2018: A Make It or Break It Midterm for Libertarians

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Logging onto Facebook this morning I was met with a pleasant surprise – a message reminding me that it had been a year since I had signed on to the Gary Johnson campaign.  The public declaration that I was done with the Grand Ole Party meant absolutely nothing to the people on my friends list, let’s be honest most people don’t give a damn about your political leanings unless you’re constantly flaunting your beliefs.  The announcement did, however, mean a lot to me.

Prior to last July I was a Republican who had gradually lost faith in the Republican Party.  I was sick of the hypocrisy, the blatant violation of our civil liberties, the lack of fiscal conservatism, and the message of the Republican nominee for President. I felt, at the time, that Gary Johnson could legitimately carry a state in the general election.  My optimism turned out to be wrong; Johnson/Weld did not carry a state, nor did they receive an electoral vote.  Despite that, the ticket received nearly 4.5 million votes, carrying 3.27% of the vote, while appearing on the ballot in all 50 states and Washington DC. Disappointing according to my own expectations? Yes. But the election was monumental for the Libertarian Party.

For the longest time the biggest hurdle facing the growth of third parties in this country has been ballot access.  A lack of ballot access ties up a third party’s limited resources, forcing them to focus on things other than campaigning.  Heading into the 2018 midterm elections, the Libertarian Party will have ballot access in 37 states.

What’s more important than ballot access, however, is that the Libertarian Party has incumbents that need to win re-election; Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke, along with New Hampshire State Representatives Brandon Phinney, Caleb Dyer, and Joseph Stallcop all ditched their former parties, and registered as Libertarians in the last year. Now they all face re-election bids without the backing of the powerful two party duopoly. 

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Brandon Phinney is one of 3 libertarians in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives 

All the aforementioned candidates had their own reasons for ditching their former parties. Joseph Stallcop, who serves in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives representing Cheshire 4, was elected as a Democrat. His decision to switch to the Libertarian Party, he told Authentic Liberty, was based in part because of the disrespect his ideas and views were generating among Democrats. Stallcops colleague, Brandon Phinney, explained his decision to switch parties as frustration with the direction, and leadership  of Republicans, a familiar sentiment. When Authentic Liberty asked Senator Laura Ebke why she switched parties, she pointed out several moments where she realized that the Republican Party no longer represented her values. Senator Ebke told us that “the recognition that the Republicans were going to nominate Trump, and then a “call out” for not being an adequately “platform Republican” at the 2016 State GOP convention by the Governor–when he called out a number of us by name” appeared to be the last straw. Like many people, Senator Ebke realized that the GOP didn’t care about policy, but party.

While Representative Stallcop is unsure if he will be running for re-election next year (he is set to graduate from college), the state of New Hampshire presents an interesting scenario for Brandon Phinney and Caleb Dyer, his colleagues in the only libertarian caucus in the nation. New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that allows for “fusion tickets,” which allow one candidate to run under multiple parties. Both Phinney and Dyer, former Republicans, could choose to seek both the Republican and Libertarian nominations for their districts,and in a comment to Authentic Liberty, Phinney stated that this is his intention; in doing so they would eliminate potential rivals while having their names appear multiple times on the ballot.  That scenario could be interesting, and increase their odds of reelection, but could also make them beholden to the whims of two different parties. A victory on a fusion ticket would also minimize the importance of the Libertarian Party; if, in this hypothetical situation, both candidates win both the Republican and Libertarian nominations, then win the election, outsiders could say that they only won because of the Republican Party, marginalizing the importance of libertarians.

Senator Ebke’s situation in Nebraska is also interesting. She serves in the only unicameral state legislature in the nation, and in Nebraska, all state elections are

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Senator Laura Ebke is up for re-election in 2018

nonpartisan, when voters step into the ballot box in 2018 they will see a list of names with no party affiliation. Senator Ebke believes the nonpartisan nature of Nebraska’s state elections probably helps her, as she explained to Authentic Liberty “while many people will know the affiliation, the fact that it isn’t listed on the ballot, nor do we organize by party in the legislature–probably helps me some.” Senator Ebke says that the biggest difference she has noticed during her re-election bid is her ability to effectively raise money; “Libertarians–as a whole–seem to be far less likely to part with their money–whether $25 of $100. Republican (and probably Democrat) activists are used to being asked for cash, and attending fundraisers.”  With that said, she has had some success raising money for her re-election, and she will continue to need our support, if you’ve got $10, you can make a donation here.

Winning re-election to these offices should be the focus of the Libertarian Party. As we move forward we cannot simply be content with the occasional officeholder quitting their party out of protest, and registering as a libertarian.  Libertarians need to learn how to win elections; we need an effective, proven blueprint, and we need to show the Republicans and Democrats that we can do more than just steal a few votes. The best way to do that is by continuing to seek support from the party at both the state and national level. If we cannot support our candidates and win elections as libertarians, then party members really need to question if there is any advantage to running for office as a libertarian.

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5 Baffling Examples of Government Waste

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Last week an astonishing story came out of Canada.  Apparently, the City of Toronto had stated that it would cost the taxpayers of Ontario $65,000 to build some stairs in a city park. In an act of sensibility and reason, a retired mechanic decided he could probably build that same set of stairs at a cheaper rate, so he got to work, completing the project for a mere $550 dollars.  For some reason this pissed off the city of Toronto, who decided to waste taxpayer dollars and tear down the handyman’s stairs.

It’s astonishing how many examples there are of the government wasting taxpayer dollars. If one city is willing to spend $65,000 to build something one guy did over a weekend, presumably with a six pack of Molson, for under $600, what else are they wasting our money on?

$100 Million Dollars In Unused Airline Tickets

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Between 1997 and 2003 a federal audit revealed that the Department of Defense spent in excess of $100 million dollars on airline tickets that were never used. That’s 270,000 unused airline tickets.  Between 2001 and 2002 the audit revealed that the Pentagon purchased the same ticket twice in an astonishing 27,000 instances. But perhaps the worst part about this waste is that these tickets were fully refundable.  

The Department of Defense and the Pentagon fall under “military spending.” Still think we can’t afford to reduce military spending?

$29 Million Dollars Worth of Construction Equipment Lost in Afghanistan

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I’ll never forget when my friend Abe returned from serving his second tour in Iraq in 2009. Sitting outside on a patio outside of a bar in Iowa he lit up a cigarette, and before taking his first puff he was already laughing. Confused, we asked him what was so funny, and with a smile on his face he started telling us how odd it was to be able to smoke outside of a bar. He went on to tell us that how in the military he was only allowed to smoke in certain areas; often times shacks that he and his unit would have to build. He told us one story of how when he was in Afghanistan the closest smoke shack was about a mile away. Disappointed, he and some men from his unit decided to obtain material to build one closer to where they spent most of their day. He went on to describe how he had no idea how much, or even what material was needed, so while he and his unit were filling out the paperwork they would guess at what was needed.  The requisition was approved, and when the material arrived they realized they had way too much material, and after the shack was built they sort of abandoned the surplus and forgot about it.  

Since 2001, the government has spent nearly $4 TRILLION dollars on wars in the Middle East.  We often hear from Republicans in Congress that the taxpayer dollars being spent in Afghanistan, and throughout the region are in an effort to make the region safe, and therefore to keep America safe.  But as my friend Abe pointed out, a lot of it is bullshit.

In his annual “Festivus” report, Senator Rand Paul highlighted how in 2016 taxpayers spent $29 million dollars on lost cranes and bulldozers in Afghanistan.

 

Pentagon Spends $43 Million on One Gas Station in Afghanistan

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In October of 2015, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction published an alarming report.  Apparently taxpayers had spent $43 million dollars to build a single compressed natural gas station in Sheberghan Afghanistan. The purpose of the gas station, according to the report, was to highlight the commercial viability of using compressed natural gas to fuel vehicles in the region. John Sopko, who commissioned the report, had previously built a similar gas station in Pakistan for $500,000, meaning this particular station cost 140 times more.

The report highlights more than $30 million in overhead, and, according to Sopko;

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide and explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation or outcome.”

The average American is responsible for making sure that they can provide for themselves and their families, we are expected to act responsibly. But like that trust fund kid paying for his whole crew to go on spring break with him, the government doesn’t care about cost because they’re paying with someone else’s money.

 

$48,500 to Study the Smoking Habits of Russians

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Russians like to do many things; drink vodka, watch hockey, hack our elections, and smoke tobacco.  In fact Russians really like their tobacco; 60% of Russian men, and 25% of Russian woman regularly indulge in tobacco products.  

In April of 2015 the U.S. National Institutes of Health gave a grad student nearly $50,000 to study the habits of tobacco use in Russia over the last 130 years.

I think I join the vast majority of Americans when I say, “who cares?”

$9.6 Billion a Year on the 

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Formed as part of the “New Deal” by FDR in 1935, the “Rural Utilities Service Program” was designed to bring electricity to farms across the country, which may have been a good idea at the time.  That year only 11% of this America’s farms had electricity.  Today, however, the program is a giant, inefficient boondoggle, and eliminating the program would save taxpayers close to $10 billion dollars in the first year. What they’ve been doing lately is spending an estimated $5,500 per resident to give a rural town in Arkansas with a population of 122 people internet access.

While the program obviously has noble intentions, the private sector could, and would step up to fill this void. Google, and other tech giants love to invest in bringing infrastructure to more potential clients. But why would they invest in infrastructure when the government already does.  When the government cuts spending in one area there is usually a large public outcry, then the void gets filled by private enterprise.
There are literally hundreds of examples of how the government wastes our money on a daily basis, yet progressives constantly want to add more government programs. Lets return that money to the people, let us decide what is and is not worthwhile.

Oregon Wants To Take Your Guns

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“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” – 2nd Amendment to the Constitution

A recently passed Oregon Bill would allow a police officer, or a family member to seek a court order that would require subjects to turn over their guns, for up to a year, if the petitioners and the court think they could be a harm to themselves or others.  Apparently they don’t understand the term “shall not be infringed.”

According to the bill, the legislation, which now sits on Governor Kate Brown’s desk, the bill; 

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown

“Creates process for obtaining extreme risk protection order prohibiting person from possessing deadly weapon when court finds that person presents risk in near future, including imminent risk, of suicide or causing injury to another person. Establishes procedures for law enforcement officer or family or household member of person to apply for order. Establishes procedures for respondent to request hearing, and for continuance of order after hearing or if hearing is not requested. Establishes procedures for termination and renewal of order”

So how does the state decide who is deserving of an “extreme risk protection order?” Glad you asked!

“(6)(a) The court shall issue an extreme risk protection order if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence, based on the petition and supporting documentation and after considering a statement by the respondent, if provided, that the respondent presents a risk in the near future, including an imminent risk, of suicide or of causing physical injury to another person. “

The bill is being propped up by gun control advocates like former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as a way to prevent the mentally ill from causing harm to themselves or others. The hilariously ironic thing about that line of thinking is that mental illness is perhaps the one thing courts are not allowed to consider when issuing this “protection” order.

“The court may not include in the findings any mental health diagnosis or any connection between the risk presented by the respondent and mental illness”

While petitioner’s must prove that the person in question is at “extreme risk.” The bill defines this as anyone who has a history of threatening violence, either against themselves or others. But a previous violent misdemeanor would also make someone eligible, so would a previous DUI.

The subject of one of these petitions has no right to contest the order before it is issued, although they can appeal it afterwards. Once a petition is issued, the subject would have 24 hours to surrender all their weapons, if they were to refuse to surrender their weapons, they could find themselves in jail for up to a year, a $6,250 fine, or both.

The bill wasn’t passed in good faith, according to Reason.  Upon the bill passing through the Senate;

“SB 719 was sent not to the House Judiciary Committee—which usually handles criminal legislation, but is chaired by pro–Second Amendment Democrat Jeff Barker—but rather to the House Rules Committee. That committee’s chair decided to forgo a public hearing on the bill, and instead passed it out of committee the day before July 4, when half the Republicans committee members had already gone home.”

Ignoring the fact that this bill blatantly violates the second amendment, this legislation won’t accomplish anything, and can actually hurt those whom the bill is aiming to protect.

A suicidal person doesn’t need to use a gun to kill themselves, so it’s hard to see how it would protect someone from self-harm.  While the bill could put victims of domestic violence at risk.

One of the criteria of petitioners includes not only law enforcement, but family members, and anyone you live with.  Let’s say that a woman is in an abusive relationship and one day during the abuse she threatens to kill herself. The abusive partner could then turn to the court system and have them take away the weapon that could save the victim’s life.

Oregonians rights could also be trampled by judges with an agenda like Kenneth Walker , who has publicly stated that he wishes he could “dump all guns in the ocean.”

 

Hopefully Oregon’s senate will attempt to tear this bill up sooner, rather than later.

Republicans Announce 2018 Budget; Economy is Still Screwed

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For years Libertarians, and a select few Republicans have been talking about this countries out of control spending problem, and our massive debt. On Tuesday morning House Republicans introduced their 2018 budget, which if passed as is tomorrow morning, would give Republicans like Paul Ryan a “win,” but would do little to help this country in the long-term. 

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Paul Ryan and the GOP are trying to trick us.

The House plan would slash federal spending by $5.4 trillion dollars over the next decade. While cutting spending on mandatory programs, like medicare and medicaid by $4 trillion over that same period of time. If passed as is, the budget would pave way for Republicans to attempt to overhaul our tax code for the first time since 1986.

Overhauling the tax code has been talked about for years, but has gained little traction, and it is unlikely that Republicans will be successful in their endeavors this time for a few reasons. First, the budget would have to pass both the House and the Senate, with no changes; which seems unlikely. Second, this congress has given us no reason to believe they are serious about fiscal change; especially after they failed to repeal the taxes created by Obamacare, which Republicans in the House and Senate both said would be vital to overhauling the tax code.

Despite that, Paul Ryan has pushed forward; calling for less tax brackets, switching to a territorial tax system, and repealing the “Alternative Minimum Tax” which, when passed, meant well, but has damaged the middle class,

[the AMT] was designed to keep wealthy taxpayers from using loopholes to avoid paying taxes. But because it was not automatically updated for inflation, more middle-class taxpayers were getting hit with the AMT each year. Congress traditionally passed an annual “patch” to address this until, in January 2013, as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal, they passed a permanent patch to the AMT.

What the budget doesn’t contain, however, is any cuts to defense spending. In fact, the budget calls for  $621.5 billion in national defense spending, up from $598 billion in 2016.  Just for comparison, the next biggest defense budget in the world last year was China, at $146 billion. 

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via WaPo

 

Hawks on both sides of the aisle see the increased defense spending as a good thing. They don’t care that we spend more than any nation on earth on defense, as long as they save face with the military. This is despite the fact that the Defense Business Board found $125 billion dollars in administrative waste related to defense spending over the next five years. Legislatures could have easily cut this spending without closing a single base, or putting this nation at risk, but playing politics is more important than economic collapse.

The proposed spending cuts are a drop in the bucket, when considering we have nearly $20 trillion in national debt. The Congressional Budget Office seems to agree, and has released a particularly grim outlook for our economy over the next 10 years.  The American Enterprise Institute describes why the CBO’s report is so troubling;

“ [the] baseline — a forecast of federal revenue, spending, deficits, and debt — assumes current laws and policies will remain as they are today for the next 10 years. President Trump has modified a small number of relevant budgetary factors since taking office, particularly the level of defense spending in 2017. But, for the most part, CBO’s projections reflect the policies put in place during the tenure of the Obama administration.”

The cuts proposed by Republicans are like a Kardashian: aesthetically pleasing, but ultimately worthless. In 2018, the CBO expects the deficit to be $563 billion, down from an expected $693 billion in 2017. However, by 2027, the CBO expects the deficit to rise to $1.5 TRILLION which would be an expected 5.2% of our GDP.  The projected deficits will push federal debt to 90% of our GDP by 2027, up from 39% in 2008. Considering that from 1983 until 2008 GDP grew at an average  of 3.3%, and in 2019 and 2020 the CBO expects GDP to grow at just 1.5%, our economic future looks grim.

While the outlook is just a prediction, it’s hard not to be a little pessimistic about the whole situation.  If we want to affect real change, and truly make America great again, then we need to make an effort to elect politicians who are unafraid to make painful, unpopular decisions. In his classic book on economics; “Economics in One Lesson,” Henry Hazlitt demonstrates the need to look at the long-term outlook of every policy decision we make, even if it makes us worse-off in the short term.  Unfortunately, we live in an age where politicians are constantly campaigning, kicking the can down the road for someone else to deal with later. For a society so hell-bent on leaving the earth in better shape for our children, we sure seemed to have forgotten that we will also leave them our economy.

 

We Can be a Mosaic and Still Liberty Minded

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What if I told you we could take a page from Canada’s book? With all of the division in the United States we can be a mosaic of cultures.

We like to refer to ourselves as a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and even genders. But still we have division between different groups saying “this shouldn’t happen” or “that isn’t natural”. But if the United States was a true melting pot, we would all get along regardless. But since we can’t, why not be a mosaic. That is how Canada refers to themselves. This would allow us to separate from groups that you choose not to affiliate with while still allowing them their personal freedoms. This also will avoid stereotyping. Why don’t we just let Muslims, Mexicans, LGBT, etc. do their own thing and be who they want to be without persecution and without stripping their rights? Then groups may split off from themselves and you will realize the group affiliation may have been wrong. Moderate Muslims will split from, and probably even fight the radicals. Hardworking Mexicans will split from “illegal, welfare stealing” Mexicans. (The quotes are there to show that a person is not illegal by nature) But if you choose to only associate with this group or that group, don’t take the rights away from the ones that you choose not to associate with. Accept who you want but respect all persons living in the United States of America.

Minneapolis Police Kill Bride To Be

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Around midnight on Saturday, Justine Damond was fatally shot by Minneapolis police officers. The 40 year old Australian woman, who was set to be married next month, called law enforcement to report a possible assault taking place behind her home.  Instead of investigating the assault, the responding officers killed her.

Justine Damond became the 661st person to be killed by a police officer in the United States this year, the shooting is alarming especially considering it happened less than a month after a different Minneapolis police officer was acquitted of the murder of Philando Castile.  

What makes this crime particularly suspicious is that the two police officers didn’t have their body camera’s turned on, which in and of itself  is illegal in Minnesota. Last May,  Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation requiring that all law enforcement officials have their body cameras turned on while on duty.  Furthermore, the video camera in the police cruiser suspiciously didn’t pick up any video footage of the event.

According to reports:

Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.”

The incident is unfortunate, and all too common. The number of people killed by law enforcement officials is at its highest in at least 2 decades, and we have gotten to the point where people legitimately have to think twice before reporting a violent crime.

The militarization of law enforcement, combined with legislation meant to give police even more power seems to ignore the problem. The powerful police unions who spend millions of dollars a year lobbying for more legal protection and financing encourage violence.  If we are going to see a dramatic reduction in police violence, than government officials need to demand accountability, instead, they’re doing the exact opposite.

Hey, Libertarian Party, Go Big or Go Home!

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Politics is a game of numbers.

Top political strategists work tirelessly to find out what percent of this group and that group is needed in order to achieve victory. This is most evident in presidential elections and the quest for 270 electoral votes. Focus must be given to the right demographics in order to secure certain states which are normally up for grabs. Unfortunately, the current state of politics in this country makes the electoral map game only a Democrat and Republican thing.

That doesn’t mean third parties shouldn’t focus on large races, though.

Races for national office and governor races receive the most press. Local races are winnable, and should certainly be a focus for third parties and independent candidates, but those races fail to move the needle on the larger scale.

What third parties need to compete, is raw numbers.  Every four years, the presidential election is going to be a minor party’s best opportunity at free press and opportunities to spread their message. To qualify for federal assistance, a party must secure at least 5% of the national vote. To achieve this, there must be a strategy.

Although the Libertarian Party did well in places like North Dakota and Montana in 2016, those are not populous areas. Gary Johnson received his best raw vote total in California, where 3.4% of the vote, netted him over 400,000 votes. 5% of the vote would have gary.jpggarnered roughly 600,000 votes in California, where as 6.3% of the vote in North Dakota only gave Johnson a little over 21,000. Even doubling that number, does very little to move the national vote total for the Libertarian Party. In Texas, 3.2% of the vote gave the ticket of Johnson and Weld over 280,00 votes. Therefore, like it or not, the biggest names in the Libertarian Party must run for the highest office available to them, especially when they live in a state with a large population.

For third parties, the goal needs to be consistent, and quantifiable, growth. Nationally, these numbers can be seen through congressional, senate, gubernatorial, and presidential races. There is no denying that local and county races must be won, too, but real marketing must be done in higher races. In these races, candidates are gaining inclusion in debates, and social media allows for a message to traverse through various circles with greater ease and less spin. Since these races have the widest audiences, they have the greatest opportunity to gain attention from those who are either unfamiliar, or improperly informed, of a different message. Within these opportunities, exists the greatest chance for party growth and a dedicated voting population. If the Libertarian, and other minor parties, can keep up their momentum, and continue raising the floor of expected votes, more people will join and there will be exponential growth until state and federal offices have representation for those who don’t identify as Republican or Democrat.

2018 could prove to be a boom for the Libertarian Party, should former vice-presidential candidate Larry Sharpe’s run for governor of New York gain any traction. With only 2.3% of the vote for president in 2016, the Libertarian Party could use dedicated growth in the Empire State moving forward. Should Sharpe’s polished and friendly message exceed that total, New York could give the Libertarian Party the extra boost needed to cross the 5% national threshold in 2020.

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Larry Sharpe, Libertarian candidate for Governor of New York