate tax [and] the IRS and replacing all of it with a [23 percent] federal consumption tax. Ninety congressmen and -women have signed on to the “fair tax.” There are millions of followers to the fair tax. I’m not doing this in a vacuum. 


So when I get a haircut, there would be a tax.

Yes…it applies to end product. A can of Coke that sells for a buck arguably has 23 percent embedded, non-transparent taxes in it. Coke has to pay tax, and they pass it on to you. You can do away with all that [with] one very transparent federal tax. Coke isn’t going to have to sell the can for $1 anymore to make the same profit. They can sell it for 80 cents. Apply the consumption tax to it, it’ll still cost you a buck.


And all federal tax subsidies—they go away?

You’re kicking crony capitalism in the ass.


You’ve proposed a 43 percent reduction in Medicaid and Medicare. Why not 41 or 47?

Well, 43 being representative of the amount of deficit—43 percent [of the federal budget] a year. $1.4 trillion. For those that fall off their chair when you start talking about a 43 percent reduction in Medicare, the alternative is a collapsed government that’s incapable of delivering anything. The mathematics just don’t add up. We do it in the context of the money that we’re taking in.


What’s the consequence of cutting Medicare and Medicaid by 43 percent?

That we survive as a country.


You argue this country has almost legislated tobacco out of existence. Doesn’t a libertarian see it as a matter of personal choice? 

Smoke yourself to death—don’t make me liable for your medical bills.


What if I asked you to say something positive about the policies or actions of the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees?

I think they’re both well-meaning. I just see politics as very status quo. Tweedledee, Tweedledum.

 
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