Progressives and Moderates Intrigued By Gary Johnson Should Look Deeper

Cursor_and_gary_johnson_funny_-_Google_SearchWhen I started seeing ads and social media chatter about former Republican Governor Gary Johnson running for President, I went to to learn more.

I liked some of what I saw on foreign policy and law enforcement reform, but one line jumped out at me as particularly disturbing. It said Governor Johnson wants to:

“cut the federal budget by 43%.”

Just to be clear, a 43% cut in federal spending would constitute a major conservative revolution.  That would bring a much deeper reduction in government services than has been proposed in the past by ultra-conservative firebrands such as Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, or Michele Bachmann.

Still, I realize that a 43% cut has surface appeal.  After all, nobody feels a deep affinity for the abstract notion of “the federal government budget.” But budgets are collections of individual programs that deliver individual sets of services and benefits to Americans,  so we need to evaluate Johnson’s radical austerity plan on a program-by-program basis.

So, my fellow Americans, which federal services are you willing to cut by 43%, as Gary Johnson proposes.

Cut Infrastructure by 43%?  For instance, are the American people willing to cut infrastructure investments by 43%?  Do we want to slash investment in roads, bridges, transit, trains, airports, water and sewage systems, and the like?  A GBA Strategies survey finds that an overwhelming 71% of Americans want to spend $400 million more on infrastructure, not less.  Only 13% oppose such a massive federal government spending increase.

Cut Medicare by 43%?  Do the American people want to cut Medicare by 43%? After all, Medicare is a huge and growing part of the federal budget.  Americans not only don’t want to cut Medicare, more than three-fourths (77%) of Americans want to fund a new, massively expensive Medicare-for-All option.  Only 17% oppose such an expansion of government services and spending.

Cut Social Security by 43%?  Maybe Americans want to cut Social Security benefits by 43%?  While Social Security represents an enormous slice of the federal pie, the vast majority of Americans not only don’t want to cut Social Security benefits, a whopping 70% want to strengthen them.  Only 15% oppose expanding Social Security benefits.

Cut National Defense by 43%?  What about a 43% cut in national defense spending? Gallup finds that only 32% of Americans support national defense budget cuts.

Cut Other Programs by 43%?  Similarly, the GBA survey finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans want major government spending increases for green energy technology (70% support, 20% oppose), debt-free public higher education (71% support, 19% oppose), and subsidies for high quality child care  (53% support, 33% oppose) . There is no public appetite to cut any of those federal programs by 43%, as Governor Johnson proposes.

In other words,  only a thin slice of the most deeply ultra-conservative voters support Johnson’s fiscal austerity ideas.  Therefore, more moderate voters who are concerned about the nation’s poor, middle class, national security and global competitiveness need to learn about the implications of Johnson’s fiscal proposals before they jump on the Johnson bandwagon.

2 thoughts on “Progressives and Moderates Intrigued By Gary Johnson Should Look Deeper

  1. Taking a break from my Trump obsession, I have to agree with you about the craziness of this idea and – just to be an equal-opportunity critic – its unreasonable simplicity.

    According to, mandatory spending and interest payments on the debt currently account for more than 70 percent of the 2015 federal budget. That means you could cut EVERYTHING that most people think of the “government” – the military, the post office, the highways, the border patrol, air traffic control, the EPA, the national parks – and you’d only get two-thirds of the way there. To get there, you’d have to touch entitlements AKA Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits.

    But, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Mr. Johnson’s proposal would indeed be applied across the board. If I’m reading the Social Security report right, last year the average annual benefit paid was $14,766. A 43 percent cut in Social Security benefits would reduce that number to reduce that number to $8,417. By way of reference, the poverty line for an individual is $11,880.

    Not going to get my vote.

    There is no doubt that our entitlement programs desperately need reform, but there’s also no doubt that there is zero possibility of that happening in the current political environment (or in any political environment you might reasonably expect in the next…ever). My personal epiphany on this point was the Simpson-Bowles plan which proposed changes to the programs that would have only affected people who hadn’t even been born yet; when that eminently reasonable idea was declared DOA I realized nothing on this issue would ever be voted through the Congress and signed into law.

    Finally, as an aside, it’s worth noting that when I went to Mr. Johnson’s official campaign site to check the 43 percent number (note to young people: never take anything for granted, even the stats cited by your friends!), I couldn’t find any mention of it. Joe’s cite is from a 2012 quote attributed to the a Washington Times article. I wonder what he says today.

    OK, enough diversion. Back to my efforts to singlehandedly defeat Trump by tweeting against him. This is like trying to wear down a granite boulder by repeatedly hitting it with a marshmallow, but I do what I can.

  2. Gov. Johnson apparently did say he’d apply the 43% to at least some popular mandatory spending programs. On the Issues says he has advocated “Cut Medicare/Medicaid by 43%, as part of $1.675 trillion cut. (May 2011)” and “Balance budget by cutting entitlements AND Defense. (Apr 2011).”

    By the way, before we all scoff that there is no way to pay for all of the additional investments Americans say they support in the GBA survey, it’s important to note that huge majorities of Americans also support a variety of ways to cut costs and raise revenue to pay for them. For instance, they support allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate drug prices, as other countries do (79% support, 12% oppose). Large majorities also support ending tax loopholes for corporations that ship jobs overseas (74% support, 15% oppose), eliminating tax deductions for Wall Street fines ( 67% support, 23% oppose), taxing the rich by restoring rates to Reagan era 50% level (59% support, 25% oppose), enacting a financial transactions tax (55% support, 24% oppose), and adding a billionaire’s tax (54% support, 31% oppose).

    The fact is, despite decades of attacks on government backed by billions of dollars in Republican ads, about two-thirds of Americans want more government services, and they’re willing to raise taxes to get them.

    I must say, though, it’s awfully tempting to support a guy going with the campaign slogan “Feel the Johnson.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *