David: Today, I am with Governor Johnson, of New Mexico — former Governor Johnson, who left office in 2002 and currently a GOP Presidential hopeful. We’re going to talk a little bit about how the campaign’s going and some of his policy stances today. So Gov. Johnson, how is the campaign going at the moment?
Gov. Johnson: Well, did you see the movie Secretariat?
Gov. Johnson: So, Secretariat always broke last from the gate, so I’m just right in the position I want to be.
David: Absolutely. Now, getting into a bit more policy oriented, in looking through your website you say that individuals incarcerated unjustly by the United States should have the ability to seek compensation through the courts. Can you explain your stance a little bit on this and —would that be through the US court system? Through an international court system holding the U.S. accountable?
Gov. Johnson: Now, I wonder what context that’s being—you’re playing that as though it was a quote.
David: It is directly on your website. garyjohnson2010.com?
Gov. Johnson: That directly on my website states that individuals that have been…
David: Incarcerated unjustly by the U.S. should have the ability to seek compensation through the courts.
Gov. Johnson: Well, that—that would be a general statement that yeah, anybody that’s—anybody that’s thinking—anybody that has been unjustly imprisoned should—should be able to seek compensation for it.
David: Does that include non-U.S. citizens?
Gov. Johnson: Yes, I would think so. Yes. In the notion of fairness, that would include on-U.S. citizens.
David: Okay. What’s your stance on Guantanamo Bay?
Gov. Johnson: Well, that we should close Guan—we should close Guantanamo from the stand point of—so, maybe we don’t close Guantanamo, but we should stop the practice of detainment without charge and we should also stop any torturing that’s going on.
Gov. Johnson: That said, the notion of using a military tribunal’s for foreign combatants, you know, that has a real fairness to it. I mean we’re using military tribunals of our own military so using military tribunals—keeping Guantanamo Bay open, from the standpoint from a cross-benefit analysis, it just might be worth it to have an offshore, facility to be able to do, imprison convicted enemy combatants that close to our shores.
David: Absolutely. Now you’ve also talked a little bit about ending wasteful spending, and I know specifically as Governor, you used your line item veto thousands of times , without that power, how would you work with congress to, cut spending and what programs specifically would you cut?
Gov. Johnson: Well, so specifically the programs that I’m advocating cutting are housing and urban development and, education. Not that—not that there aren’t more examples, and I believe that housing and urban development has gone way beyond its initial mandate and doesn’t serve any function at all, when it comes to education, I would just add that, $0.11 out of every school dollar that every state spends, comes from the Federal Government, and it comes with $0.16 worth of strings attached, so I just argue that it’s a negative to take Federal money and when people realize that, I think there’s a real shift in sentiment toward the Department of Education. Just give Education back to the States, 50 laboratories of Best Practices, and David I think there would be Best Practices. I think that would do more toward improving Education in this country, than any other single thing that the Federal Government can do, is just get out of the Education business.
David: Absolutely. Now, are you a proponent of school vouchers?
Gov. Johnson: As governor of New Mexico, I was more outspoken than any governor in the country regarding school vouchers. For 6 straight years in New Mexico I proposed that every student in New Mexico get a school voucher, full-blown voucher system to bring competition to public education so in the context of, federal government getting out of the educational business. As Governor of New Mexico, or as a Governor—I would push to bring competition to public education which in my opinion, is really an exciting notion. Educational entrepreneur’s delivering better products, better services at lower prices.
David: Absolutely. Now talk a little bit more about the economy. As a Governor of New Mexico, how did you help create jobs and as a potential President of the United States, how would you create jobs in an economy where the unemployment rate is currently 9.2%?
Gov. Johnson: Well, I don’t know if you saw the report just last week, where they did a report on all the Presidential Candidates and their jobs record, and guess who had the best jobs record of everyone running for President? Of course, I’m tee’ing this up because that answer is me, but when I saw that report, my answer was what it was while I was Governor of New Mexico, and that is as Governor of New Mexico, I didn’t create one single job. Government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does, but what I did do as Governor of New Mexico, and this was very real, business in New Mexico went to—went to bed at night knowing that the—that the business environment was NOT going to get any worse because I was going to veto that kind of stuff, and because I got to run State Government—because I got to run the agencies, when it came to rules and regulations, you know what? Things got considerably better, so that the business environment was really one of certainty and one of um, like I say—not only is it NOT going to get worse, but it actually is getting better. That’s what government can do. I did that as Governor of New Mexico and would do that as President of the United States.
Just citing an example of coal fired electrical generation facilities. We’re not building any coal fired plants right now. We need to. But we’re not because of the uncertainty that exists with regard to environmental regulation rules to where we don’t even know what it’s really going to end up costing to build a coal fired plant. So, that’s why we’re not building them. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs right there in that space alone, that you just remove the government uncertainty.
David: Absolute. You’ve questioned the role of the Federal Reserve. Now, the Federal Reserve — on your website you ask the question “can the Federal Reserve pursue both stable prices and full employment?” What is your ideal role for the Federal Reserve?
Gov. Johnson: Well, the ideal role in my opinion is price stability. Price stability—strong U.S. dollar. That’s the role. Well, we’ve got in my opinion just the opposite taking place. I would abolish the Federal Reserve if given the opportunity. If it were to pass congress. But, it’s not the end-all. The Treasury could still print money, the Federal Reserve—there’s criticism that the Federal Reserve is distributing money to European Central Banks—well, apparently that’s a congressional appropriation that the Federal Reserve is just acting as a middle person. But what getting rid of the Federal Reserve would create, would be transparency—really, 100% transparency as opposed to what happens now. So, when it comes to Federal Reserve in its existing, it should constantly be concentrating on price stability on no inflation. Strong — strong U.S. dollars as opposed to weak U.S. dollars and transparency.
David: Absolutely. And in your opinion,— have the stimulus’s that Obama passed, uh, and President George W. Bush passed — have they been successful in stimulating the economy?
Gov. Johnson: No. Clearly they have not been, and I would not have have signed off of these stimulus packages. At one point, at points during QE2, the government—the Federal Reserve was buying up 70% of our treasuries. That’s unprecedented. I’m really believe that we’re on the verge of a financial collapse that will be a bond market collapse, and it will be simply due to the fact that we can’t repay $14 trillion dollars in debt if our current deficit is $1.65 trillion this year, last year, the year before, and years going forward. It’s going to be a bond market collapse. It’s going to come home and there’s no, there’s no repaying this, and then back to my, what I said just a few minutes ago, Federal Reserve is buying up 70% of our own debt. This is unprecedented.
David: Absolutely. Now, talking about the debt and specifically the debt ceiling, what are some ways that you would cut the deficit, and speak specifically on your take on Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget?
Gov. Johnson: Well, first of all, I would submit a balanced budget for the year 2013, and because I don’t’ have a line item veto; I would veto a bill that did not balance the budget. Now, you could say that, well congress would just override that veto, yes? Let them just go ahead and override that veto, and then citizens can make a choice. That would be to stick with congress or to stick with the President that they elected – who was promising to veto a budget that wasn’t balanced. Paul Ryan’s plan was about a quarter of the way that it—a quarter as far as it should go in an eight year period, as compared to one year. I don’t want to take away from his plan because it goes further than anyone else’s, but it doesn’t go near enough, it doesn’t go far enough in a timely manner.
David: Absolutely. Now, we’ve talked a little bit about education vouchers, but Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan actually came out with a voucher system for Medicare as well. Please talk a little bit about how you would reform our entitlement programs and specifically in regards to if you believe that a voucher system for Medicare is the way to go forward?
Gov. Johnson: Well, I would suggest just like education, that the Federal Government get out of the delivery of healthcare to the poor and those over 65 by giving by giving Medicare and Medicaid to the States. Cut back the money, take away all the strings—take away all the mandates. Based on my experience as Governor of New Mexico, Medicaid from a fee-per-service model to a managed care model, we saved a lot of money in Medicaid and if the Federal Government would have reduced Medicaid expenditures to New Mexico by 43%, and I use that number 43% because that’s the number that we’re printing and borrowing now for every dollar that we’re spending—but if they would have given New Mexico an amount of money of 43% less than what we’re currently spending, taking away the strings and the mandates, I could have delivered healthcare to the poor uh, in New Mexico. Same thing for Medicare.
Medicare is a fee-per-service model nationally, I would have rolled that over into my managed care model that I had established, which I’m going to argue is better healthcare because we set up healthcare networks and again, have considerable savings, Medicare could have been folded into that—take away the strings and the mandates, you know what? I think we would be able to take care of those over 65 and do a good job of it. But I just think we’ve just gone way over the line with the amount of money that we’re spending, and if we don’t get this under control, we’re going to all be left with nothing, because of what will be—a financial collapse over the inability to pay for stuff that we just can’t afford.
David: Absolutely. And talking a little bit more about the healthcare system. I know there’s been a huge call by the tea party and Republican Party to eliminate the Patient Protection act, so called Obama Care, how would you go about doing that? Would you work with Congress to nullify it? Or what were the steps you’d take to repeal the Obama Care act?
Gov. Johnson: Well, I would work to repeal President Obama’s Healthcare Plan, very simply, because we can’t afford it. I think Republicans would gain a lot of credibility in this argument if they would offer up a repeal of the Prescription Healthcare Benefit that they passed; when they controlled both houses of congress, and the Presidency, and ran up record deficits. We couldn’t afford that then, and we can’t afford it now. So, this is kind of a both party phenomenon. At the time the Prescription Healthcare Benefit was passed, that was the largest entitlement ever passed by the United States Congress. So, both parties need to get on board with this. This is a mutual to blame situation. And if you want to take the—if you want to carry the blame to its rightful place, that would be you and I that had elected this, one congress person, one senator, and one president at a time.
David: Absolutely. Now talking a little bit more about ways to cut spending. you’ve been a proponent of reducing troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Talk about how you would go about –bringing our troops home?
Gov. Johnson: Well, I would bring them home. If we can put them in there—we can take them out. And I would do that. I was opposed to Iraq from the very start. I did not think there was a military threat from Iraq. I know that there was talk of weapons of mass destruction. I know there was talk of weapons of mass destruction, but I thought we had the military surveillance capability to see that happen and could have gone in and dealt with it if it did. I thought that if we went in to Iraq we’d find ourselves in a civil war to which there would be no end. Afghanistan, I thought that there’s a great example of when and why we should use our military. We were attacked—we attacked back, but after being in Afghanistan for 6 months, we wiped out Al Qaida. We had. They were gone. That was 10 years ago. So, we’re building roads, schools, bridges, highways and hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan and we’re borrowing $0.43 out of every dollar to do that. Libya, I’m opposed to Libya A through Z. Where—where is the military threat?
Where in the United States Constitution does it say that because we don’t like a foreign dictator, we should go and in and topple that foreign dictator? Why aren’t we in China instead of Libya? If this is what we’re going to do, don’t five other countries right now in the Middle East qualify for the same military intervention that we have instigated in Libya? There just doesn’t seem to be an end to what we’re doing, and we’re bankrupt as a result. So, I’m completely opposed to foreign aid. The notion that we’re borrowing $.43 out of every dollar and then giving it away? The notion that we are borrowing money and giving it away to foreign countries? It makes no sense to me whatsoever. So, I would distinguish though between foreign aid and military alliances, believing that military alliances are really key to this notion of being able to uh, reduce military expenditures by 43%, and still maintain a vigilance against terrorism worldwide.
Other countries need to share in this expense. We’re spending more money than all the other countries in the world combined, on military spending worth and only 5% of the world’s population. I did a back of the napkin calculation and determined that the interest that we’re paying China on their debt every year, pays for their military.
David: Talking about the U.S. role in the world, how should the U.S. use soft power as President of the United States?
Gov. Johnson: That I use soft power?
David: Uh, soft power? On your website you declared soft power as an important aspect of foreign policy? what role should the United States play in dealing with foreign countries outside of the military realm? What is your take on the UN? What is your take on bilateral diplomacy?
Gov. Johnson: I believe in diplomacy. I mean, you make up the from a military standpoint with diplomacy, but then I’m very disturbed by recent action in Libya that—that apparently was not dictated by the United States—was dictated by other countries. I can’t think of another situation similar to Libya, where we are in the back seat, but we’re actually taking the lead role. That’s disturbing. It’s really disturbing.
David: Absolutely. A couple more questions. What should the role of government be? What should the government control?
Gov. Johnson: I am a classical liberal. And, you look up classical liberal on the Wikipedia that will say that classical liberal is someone who believes that the best government is the least government. The best government is the government that intrudes in our lives the least. So, the less law the better. The least amount of legislation to allow for peaceable co-existence of human beings and relationships and what have you. When it comes to the government and you and I as individuals, the best thing—back to classical liberal, the best thing the government can do for you and I as individuals is empower you and I as individuals to make choices that only you and I can make. And in that context, that’s all of the civil liberties, and in that context, back to my 750 veto’s as Governor of New Mexico and line item veto’s, I really tried to, say no to that kind of legislation.
David: Absolutely. And then I guess as a final wrap-up question, which of the founding fathers has influenced your political philosophy the most?
Gov. Johnson: Well, I really think I’m Jeffersonian. The notion that I think that he was really very, very frugal and that, as Governor, I really treated taxpayer money like it was mine, because it was. And I also live my life that way. I guess it would be Jefferson. And then, I’ve built my own home. I’ve been to Jefferson’s estate and it’s something that he built and designed himself and I’m kind of that tinkerer too. I guess I really like Jefferson.
David: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time.
Gov. Johnson: Thank you David…
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is the Director of Federal Affairs for Citizen Outreach)