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March 27, 2012Posted in Blog, News

Fair Tax would ‘reboot’ economy, Libertarian leader Johnson says

By James Mosher

Norwich, Conn. —

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s balanced budget plan calls for a 43 percent cut in military spending, but he says the U.S. Navy views submarines, a key Eastern Connecticut industry, as crucial.

“I’m not pandering to you,” the former New Mexico governor said during a meeting with The Bulletin’s editorial board on Monday. “But the Navy views the submarine force as untouchable.”

Not all of Connecticut’s military contracting businesses would escape the budget knife, Johnson said. He hedged on whether a redesign of Trident submarines would be supported by his administration. He said he supports maintaining veterans’ benefits.

“This is a mutual sacrifice deal,” said Johnson, 59, who was the Republican governor of New Mexico from 1995 until 2003 before joining the Libertarian Party last year. “This is shared sacrifice.”

The Fair Tax, which would eliminate federal taxes including levies on corporations, would “reboot the American economy,” Johnson said. The Fair Tax would provide enough revenue to fix Social Security’s financing problem, he said.

The federal Medicare and Medicaid systems face “big problems” in coming years, Johnson said. He called for a “free-market approach,” labeling the current system “as far from a free-market approach as you can get.”

The national departments of Education, Homeland Security, and Housing and Urban Development are slated for elimination in Johnson’s budget plans. He said he would get rid of the Department of Education “in a heartbeat,” which would allow student performance to improve.

Having vetoed 750 bills as governor, Johnson said he would take the same approach as president, adding that “gridlock” stops many bad laws.

Johnson’s first stop in Eastern Connecticut was a breakfast meeting at Olde Tymes Restaurant in Norwich. Among the guests was Susan Prusack, of Coventry, whose sister, Kate Prusack, a New Mexico resident, is engaged to Johnson. Libertarian Party of Connecticut Chairman Dan Reale, who lives in Plainfield, was also present.

First for restaurant

Johnson is the first presidential candidate to visit Olde Tymes, restaurant owner Rodney Green said.

“It’s great to have him,” said Green, whose brother lives in New Mexico. “Regardless of your political views, it’s nice to have him here.”

The former governor spoke in the upstairs section of the West Main Street restaurant to about 12 people. Johnson’s theme of “social liberalism and fiscal conservatism” was applauded by Robert Beasley, of Norwich. Beasley said he will vote for the Libertarian nominee, whether or not it’s Johnson, if former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is the Republican nominee.

Johnson criticized Republicans for talking too much on social issues.

“I think the world vilifies the Republican Party for its focus on social issues,” Johnson said, adding that he “fundamentally supports” abortion rights and gay marriage, which he calls “marriage equality.”

When asked during his conference at The Bulletin if the Republican Party has “declared war on women,” Johnson said “Yes.”

Part of the reason for Johnson’s trip to Connecticut is to narrow a fundraising gap. He said he needs to raise about $1,500 more in four more states, including Connecticut, to qualify for a federal election matching funds program. Philosophically, he said, he disagrees with the program and would work to eliminate it as president, but conceded “This is how the game is played for right now.”

Qualifying for funds

Getting 5 percent of the vote nationally, something no Libertarian candidate has ever achieved, would qualify the party for $90 million in federal funds, Johnson said.

“Now that’s a game-changer,” he said.

Johnson said he will not step aside for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, who is currently running in the Republican primaries, but trails in the delegate count behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Santorum, and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Georgia. Paul was the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988.

Johnson spoke about “carrying on” Paul’s message after the Republican primaries even though the two differ on some issues including “social conservatism.”

“Logistically, it’s not possible for him (Paul) to be the Libertarian nominee,” Johnson said. “He would have to start campaigning for it today.”

The former governor said he is considering participating in a debate at the Libertarian Party of Connecticut’s annual convention next month but might have to skip it because Texas’ state convention is the same day.

Johnson started one of New Mexico’s largest construction companies. His father is a World War II veteran who was injured during the Battle of the Bulge.


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