Benjamin Studebaker

Gary Johnson is Worse than Donald Trump

Since Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, I’ve heard a number of Sanders supporters indicate that they’re considering supporting Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee. We need to nip this in the bud right now. Gary Johnson is by far the most reactionary and right wing candidate in the race, especially on economic issues. I didn’t write him a candidate evaluation because in 2012 he received less than 1% of the vote, but a recent poll says 10% of Sanders supporters are now willing to support Johnson. If you are a Johnson supporter or you know someone who is, there’s some important information about Johnson and the Libertarians that everyone needs to know.

A while back, we talked about how bad Donald Trump’s tax plan is. Trump’s plan is a more extreme version of other Republican tax plans, like the one proposed by Mitt Romney in 2012. Republican tax plans typically involve cutting tax rates for all brackets so everyone feels they are getting something, but the largest gains go to the top of the income distribution. Trump’s plan calls for cutting everyone’s marginal rate by 20 points, but this amounts to a lot more money if you’re at the top, because 20% of a million dollars is a lot more than 20% of $40,000. Jeb Bush’s plan followed a similar model (although the cuts it proposed were somewhat smaller), and nearly all of the tax relief in his plan went to the top:

Nevertheless, Trump’s plan still has tax brackets, with higher income citizens paying a larger percentage. Gary Johnson has a tax plan that makes Donald Trump’s plan look left wing. Johnson wants to eliminate the income, capital gains, payroll, and estate taxes completely and replace them all with a flat 23% national sales tax:

Balance the federal budget now, not 15 years from now, not 20 years from now, but now. And throw out the entire federal tax system, replace it with a Fair Tax, a consumption tax, that by all measurements is just that. It’s fair. It does away with corporate income tax. [That would] create tens of millions of jobs in this country.

Remember “Fair Tax”? You may have heard of it before–it’s Mike Huckabee’s tax plan:

There are two key problems with this plan:

  1. It’s regressive. It’s a grotesquely immoral hand-out to rich people.
  2. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t raise enough money to fund the government.

Why is it regressive? A flat 23% sales tax means that when you go to the store to buy a gallon of milk, you pay the same amount of tax on that gallon of milk as Donald Trump. Now, you might point out that Donald Trump probably buys a lot more than you do, and that’s true. But Donald Trump spends a much smaller percentage of his income. He saves and invests a lot more, and while that money would be subject to income and capital gains tax, it’s not subject to sales. It’s the people who make less than $70,000 per year who spend the largest percentage of their incomes, and these people will be subject to the highest real tax rates under this plan:

Many of these people who make less than 70k are living paycheck to paycheck, spending effectively all of their income. Because the “Fair Tax” applies to many goods and services that are generally exempt from state sales tax (including food), this means they would be paying a sales tax that is equivalent to a combined income and payroll tax of 23%. Proponents of this tax also intend to eliminate all of the tax deductions that make many people’s effective tax rates much lower than the marginal rates. Taking into account deductions, most people would need to be in the top quintile to pay an total effective rate of 23% in federal tax, with an individual income of around $73,000. Proponents of this plan like to point out that the proposal includes a “prebate” in which the government returns about $2,200 per year to each individual for necessities. But you end up spending that money too, and when you spend it you again pay 23%. If you earn the median income of about $37,000 for an individual, you get an extra $2,200 and pay with 23% tax on $39,200 when you spend it, paying over $9,000 in taxes. So even with the prebate, your effective rate remains 23%, the effective rate paid by individuals today who make $73,000.

What do rich people pay? If you make $200,000, our research says that you probably only consume half of that. Which means you pay 23% on $100,000 and 0% on $100,000, an effective tax rate of 11.5%, which is about the same effective rate as someone in the middle quintile who currently earns between $30,000 and $45,000. If you make a lot more than that and save or invest most of your money, you can pay an extremely low rate.

But it gets worse, because the 23% rate is a lie–it’s much too low to fund the government, and in practice they would have to raise it much higher. Proponents of the sales tax believe they can meet the government’s needs with 23% because they have assumed that it will generate large increases in economic growth (Huckabee goes so far as to insist upon a 6% annual growth rate, and some supporters of Fair Tax have put it over 10%). But this national sales tax would come on top of existent state sales taxes, and this means that in some areas the combined sales tax could approach 50%. This massively discourages people from buying things. If you tax people when they buy stuff, they will buy less stuff, and if people don’t buy stuff then the people who sell stuff can’t make as much money selling stuff, so they lay people off and those people buy even less stuff, and so on in a vicious cycle. Or, alternatively, black markets will open up all over the country resulting in a high evasion rate with runaway organized crime and mob violence. The Bush administration ran an analysis of this plan back in the 2000’s, and even they concluded that if the evasion rate were just 15%, the tax would have to be hiked to 34%. At that rate, someone earning $37,000 is paying almost $12,000 in taxes with the “prebate”.

You would have to be profoundly foolish to support this plan. Yet Gary Johnson does. And that’s not all. Gary Johnson has announced that he would support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which exposes American workers to more competition from foreign workers in poor and developing countries who are paid garbage wages and are often unprotected by basic labor laws:

This is not a strange position for Gary Johnson–it’s in the 2016 Libertarian Party Platform:

The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.

There are other gems in the Libertarian Party Platform that Gary Johnson doesn’t like to talk about. Like the part where they promise to cut government funding for renewable energy:

While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy.

Then there’s the part where they promise that the government will never borrow money, which would utterly cripple the federal government’s ability to intervene in the economy in times of crisis or defend the country in times of war:

Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a “Balanced Budget Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.

There’s also the part where they implicitly support right-to-work laws, which cripple unions’ abilities to collect dues, and promise to shred public sector pensions for our teachers and police officers:

We favor repealing any requirement that one must join or pay dues to a union as a condition of government employment. We advocate replacing defined-benefit pensions with defined-contribution plans, as are commonly offered in the private sector, so as not to impose debt on future generations without their consent.

Looking for the Libertarian Party to support Glass-Steagall? No, instead they want to deregulate banking:

We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.

The refuse to defend union rights and they implicitly oppose the minimum wage completely:

Employment and compensation agreements between private employers and employees are outside the scope of government, and these contracts should not be encumbered by government-mandated benefits or social engineering.

They’re against the public school system and deny children the right to an adequate education:

Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government.

They don’t want to provide Medicare-for-all single payer, they want to scrap Medicare and Medicaid completely, and they oppose Obamacare’s individual mandate:

We favor a free-market health care system.We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions.

They’re even against Social Security:

Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system.

If all you’ve done is watched a few clips of Gary Johnson on the internet, it’s easy to be taken in. He knows how to talk like he wants to stand with ordinary folks against those big corporate interests. But Donald Trump does that too, and he doesn’t mean it either. Gary Johnson is a deceitful person who sells himself as Bernie Sanders lite while in reality he has consistently supported a far right agenda that would devastate the country. He hawks his liberal positions on social issues while concealing a deeply disturbing and malicious economic agenda. More than anyone else running, he knows how to put lipstick on the pig that is the Libertarian Party:

Samantha Bee is funny, but let’s be clear: the Libertarians are political and economic Luddites. They want to go back to the bad old days when governments didn’t do anything for anybody and if your sister got sick and you didn’t have the money she died on the street.

Don’t support him. Tell your friends.