Gary Johnson's main proposal: Shrink government

Posted at 1:11 PM, Oct 30, 2016

DENVER (AP) -- Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has a big idea: smaller government.

Johnson's campaign is founded on the principle that smaller government will mean greater freedom for citizens, both economically and in their personal lives. It's the policy glue that holds together his fiscally conservative, socially liberal and noninterventionist message.

A look at some of his main proposals.


Johnson predicts that the United States could face hyperinflation if it doesn't balance its budget soon. He proposes to shrink the federal government by about 20 percent, which would be a historic reduction. But it's something Congress has not been able to pass under Democratic or Republican control.

He calls for reductions of up to 20 percent in military spending, raising the Social Security retirement age to 72 and eliminating the federal departments of Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security. (Some tasks by those departments would be redistributed to other agencies.)

Johnson's experience as governor of New Mexico in the 1990s shows how hard it is to cut government. Despite a record 700-plus vetoes, he was unable to shrink the size of the state budget, which was larger when he left office than when he came in. In this campaign, Johnson stresses that some government functions, such as environmental protection, are essential.



Johnson first came to nationwide attention when, as governor, he called for legalizing marijuana, years before that idea took hold in some states. After he left elected office in 2003, Johnson ran a marijuana branding company. He says that, if elected, he'd take marijuana off the federal government's list of illegal substances. This wouldn't automatically make the substance legal but would allow individual states to legalize it.

Johnson says he wouldn't legalize other drugs like heroin or cocaine. He would give states more leeway to experiment on drug treatment programs.



Johnson describes himself as a skeptic of interventions overseas. He opposed the Iraq war and says the U.S. should have withdrawn from Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

Today he says the United States should reconsider some of its overseas bases in areas where allies may not need military protection, such as Japan. Johnson says he would not seek to abrogate treaties like NATO, as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has suggested doing. This smaller overseas footprint is one way that Johnson would meet his goal of reducing military expenditures by one-fifth.



In a year when Trump rode a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment to become the Republican nominee, Johnson has fiercely defended the value of immigration. He's mocked Trump's proposal for a border wall and selected as his running mate Bill Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts who was once nominated to become U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Johnson proposes making it easier to work in the United States legally, which he argues would cut down on illegal immigration and improve the economy. He'd allow otherwise law-abiding immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to become citizens eventually.



Johnson advocates a single, simple consumption tax of the sort that most other industrialized nations use. This would replace the progressive federal income tax as well as the complex corporate tax code. Johnson has not released a detailed tax proposal and acknowledges a consumption tax is a distant goal given the complexity of the tax code and political obstacles to a tax overhaul. Consumption taxes tend to burden the poor more than the wealthy because lower income groups spend more of their money on basic goods and services. Johnson would seek to put safeguards in place to prevent any family from paying more in taxes on basic necessities.

He wants to close what he says are special interest loopholes and to simplify business taxes. Johnson was a strong advocate of lower taxes as governor, even vetoing efforts to increase government fees by a few dollars in various remote New Mexico municipalities.