I’ve seen this on Facebook recently. It’s a screengrab of Kevin Drum’s opinion piece on Mother Jones, “Why Are There Any Liberals Supporting Gary Johnson?” Drum makes the case for Johnson’s inclusion in the presidential debates:
Half of these points are either completely false or misrepresented through omission. In order for liberals — and conservatives, and centrists, and what-have-you — to know if Johnson is worth their vote, he really should be included in the presidential debates. The debates are the forum for talking about the foreign and domestic issues only hinted about in Drum’s scary little laundry list of unforgivables.
It’s kind of funny. Back when John Kerry was the Democratic standard-bearer, his flip-flops were spun as “nuance.” You would think they would appreciate a nuanced approach to policy positions. Let’s take a look at the nine points Drum gets wrong.
“He supports TPP.” Gary Johnson supports free trade. He has signaled cautious support for TPP, and the more he has learned about what’s actually in it, the more skeptical he’s become. In an August interview on POLITICO’s Off Message with Glenn Thrush, Johnson said, “Would I have signed or implemented the Trans-Pacific Partnership? I’ve got to tell you, I think it’s laden with crony capitalism. Free market really is the answer. It’s the answer to unifying the whole planet, in my opinion.”
“He supports fracking.
” Johnson’s position on fracking is not so far removed from Clinton’s. Recently
, he stressed a pragmatic approach, noting that fracking is currently only about 10% effective and comes at a cost to the environment. ProCon.com puts Johnson and Clinton both in the “Pro” column on this issue, but neither candidate seems than solid in their support.
“He opposes any federal policies that would make college more affordable or reduce student debt. In fact, he wants to abolish student loans entirely.” He wants to abolish student loans in order to make college more affordable and to reduce student debt. By definition, he is in favor of federal policies to bring down the cost of higher education. In the same interview with Glenn Thrush referenced above, Johnson laments that students have been “sold a bill of goods”:
[T]here’s no excuse for you not to go to college because of guaranteed government student loans, and because of that, in my opinion, college tuition costs twice as much as it would have cost if there would have been no government guaranteed student loans.
Imagine a scenario in which the federal government helps households pursue the American dream with ultra-loose credit, only to see prices skyrocket and families take on loads of debt they can’t repay.
Yes, it sounds like the housing market of a decade ago, but some say it is also the challenge of today’s higher-education system.
“He thinks Citizens United is great.” Johnson takes the controversial position that free speech shouldn’t be censored by the government. The confusion around Citizens United is nothing short of epic. Former Washington State Committeeman (and yes, bass player for Nirvana) Krist Novoselic runs it down in a thoroughly researched and footnoted history of campaign finance laws:
The most notorious Supreme Court ruling of recent times is 2010’s Citizens United v. F.E.C. This ruling has captured many an imagination with the idea that the Court turned somehow turned “corporations into people” or that money was created into speech. This article is not about propagating these useless catchphrases, rather, it is about how independent campaign expenditure prohibitions bump into 1st Amendment protections. I look at the history of attempts to regulate independent campaign expenditures and how, in the process, a state censorship board was created.
(Emphasis his.) Most folks don’t think Citizens United = free speech, but rather Citizens United = corporations are people. Johnson has gone on record* elsewhere to say he doesn’t believe corporations are people, so let that be a bromide.
“He favors a balanced-budget amendment and has previously suggested that he would slash federal spending 43 percent in order to balance the budget. This would require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and social welfare programs of all kinds.” The wrong in this point makes my head hurt. The 43% thing is from Johnson’s 2012 run. What Johnson and Weld propose is a zero based budgeting approach — something Jimmy Carter brought to government back in the 1970s, for Pete’s sake. Let’s hear from Bill Weld on this one:
So, on the budget issues, you know, the tendency is almost inescapable to say, what are you going to cut? What are you going to cut? I think we proved that we know how to cut. It’s through what I call zero-based budgeting, which is you begin every year assuming each entry in the budget is zero. You don’t assume it’s the same as last year plus 5 percent, which used to be the approach in Washington. And that’s how you get your real savings. So you don’t slash 20 percent or 10 percent across the board. And you measure outcomes, not inputs. Inputs would be last year’s appropriation. So if the outcomes were very good in a health-care program, you might multiply that appropriation by five. And if there was another tired bureaucracy that just seemed to have been shuffling papers, and there were no outputs, you might abolish that altogether. But I think we’ve both showed that we can do that, because in the ‘90s, we were each rated the most fiscally conservative governor in the United States. In my case, by the Wall Street Journal and the Cato Institute, and I think Gary a couple years after that, by Cato as well. So that’s not an accident.
Johnson has been outspoken in his support of the social safety net — especially for a libertarian. (We make lousy lifeguards, don’t you know.) This point is fear mongering, plain and simple.
“He opposes net neutrality.” To pretend net neutrality is anything other than a contentious issue with valid points on all sides is nonsense. The fact is, for better or worse, as of last year, we have it. What worries me is the inevitable vestigial nature of Title II classification. A group of Stanford University researches may have just rendered the issue moot with their invention of “Network Cookies,” but Title II classification will lumber along, an octogenarian law regulating a technology that changes by the minute.
Johnson’s stance is simple and consistent: “There is nothing wrong with the Internet that I want the government to fix.” That’s an opinion consistent with Clinton’s view on the matter. I’m talking about Bill, of course. The one who deregulated the internet in the first place.
“He opposes any kind of paid maternity or medical leave.” I have yet to find anywhere where Johnson has spoken in favor of legislation that prevents paid maternity or medical leave.**
“He supported the Keystone XL pipeline.” True , so long as “it’s not an issue of the government implementing eminent domain to procure right of ways.” And of course, it would require eminent domain. I’ll let you do the math on that one.
Missing from this is his view on the EPA:
On the other hand in northern New Mexico, there was a Molycorp mine. There was metals contamination in the Red River. It had gone on for decades. And for decades politically it was being protected because of the jobs that were involved. I took office and I said, you’ve got to clean this up. You have to come to the table and you have to clean this up. They refused to come to the table. So my biggest club in the bag was, I am going to declare you a Superfund site. I’m going to hand you over to federal EPA unless you come to the table in 30 days and come up with a plan for fixing your metals contamination.
And they claimed that it was natural! It was ludicrous. It was a slap in the face. And they refused to come to the table. My phone is ringing off the hook, politically. It’s ringing off the hook. There were all these jobs. And my response was: “These people are bad actors and they have to be brought to the table.” Thirty days went by and they became a Superfund site. So there’s an example of the EPA and why the EPA should exist. And why government should exist to protect us against those who would do us harm.
He goes on to say that his support of the EPA is not exactly doctrinaire libertarianism. I would disagree. We’re minarchists, not anarchists. Government exists to protect us from force and fraud, and the EPA can be a worthwhile tool to that end.
“He opposes any government action to address climate change.” There was quite a kerfluffle some weeks back when Johnson speculated on using a carbon fee to address climate change. It’s absolutely not true that Johnson opposes any government action to address climate change. The role of government in this particular issue is something he struggles with.
There’s a little more nuance on half of Drum’s points. More could certainly be said about the other nine points, but really, Johnson should be saying it himself. On the debate stage. With the other presidential candidates. The amount of misunderstanding (purposeful and otherwise) as demonstrated in this and other similar articles makes the case for inclusion. Obviously, people are interested in hearing what Johnson has to say. Let’s hear him say it.
*The author characterizes this as being against Citizens United. I can only assume the author has fallen prey to the “useless catchphrases,” as Novoselic puts it, and is conflating things.
**I am reminded of a quote by Frederic Bastiat, from his book The Law:
Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.