A free market health-nut who’s climbed Mt. Everest and successfully put a broke state government in the black without tax increases? It couldn’t be any other but former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a potential presidential candidate in 2012 and a guest of the Chicago chapter of America’s Future Foundation on March 24th, 2011.
Governor Johnson joined AFF-Chicago for two events on March 24th: first a VIP reception with AFF members, followed by remarks and Q&A.
During his time as governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003, Governor Johnson eliminated his state’s deficit, reduced its payroll by 1000 (without firing anyone), and transitioned the state’s Medicare program to managed care, which provided incentives for better care and cost control. One of the governor’s proudest achievements is his record of having vetoed 750 bills, a number that nearly reaches the total number of vetoes of all the other governors in the country at the time combined. He is now the honorary chairman of the Our America Initiative, a non-profit organization that educates Americans on civil liberties, free enterprise, and American values.
Recently, Governor Johnson has been in the media discussing the deep debt our country faces, as well as how to fix it.
“I think the federal government should be reduced by 43 percent,” Johnson said. “Do I think it should be ‘across the board?’ As a businessperson, ‘across the board’ doesn’t work because some things are working and maybe we should invest more money in them, while other things aren’t working and we should spend less money on them.”
Governor Johnson spoke of allowing the 50 states to become “laboratories of innovation” in policy, legalizing marijuana, immigration reform, restraining the country’s instinct to respond militarily to world problems, and school choice.
“What could the federal government do, beyond any other single action, to improve education in the country? That action would be to abolish the federal Department of Education,” Johnson said. “The federal Department of Education gives each state 11 cents out of every dollar that each state spends on education, but it comes with 16 cents per dollar of strings attached. So it’s really a negative to take federal money. Give education back to the states to create 50 laboratories of innovation.”
He lamented last year’s missed opportunity to reform the nation’s health care system by bringing it back into the free market. “When the health care debate started, I envisioned ‘Gall Bladders R’ Us.’ I envisioned clinics that offered gall bladder surgery at thousands of dollars as opposed to tens of thousands of dollars,” said Johnson. “Advertised pricing and real competition in health care is something we absolutely don’t have today.”
Governor Johnson is touring the country as a spokesman for liberty-based ideas that, he says, aren’t being said by anyone else. “I really think we can address the problems that our country faces, but we have to do it now. There’s a real value in doing this, and that value is that the United States would actually survive its current challenges.”
Following the governor’s remarks, AFFers had the chance to ask questions of him. Governor Johnson answered on the effects of marijuana legalization to the method Japanese nuclear plant experts have used to seal radiation leaks following March’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. He said his most inspirational free market author is Milton Friedman, and explained the winning political strategy of an underdog that maintains upward momentum.
Governor Johnson left AFFers with a sense of excitement for his eventual participation in the 2012 presidential race, knowing that the governor shares their values and has the governing experience to prove it.
Our friends at the Illinois Policy Institute have posted three video clips of Governor Johnson’s remarks to their organization on Wednesday evening.