Presidential candidates from the two major political parties might not be politicking in Louisiana this campaign season, but Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson visited Baton Rouge on a rainy Friday night to advocate overhauling the nation’s taxing structure and legalizing marijuana.
“I think the country is in deep, deep doo-doo,” Johnson said. “And to get out of this will take mutual sacrifice by all of us.”
He is on a tour of 40 college campuses.
Appearing before a crowd of more than 300 at the LSU Union Theater, Johnson staked out positions to the left of Democratic Party President Barack Obama on social issues and to the right of Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney on financial issues.
Other third parties in the presidential race are on the ballots of just a handful of states, Johnson said. But the Libertarian Party already is on the ballot in the District of Columbia and 47 states and is in court fighting for the remaining three. Only Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians will compete in all 50 states Nov. 6, he said.
Most of the national polls report Johnson at about 4 percent. He pegs his ratings at 5 to 6 percent.
“Isn’t wasting your vote voting for somebody you don’t believe in?” Johnson asked. “If you waste your vote on me, it is nothing you will ever regret.”
As a two-term Republican governor in New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, Johnson said he took pride in vetoing more than 750 bills and using his line-item veto more than a thousand times to strike expenses from that state’s budget.
Johnson advocates the FairTax Act, which is before the U.S. Congress. The idea would tax people on what they spend, rather than on their earnings, he said.
“It ends up being cost neutral,” said Johnson, adding that a zero corporate tax rate structure American businesses would create jobs.
The FairTax would eliminate taxes on personal and corporate income, Medicare and Social Security, capital gains, payroll and others. Instead, consumers would pay a single 23 percent tax on purchases of goods and services. A “prebate” would be included in which the federal government would help offset the impact of taxes paid by low-income earners. For instance, a family of four would receive about $580 per month directly from government.
Johnson said he favors free-market health care solutions and said the government restricts options to protect the medical industry.
Johnson said he would immediately withdraw troops from Afghanistan, not bomb Iran and recognize same-sex marriage.
“More than half the issues dealing with marriage equality deals with income tax returns and inheritance issues,” he said.
Johnson supports decriminalizing marijuana.
“End the drug war now. Legalize marijuana now,” Johnson said to whoops and applause.
Ninety percent of the problems with the drug war — the cost, the increased incarceration rates and gang violence — comes from the drugs being illegal rather than from drugs being used, he said.
His running mate is Jim Gray, who is a former judge in Superior Court in Orange County, Calif.
About 5,600 of Louisiana’s 2.9 million voters are registered Libertarians, according to the Secretary of State’s August statistics. Democrats have about 1.4 million registered voters and Republicans have about 792,000.
Johnson filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the Commission on Presidential Debates in an effort to get a spot on the presidential debates.
Johnson claimed in his lawsuit that officials with the two major political parties collude with the commission in order to exclude other candidates.
For instance, the commission sets a threshold of polling 15 percent to be included in the debates.
The first presidential debate is scheduled for 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Denver.
The debate will focus on domestic policy and be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on topics to be selected by the moderator and announced several weeks before the debate.