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GOP Presidential Candidate Rundown (Part 1)

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If you’re like me, you’re not a fan of being in three simultaneous wars in the Middle East and wallowing in mind-blowing national debt, so the odds are you wouldn’t mind seeing someone other than President Obama in the Oval Office come November of 2012 (technically January 2013).  If you’re like me, you want to know what your other options are when it comes to picking the President of The United States.  If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering who the Republicans will field as their presidential nominee because, let’s be honest, the chances of the Libertarian Party and the other also-rans getting their act together by next year’s election season are smaller than minuscule.

And hey, even if you’re nothing like me, you might even be interested in what I think of the GOP’s current field.  Well, look no further – I’ll tell you what’s what free of charge.  Let’s first describe what major policy positions I look for in a president before we get going.

Social Issues:

  • Keep the government out of marriage entirely – including gay marriage.
  • Education Reform:  Hemorrhaging money to the Department of Education has not produced any improvements in our academic abilities versus the rest of the industrialized world.  Give parents choice on where their children go to school by implementing a voucher system (thus simultaneously encouraging educational experimentation via school competition).
  • Immigration Reform:  Simplify the process by which immigrants become citizens.  Implement a robust work visa program to encourage legal immigration and economic stimulus.  This would also enable a realistic way to document who is in the country.
  • Drug War Reform:  The War on Drugs is a complete failure.  Legalize marijuana, and readdress the criminal justice system’s approach to drug use and abuse.

Fiscal Issues:

  • Corporate Tax Reform:  We have the second-highest (soon to be the absolute highest) corporate taxes in the world; stop giving businesses an incentive to avoid doing business in the United States.
  • Individual Tax Reform:  Economic growth happens when people are allowed to spend and invest their money rather than having it confiscated by taxation.  Cut taxes to stimulate the economy.
  • Entitlement Reform:  Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will grind to a bankrupt halt along with the rest of the country if we don’t address the practical issues of having tax-funded social programs which are categorically impossible  to pay for as they currently exist.
  • Federal Budget Reform:  We borrow 43 cents on every dollar we spend.  We need an immediate, comprehensive plan to stop adding to the national debt and start paying it off.

Foreign Policy:

  • End the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  The United States does not benefit from the continued occupation of the Middle East, nor from engaging in even more military operations in Libya or elsewhere.
  • Stop foreign aid.  We can’t afford our own national programs, let alone those of other nations.  Additionally, funding oppressive (albeit convenient) governments based on our own various international agendas hasn’t exactly been without serious long-term consequences (1980s Iraq springs to mind); it’s time to learn from our mistakes.
  • Close many if not most of our military bases overseas.  A military presence does not endear us to the populace of many nations, nor does supporting the economic growth of other countries by paying for their protection make the faintest bit of sense.
  • Stand by our allies.  Any aggression against our friends should be met with our unflinching wrath.  If, for example, Israel were invaded, my ideal response would be as follows:

Without further ado, let’s take a look  at the first wave of Republican candidates.  Please note that I’m arbitrarily selecting the five individuals who participated in the debate on May 5th as who I’ll talk about here on Part One of the series.  That being said, let’s start with somebody you’ve actually heard of:

Ron Paul

Who?

He’s been in Congress for quite some time, and he’s famous for vetoing bills left and right for exceeding the scope of the government’s Constitutional boundaries.  He ran for president as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988.  He’s a libertarian God.

What I like:

He’s been saying the same thing about our fundamental economic weakness (debt, debt, and more debt) for decades.  He despises the Federal Reserve.  He wants out of the Middle East.  He’d end the drug war.  He doesn’t think the government gets to decide who gets married and who doesn’t, he takes The Constitution seriously, and he’s vocal about addressing entitlement spending.  Better yet, he could actually beat President Obama.

What I don’t like:

He’s old, and it’s starting to show; he doesn’t educate so much as he raves.  He has a tendency to insert earmarks into bills he knows will pass and then vote against them just so he can say he never votes for pork barrel spending.

Odds of getting the nomination:

I give him 20%.  The GOP field is weak, but he doesn’t have many friends amongst the Party establishment.   Sure, he can win over a lot of independents and every libertarian on the planet, and he’s notoriously good with young voters (read: he can steal them from Obama).  Besides, many on the the left can enjoy his tolerance and consistent anti-war credentials if they can be intellectually honest about the president’s fiscal irresponsibility, his tendency towards corporatism, and especially his hawkishness.  So, yeah, those are all reasons that Ron Paul can win the general election, but don’t hold your breath on him being nominated.  He raised gigantic sums of money during the 2008 campaign, but it didn’t get him anywhere; I don’t have reason to believe 2012 will be different.

Rick Santorum

Who?

He served in the Senate for 12 years, ending in 2007.  He’s been very active in defining himself as a “traditional conservative” (you’ll have to excuse me for leaving that topic alone, because I just don’t have the energy).  He dipped his toes in the Election 2008 waters until he figured out he had no real following.

What I like about him:

He promotes the missile defense program.

What I don’t like about him:

Most things.  He clearly favors an extra-interventionist foreign policy (we’ll bomb the democracy into you!), which I say because his website says:

[…] having supported popular sovereignty abroad, both this and the previous administration have erred in failing to sufficiently support the conditions of liberty and the institutions necessary for a successful democracy.  Too often we have acted as if liberty’s first order of business is a vote. Elections should be a consummation and not a commencement to democratic processes.

.

I have a big problem with that; we have no business being in the business of nation-building; lead the world by example, not by occupation.  Here’s how I read that quote, anyway: “We really need to spend more money and blood on countries that we want to install democracy into – certainly long before they have an election of some kind anyway, and let’s not get in a hurry over that little bit either.  For instance, ten years in Afghanistan and eight years in Iraq and a trillion or so dollars just isn’t enough, so let’s get ready to up the ante.”

Then there’s an Associated Press (AP)/Santorum discussion on… well, you read it.

SANTORUM: […] Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —

AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

SANTORUM: And that’s sort of where we are in today’s world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

That’s just not going to work for me.

Odds of getting the nomination:

15%.  He’ll appeal to many party-line Republicans immensely; he doesn’t like homosexuality, he’s very clearly pro-war/intervention, and he continues the Republican Party tradition of talking about spending less while enthusiastically discussing spending a lot more.  Unfortunately for him, there’s nothing to really distinguish himself from the other boilerplate Republican candidates except maybe his propensity to poll badly whenever he’s considered running for the Senate (again) or the governorship in his home state.  If your neighbors don’t like you… anyway, don’t expect donors to flock to him.

Herman Cain

Who?

As CEO, he turned a pizza franchise around and made a lot of money.  He’s had a fairly varied number of careers (mostly in business, but one with the Navy and a few years with The Federal Reserve).  He’s a talk radio host; coincidentally, he did extremely well in the debate.

What I like:

He’s a self-made kind of guy, which I respect immensely.  The man came from nothing and succeeded due to a lot of hard work.  He’s a political outsider whose understanding of business is personal, not academic.  He’s for domestic energy production, he’s vocal about supporting the Second Amendment, and he’s interested in a school voucher system.  He says he’d cut the corporate tax rate.  On paper, I like a lot more of him than I don’t like.

What I don’t like:

I’m so tired of hearing people talk about how they’re all about small government, and then turning out to be the opposite.  Since this guy comes from nowhere (politically speaking), for all I know he’s just mouthing talk radio talking points and riding the Tea Party wave.  He keeps calling his foreign policy plan “The Cain Doctrine” (yes, really) but fails to delineate it; come to think of it, he doesn’t delineate any of his policy positions on his second-rate website.  At any rate, he is very firm in his desire to “secure the borders.”  Well, welcome to fantasy island, Herman, because that ain’t gonna happen – not practically speaking, and not politically speaking.

Lastly, you can’t overlook this extremely damning (and likewise rambling) bit of video evidence:

Odds of getting the nomination:

25%.  That number could shoot up pretty easy, or collapse.  If he can’t capitalize on his success off of the debate  then he could easily go down like the Hindenburg.  Oh, and forgive me for noticing and everything, but he’s black.  If you don’t think the GOP would do unspeakable things for a viable black candidate (especially versus President Obama), I probably have many clever and disparaging things to say about your political intellect.  What’s semi-surprised me, though, is that I’ve read separate articles on Mitt Romney and Ron Paul raking in the cash, but nothing on Herman Cain doing likewise.  Romney’s got the establishment and Paul’s got the enthusiastic/rabid base feeding in money, and Cain could get both of those… but he’s obviously not there yet.

Tim Pawlenty

Who?

A former governor of Minnesota.  He’s been unofficially campaigning since  2008 or so, which is his recognition of his complete and total lack of recognition.  But here’s the real kicker: he was reportedly on John McCain’s short list for Vice President, but lost to this woman:

Not Actually Sarah Palin

What I like:

He’s not Rick  Santorum…

What I don’t like:

…but he might as well be.  They sounded exactly the same during the debate, and their policies are about the same.  Maybe his one distinguishing characteristic is that he was on the wrong side of cap-and-trade, which, even in the spineless Republican Party, is akin to contracting syphilis.  He’s a darling of the social conservatives, but that’s already a long line of sameness that’s going to get longer once the rest of the candidates wade into the race.  Ultimately, he’s probably the most boring candidate anyone could come up with; he’s worse than Bob Dole ever was (before Bob’s hilarious Viagra ads, that is).

Pictured: More excitement than Pawlenty 2012.

Odds of getting the nomination:

5%.  Nobody cares, Tim.  Nobody.  You have nothing to bring to the table.  The only way Pawlenty could get the nomination is if every other candidate died.  Well, with the possible exception of:

Gary Johnson

Who?

The former Governor of New Mexico.  He is especially well-known for climbing Mt. Everest, competing in triathlons and marathons, and being outspoken on marijuana legalization.

What I like:

I’ve never seen a candidate who I agree with more; he hits every point I listed at the start of this post.  He has executive experience, he owned his own successful small business which he built from the ground up, and he was re-elected by a ten point margin in a predominately democratic state by being an honest-to-God libertarian with a track record of success.

What I don’t like:

He did not do well in the debate.  He’s not polished.  He looks uncomfortable in front of cameras, but on the other hand that didn’t stop Bush from winning twice (not that Al Gore and John Kerry were much better in 2000 and 2004).  He doesn’t have a clear policy on what constitutes torture.

Odds of getting the nomination:

1% (rounded up).  The Republican Party despises him.  No social conservative will ever vote for him: he’s pro-choice, pro-marijuana legalization, and pro-gay marriage.  He was a political outsider when he ran in New Mexico, and he hasn’t endeared himself to the GOP since; besides, Ron Paul has most of the Republicans who would support Gary Johnson in the first place.  I think Johnson could win over a lot of voters on the left, many of the independents out there, anyone who’s tired of the war, a lot of the hispanic vote, libertarians and fiscal conservatives, and politically apathetic potheads (in other words, anyone on the west coast I haven’t named already).  If he ironed his shirt, stood up straight, and took some elocution lessons, he could win an election (seriously, if you thought “Anyone But Bush” was a strong force in politics, just wait for “A Not-Necessarily Warm Body vs. Obama”) … but the nomination?  Next to impossible.

So that’s it, ladies and gentlemen.  That’s the first five possibilities.  Sucks, doesn’t it?  I guess we’re supposed to be excited about Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin (maybe running), Michele Bachmann (possibly) and Chris Christie (doubtful).  Allen West is even being floated, but we’ll see.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Libertarians and Drugs

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If you’ve spent any time reading the Libertarian Party Platform (do it!), you might’ve run smack into this:

1.2    Personal Privacy

Libertarians support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property.  Protection from unreasonable search and seizure should include record held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records.  Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes.  We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes. [My emphasis added]

If you’re anything like me, the first time you read that last sentence you might’ve laughed aloud and said something like, “Those morons!  Recreational drugs!  Legalized!”  Yes, the mere thought of it probably caused you to spew a mouthful of beer all over your pack of cigarettes.

I’ll pause to let the irony catch up to you.  Take a sip of your coffee if necessary…

It’s true: we already have legalized recreational drugs in this country.  Nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine are all dangerous in their own ways, but we accept them almost without a second thought while marijuana and cocaine are frowned upon, albeit to vastly differing degrees.  Why is that?

Before I continue, let me make the following abundantly clear:  I do not and will not endorse drug use.  This blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with advocating legal or illegal recreational drug use, period.  I’m going to keep my personal views reasonably out of the equation here – which is to say I won’t argue the virtues of one drug over another from my viewpoint – and focus on the logic behind the Libertarian Party’s position on legalized drug use.  Suffice to say I’m currently attending graduate school in order to apply for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.  In other words, my #1 goal is to help people overcome their addictions, chemical and otherwise.  I hope that gives you a reasonable bit of clarity that this post is not based on downplaying any dangers of legal and illegal drug use in itself.

I can’t believe you’re even going to defend this.

It’s counter-intuitive for most people to consider legalizing drugs, because we often equate “legalization” with “it’s okay for people to do whatever the hell they want,”  as if simple legalization magically creates a moral or societal permissiveness to get high and then commit violent crimes.  This simply isn’t true; even though alcohol use is legal, it is not legal to drive drunk, rob a bank under the influence, beat your wife after one too many, or perform surgery while tanked.  In other words, you have a right to drink as much as you please so long as your actions do no harm to others. Drunk or not, you’re still responsible for your actions.  Why can’t we extend a similar outlook to currently illegal drugs?

Because they’re more dangerous than alcohol.

That’s a riot.  Five times more people die annually due to alcohol versus illegal drugs, which sounds really terrible until you realize twenty-five times more die due to tobacco use.  Incidentally, both tobacco use and alcohol use are in the top three most preventable causes of death in the United States.  In other words, Coors Light makes heroin look safe – statistically speaking.

But just think how many more people would die if those drugs were legal!

You’re jumping back to the “legality = permissiveness” position.  And just because something is legal doesn’t mean we all want to do it, after all.  I’d direct your attention to everything Johnny Knoxville has ever done in front of a camera.  Legal?  Yes.  But I don’t see people lining up to do it.

The best way to influence people in general is to educate or demonstrate the rewards and dangers of specific behaviors.  For instance, if heroin was suddenly legal tomorrow, would you seriously want to run out and try it?  Your knowledge of the inherent dangers is more effective in keeping you from doing a drug than the ludicrously small chance that you’d get caught for possessing it.  But, as with a good cigar or a glass of scotch, if you choose for whatever reason to take that risk then that’s your decision you made concerning your own self.  Even though the overwhelming majority of libertarians would view the decision of heroin use as a horrible and dangerous choice, consistent with our view of self-ownership – among other things soon to be mentioned – there should be no legal means of locking you up exclusively for that choice.

To any and all libertarians, it is never legal to do harm to others in any way, shape, form, or fashion, whether or not drug use is involved.  The difference is that criminalizing someone’s private behavior – no matter how unappealing or stupid it might be –  is fundamentally immoral and, practically speaking, a completely un-winnable battle, anyway.

So I say again, legalizing a substance does not legalize all behaviors a human being can engage in while under the influence of that substance, nor does it make substance use acceptable, attractive, or appealing.   But, in the end, you still own you.  You have the right to eat yourself to death, drink yourself to death, smoke yourself to death, snort yourself to death… you get the idea.

Okay, but do we really need more legal drugs out there?  Aren’t we still ultimately safer by making some of these drugs illegal?  Doesn’t that cut down on the actual crimes caused by drugs?

As someone who plans on being an addictions counselor, let me just say that it would be really, really, really nice if making drugs illegal actually set up a serious and lasting roadblock to drug use and drug abuse – let alone to the crimes caused by drugs in one way or another.  I’d have addicts, essentially forced to get help, kicking down my door and paying me ludicrous amounts of money for my services.  I mean, if Lexus built a helicopter, that’s what I’d be taking to work.

So, yeah, I wish I could just give you reams of evidence showing how useful and effective the War on Drugs has been over the years and decades.  Unfortunately, there is no way to do that – it’s a completely doomed conflict between law enforcement, people who wish to do drugs, and the vast organized crime apparatus created by drug prohibition itself.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we thought making a drug illegal could actually stop or deter use, abuse, and crime.  We might look at the dangers of drunk driving, and we might decide that just outlawing drunk driving wasn’t enough; after all, even though drunk driving carries stricter punishments seemingly by day, alcohol is still behind 31.7% of car accident fatalities nationwide. So ask yourself, would making the actual possession and use of alcohol illegal keep people from doing certain things – like drunk driving – that are already illegal anyway?  Thanks to the alcohol Prohibition of 1920-1933 – and the resulting explosion of political corruption and the creation of organized crime in America that came directly from it – we know that the answer is “no.”  Someone will gladly step in and meet the demand for a drug, and then an entirely new and vicious criminal element will come along with it.

Here’s the the point to remember about Prohibition:  while the government ran around to proudly bust open a barrel of whiskey here and blow up a moonshine still there (always in front of cameras, just like today), and while it busied itself with arresting and prosecuting individuals who merely possessed alcohol, the vast and brutal criminal organizations behind the bootlegging remained untouched as they grew more and more powerful.  And, worst of all, completely innocent people were caught in the crossfire among rival gangs as their neighborhoods, communities, and cities were turned into war zones.

You’re saying drug prohibition causes crime?!

What many people don’t realize is that Prohibition was the first serious drug prohibition.  Alcohol, in every sense of the word, is a drug and, at one point, it was an illegal one.  Prohibition failed completely; why do we expect this other drug prohibition to be any different?

There are unbelievable profits to be made in drugs while they’re illegal, which is where the real criminality comes from.  Take a gander at Mexico if you don’t believe me.

Hasn’t Mexico decriminalized or legalized some drugs?  According to your genius theory, shouldn’t the violence have stopped there?

The reason Mexico has called in their own army to deal with the drug lords, and has seen 28,000 innocent lives lost since 2006, isn’t because the cartels are competing for sales in Mexico – they’re competing for the market in the United States.

Why are illegal drugs so profitable, anyway?

Because they aren’t a part of the free market.  For instance, there’s nothing terribly special about marijuana – it’s literally a weed.  Anyone could grow it.  So why does a mere eighth of an ounce of it routinely go for roughly $60-80?  Simply because it’s illegal.  The price reflects the unique risks and challenges somebody – typically some criminal organization – takes to produce and deliver the product.  Why were the profits from rum running so gigantic 90 years ago?  Again, simply because it was illegal.  Gangs and cartels have always killed each other and anyone even remotely in their way in order to make money on drugs, and why?  Because it’s a $400 billion a year industry – and that means 8% of the entire world’s commerce is made in the illegal drug market.  That also means that because of the War on Drugs, 8% of the world’s commerce is funding the violence perpetrated by these gangs and cartels.  In other words, this patently evil $400,000,000,000 industry and everything that comes with it exists solely because we’re pointlessly engaged in the embarrassingly futile attempt of trying to stop some end users from damaging their health with a certain set of chemicals, just so they legally can do it with another kind instead.

Libertarians don’t want addiction and don’t support drug abuse at all; we simply recognize that the drug war, on so many levels, is a proven and guaranteed loss.  All of the money spent on the drug war – on incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, on bizarre tax subsidies to Colombia and Afghanistan to try and destroy their own drug crops, on fruitlessly catching the occasional drug stash and trumpeting the “success” – could be used to educate people on the risks of drugs instead.  And couldn’t we use that money to give addicts treatment?  Couldn’t we deny the worst and most sadistic criminals the ability to become rich off of human misery?  Couldn’t we just accept the reality that people can and will harm themselves, legally or not, and that trying to prevent them ultimately puts innocent people, families and communities at risk?

Libertarians want to make the best of a bad situation.  It’s just that simple.

Comments and questions are always welcome.

Written by libertarianews

October 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm