The case against Gary Johnson

I get that Libertarians like Gary Johnson’s policy, but right now there’s surely plenty of people who are supporting Gary Johnson in the polls just because he’s not Clinton or Trump and seems like a decent-enough guy.  All well and good, I suppose, but especially for those liberal voters dissatisfied with Clinton, it’s worth thinking about how poorly Johnson looks when you actually hold him up to scrutiny.  Derek Thompson does just that:

Johnson’s chief advantage in this election is the possession of a surname that isn’t Trump or Clinton. The two major parties are now led by the two most unpopular major-party candidates in modern history. The cases against Clinton and Trump are well known, but the case for Johnson requires, well, a case for Johnson. And on this score, the third-party candidate has done little to distinguish himself—and quite enough to establish that, at least in this contest, America’s third-party lockout doesn’t deserve its historic breakthrough in five weeks…

Take Johnson’s bungling of foreign affairs. His level of expertise would be appropriate for an amiable CEO of a medical-marijuana company, but it’s several standard deviations below the minimum viable threshold to be commander-in-chief of the world’s most significant military power…

But far from “centrist,” the Libertarian candidate’s economic ideas are so radical they make Trump seem downright moderate. He would abolish federal income taxes, replace the current tax code with a more regressive national consumption tax, cut Medicare and Medicaid by 40 percent, push for a constitutional amendment to forbid the U.S. to run deficits even during downturns, ban federal bailouts of states, and seek to eliminate the Federal Reserve.

This is worse than fiscal irresponsibility. These ideas aren’t politically or even morally responsible. Taken together, they could trigger a recession by taking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy, handcuff the federal government’s ability to stabilize the private sector, and throw millions of adults off health insurance, creating a needless economic crisis while whistling under the banner of economic freedom and choice. “Johnson is proposing an immediate fiscal tightening of 3 percent of gross domestic product,” the Washington Post’s Matthew O’Brien wrote. Without the Federal Reserve to buttress the downturn, O’Brien projected that the ensuing recession could push unemployment back above 7 percent.



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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