Before this election cycles goes any further, we need to talk about Gary Johnson. I'm seeing a lot of people on Facebook tout Johnson as a great candidate, capable leader, and a man would make a great president. Blog Readers, I didn't move out of New Mexico and struggle to make it in the big city to see this country governed by former governor Gary Johnson.
"But Gary Johnson seems so chill!" you say. "He wants to legalize marijuana, he's totally cool with gay people, and he's pro-choice! What more do you want, you crazy liberal?"
Ah my friends, we've come to one of my favorite discussions. Being pro-gay, and pro-choice, and pro-weed does not a liberal/progressive make. If you're really a progressive, you believe in utilizing the power and means of the government to help out those who need the most assistance in society. It's great to be pro-gay marriage, but if you're going to be against the government spending money of group homes and foster care and healthcare for low income people, you're not really pro-gay, because LGBT people are far more likely to be homeless, be refused healthcare, and need access to government services.
If you're sitting here and thinking, well but I don't hate my gay friends, but I don't really want to pay more taxes. If anything, you think, the Federal government getting involved only makes things worse. Maybe, if we have to protect transgender homeless youth, we should have the government give money to programs in the form of block grants (said to be disparate and inequitable), instead of creating federal programs that don't work. And to you I say, valid opinion friend, but that's not a progressive opinion, that's a libertarian opinion, so welcome to a new political party, I guess.
Let's say you are a libertarian. Let's meet your candidate for president, Gary Johnson. If there's one thing Gary Johnson hates, it's spending government money. While in office, Johnson fired 1,200 state employees. He built multiple private prisons. He vetoed more bills than any other governor, over 750, and utilized the line-item veto frequently. He pushed a school voucher program. He did leave the state with a budget surplus, but only because he cut spending so drastically, and wasn't able to cut taxes.
I will say, anecdotally, a New Mexico with a budget surplus didn't seem to function too differently than a New Mexico with a budget deficit. And the data back me up here. We still had a high percentage of people in poverty, one of the highest in the nation during the last years of the Johnson administration. In fact the poverty rate didn't fluctuate much when Johnson slashed the budget, and when a Democrat was elected after Johnson.
But let's say you do believe that cutting spending is the key to prosperity. Gary Johnson's past successes carving up budgets should not comfort you for the same reason John Kasich's success should have given you pause all those months ago: there is no line-item veto at the Federal level and balancing a Federal budget is basically impossible.
Remember those private prisons Johnson put in? Yeah, they led to a "rash of killings and riots" in just a year, that killed both prisoners and guards. When confronted with this, Johnson refused to fund a study into the prisons, forcing Attorney General Patricia Madrid to take 50,000 dollars out of her own office's budget to study the situation.
And his views haven't changed much. In 2011, Johnson stated that as president, he would cut 43% of the Federal budget. That's military spending, but also Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the CDC's budget, the Public Defender's budget, and countless programs that help poor people across this country. A cut that big would have disastrous consequences.
Don't believe me? Let's look back into history. When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, he promised similar types of cuts to health programs, proposing instead to protect public health using block grants. Block grants allow states to use federal money however they want as long as it fit with broad health goals, instead of agencies like the CDC taking the lead on public health work. Reagan also froze the budget of the CDC.
And then, the AIDS epidemic hit America, killing hundreds while the CDC and states scrambled to combat it with limited budgets. For years, Reagan did not fund the CDC at requested levels, only kowtowing to the pressure of a Congressional subpoena, and the added public pressure following Rock Hudson's diagnosis in 1985. By that time, it was too late for thousands of Americans.
Big, drastic cuts to the government leave our federal agencies unprepared to deal with crises, and crises will always arise. Making a 43% cut to government services may seem fine now, but when you need help, or it's your life on the line, a 43% across the board cut is going to seem irresponsible and reckless because it is. Let's not wait for a crisis to appreciate the necessity of a well-funded Federal government, and let's all think twice before we consider voting for Gary Johnson.