Libertarian candidate not viable option

Libertarian is an appealing name for a political party but many of their policy positions are simply cruel and selfish. If their drastic free market economic policies were ever to be fully implemented, millions of Americans would suffer the consequences. Actually, the United States has already went through a Libertarian phase of economic philosophy, it was known as the era of the Robber Barons.

The Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson has received the endorsement of six newspapers: the Caledonian-Record in Vermont, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina, the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit News.

The Detroit News endorsement is typical. It begins by explaining the history of its presidential endorsements: “Today this newspaper does something it has never done in its 143-year history: endorse someone other than the Republican candidate in a presidential contest… We abandon that long and estimable tradition this year for one reason: Donald J. Trump. The 2016 nominee offered by the Republican Party rubs hard against the editorial board’s values as conservatives and Americans. Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He can not be president.”

The newspaper then offers this assessment of Hillary Clinton: “His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has an impressive resume and a presidential bearing. And although we disagree with her nearly across the board on the issues, we acknowledge she has the temperament to be commander-in-chief and leader of both a diverse nation and the free world. But character matters. Her career long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply. So we find ourselves in the same position as a vast number of voters in looking for an option other than skipping the presidential portion of the ballot.”

The editorial then goes on to praise Johnson’s low tax, fiscally conservative, free trade and limited government policies. The newspaper’s one area of concern was foreign affairs. Johnson has displayed little knowledge in that area. In recent interviews, he failed to recognize Aleppo as a Syrian city under siege and he was unable to name a single foreign leader that he respected. “Our apprehension about Johnson rest with foreign policy. He holds to conventional Libertarian non-interventionism. But he understands America’s position in the World, and we are certain that once the weight of leadership is on his shoulders, he will meet that responsibility,” the editorial reassured its readers.

Voters should check out the Libertarian platform for themselves before casting a vote for Johnson, however. People may discover that they would be voting against their own self-interests or principles or both. Some may not like that the Libertarian platform is pro-choice and supports the legalization of marijuana. In fact, Gary Johnson says he just recently stopped using marijuana. Others may find their views on Social Security and Medicare objectionable. Young people might disagree with their opinion of public education and their opposition to aid for higher education. Those concerned about worker benefits and protections may be disappointed as well as those who are more focused on environmental and health care issues.

The Preamble to the Libertarian Party Platform begins with: “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.”

Emphasizing the rights of individuals over the needs of the community dominate many planks of their platform. Their policy positions often completely ignore the lessons of history.

On retirement and income security, the platform says: “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. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals…”

According to an analysis of Census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Without Social Security 22.2 million more Americans would be poor…Almost 90 percent of people aged 65 and older receive some of their family income from Social Security. Without Social Security benefits 44.4 percent of elderly Americans would have incomes below the official poverty line, all else being equal; with Social Security benefits, only 9.1 percent do.” At the time the Social Security Act was passed in 1935, the poverty rate among senior citizens was more than 50 percent showing that charitable efforts to reduce poverty were insufficient then and there is no evidence that charitable efforts could possibly fill the gap that would be left by the elimination of Social Security today.

The Libertarian platform plank on health care is just as disturbing: “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…”

Today Medicare and Medicaid covers about 110 million Americans or about one in every three. Before Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965, half of Americans age 65 or older had no hospital insurance and a third lived in poverty.

AARP has a fact sheet showing the importance of Medicaid in providing long-term services and supports, such as those provided by nursing homes: “Medicaid provides a critical safety net not only for low-income people, but also for formerly middle-income people who have spent their life savings paying for long-term services and supports (LTSS). Most older people will need some LTSS during their lifetimes, and nearly a third of people turning age 65 will deplete their savings and will need to rely on Medicaid assistance.” Medicaid is the largest payer for LTSS having spent more than $152 billion in fiscal year 2014.

Libertarians are not friends of public education either: “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. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.”

The Libertarian Party of Oregon clarifies just how hostile the Libertarian view on public education is: “Compulsory public education, those institutions that government uses to coerce children and families to attend, is immoral from the very utterance of ‘compulsory’ public education. Once force is brought into the equation in the form of threats, limitations, and economic barriers to earn a living in the future and the present, we enter into an immoral and coercion relationship between the people and the governments from city, state, and federal that mandate humans attend these institutions. All human relationships should be voluntary.”

The fact is that 90 percent of students in grades pre k-12 are educated in public schools. Public schools provide a tuition free education to all without regard to race, religion or disability and has been the key to creating a diverse society and successful economy. It should be noted that Gary Johnson’s father was a public school teacher and his mother worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Johnson also graduated from a public high school in New Mexico.

The Libertarian platform is also terrible on worker rights: “Employment and compensation agreements between employers and employees are outside the scope of government, and these contracts should not be encumbered by government-mandated benefits or social engineering…”

The Libertarians must have been absent from school when the history of robber barons, sweat shops, child labor, and unsafe working conditions was being taught. None of these employment abuses would have been corrected without government intervention.

The Libertarians also favor “free-market banking.” This is the type of banking that brought about the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Maybe they forgot.

They would repeal the income tax and abolish all federal programs not required under the United States Constitution. They believe that competitive free markets and property rights will protect the environment. The victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and numerous other disasters might offer some enlightenment on this subject.

On the most important problem facing the world, climate change and what action should be taken, Gary Johnson gave this cavalier and muddled response at a National Press Club luncheon in 2011: “”Well, climate change—I think the World is getting warmer, I think that it’s man caused. That said, should we be engaged in cap and trade taxation? No. I don’t think that we should. We should lend certainty to the energy field. We should be building new coal-fired plants. When you look at the amount of money that we’re looking to spend on global warming, in the trillions, and look at the result, I just argue that the result is completely inconsequential to the money that we would end up spending, and that we could direct those monies in other ways that would be much more beneficial to mankind. We have a long-term view. Should we take the long-term view when it comes to global warming? I think that we should. And the long-term view is that in billions of years, the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right. So global warming is in our future.”

The socially liberal and fiscally conservative positions taken by the Libertarians will attract some voters from both the left and the right but the newspapers that endorsed Johnson have done their readers a disservice.

A candidate that supports the unregulated free market, anti-government Libertarian economic policies should not and will not be a viable option to lead the nation.