Thu 3 Jun 2004
So the Libertarian Party has chosen its 2004 presidential candidate. Their choice is more than a little embarrassing. They passed over a polished, well-organized second-rate talk show host and a charismatic, well-organized second-rate movie producer for a random guy off the street who styles himself a “constitutional scholar” despite the fact that he has no formal legal training, a guy whose web site still–close to a week after the nomination–states that it’s “Being Updated” and has next to no content.
This is a new low for a party that’s had more than its share of low points. I was never crazy about Harry Browne, but he was a moderately successful author, and his campaign was professional, well-organized, and moderately media-savvy. I always took comfort in the fact that– no matter how lackluster the Party’s candidates for lower office might be–I could count on not being too embarrassed by the guy at the top of the LP ticket. Well, no longer. Here’s the first interview I’ve read of Badnarik:
The IRS didn’t come into existence the day the Constitution was ratified in 1789. The 16th Amendment and the IRS didn’t come into our lives until 1913—over 100 years later. How did the United States government exist until then without the income tax? The most important part of that answer is that the federal government was extremely small, as outlined by Article I, Section 8. Since the government was so small, the founding fathers arranged for it to be funded by excise taxes on foreign imports so that American citizens wouldn’t have to bear the burden. Contrary to what most people think, the money collected by the IRS is less than 15% of the government’s annual revenue, and most of that goes towards paying the INTEREST on the national debt. (The debt continues to grow because Congress always operates at a deficit.) If we eliminated the IRS, the government would not come to a grinding halt, as is generally believed. So to finally answer your question, I am opposed to ANY individual taxes until we eliminate all of the unconstitutional agencies, and I suspect we wouldn’t need a tax after that.
There are so many problems with this I don’t know where to start. The IRS collectsover a trillion dollars in individual income taxes each year, around half of the total revenues. Throw in corporate income tax and payroll taxes, and this number rises to about $1.8T in a $2T budget. I have no idea where the 15% figure comes from, but it’s apparent he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Secondly, the idea that the founders wanted to only tax foreigners is absurd. The Constitution authorises duties (tariffs) and excises, the latter being taxes on domestic products like whiskey. And President Washington certainly seemed to believe domestic excise taxes were constitutional when he led the army against the Whiskey Rebellion. Thirdly, as anyone who knows anything about economics will tell you, a tariff on imports hurts domestic consumers just as much as foriegn producers. Congress also does not “always operate at a deficit.” (it had a surplus in 1999 and 2000)
But more important than these glaring factual errors is the fact that Badnarik sounds out of touch with reality and completely unprepared to be president. He doesn’t bother to mention any specifics about which agencies would be cut, he doesn’t cite specific numbers as to how much cutting would be necessary, he certainly hasn’t drafted a budget proposal. He’s a half-assed armchair pundit who thinks it would be really neat to run for president.
It gets worse. Here’s his plan for his first day in office:
a) Declare that all four national emergencies are immediately terminated, as well as the presumption of Emergency War Powers. Senate Report 93-549 has found that the “national emergencies” announced by FDR in 1933 because of the Great Depression, by Truman because of the Korean War, and two initiated by Nixon because of the Vietnam War, are still in effect today. (Skeptical readers can search the internet for this report and read it for themselves.)
b) Declare that all 20,000 gun control laws in the United States are unconstitutional and unenforceable. I would also issue a valid executive order to the BATF and other pseudo police agencies informing them that any agent who confiscates a weapon of any kind, from someone who is not currently engaged in a murder or robbery, will not only be terminated from their position, but they will also be prosecuted for violating the unalienable rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect.
c) Issue another valid executive order to my subordinates executives working for the IRS. That order would instruct them to come to work, make a pot of coffee, and begin working on their resumes’ pending a federal grand jury investigation as to the legitimacy of the Sixteenth Amendment and the Internal Revenue Code. High ranking officials from that department would be closely monitored as flight risks, pending indictments for fraud in the event that evidence proves that they knew that no statute exists that requires Americans to fill out a 1040 form and relinquish a significant percentage of their hard earned money to an unconstitutional government that refuses to operate within a budget.
d) Declare the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to be unconstitutional, and prohibit that organization from printing even one more dollar of fiat currency. I would immediate appoint Bernard Von Nothaus, Monetary Architect for the Liberty Dollar, to be my Secretary of the Treasury, placing the stability of our economy in his capable hands.
e) I would announce a special one-week session of Congress where all 535 members would be required to sit through a special version of my Constitution class. Once I was convinced that every member of Congress understood my interpretation of their very limited powers, I would insist that they restate their oath of office while being videotaped. Those videos could then be used as future evidence should they ever vote to violate the rights of Americans again.
f) I would take a short break for lunch.
So if he gets elected, large swaths of the federal government will have cause to fear not only for their jobs, but for their liberty as well. Point (c) comes dangerously close to crazy tax protestor talk. Point (d) shows no understanding of how the Federal Reserve System works, and no appreciation of the importance of maintaining a stable money supply. The markets would go into a tailspin if he were to get elected on fears of inept monetary policy screwing up the economy. He seems to be unaware that cabinet secretaries are nominated and must be confirmed by the Senate, they aren’t just “appointed.” Point (e) demonstrates a complete lack of appreciation for the separation of powers. Presidents can’t force Congress to convene, force them to listen to his lecture, and they sure as hell can’t force them to take oaths on videotape.
This is pretty standard stuff for rank-and-file libertarians. Any fringe political movement has its share of crazies. The LP is full of losers who get a kick out of pretending they’re part of a real political party, but who wouldn’t have the first clue what to do if they actually got elected. What’s remarkable and depressing is that for the first time, one of those crazies is the standard-bearer for the national party. For the first time, the LP has nominated a candidate who is completely unqualified to be president.
I left the LP more than a year ago, so I have no great stake in who they nominate except that, unfortunately, the LP is the first organization most people think about when I mention that I’m a libertarian. With this nomination the LP may have gone from being an annoying irrelevance to being a serious embarrassment to the broader libertarian movement. To the extent that they get any media attention at all, they will reflect poorly on those of us who do know something about policy, and are trying to advance libertarian ideas in an intellectual serious way.
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