Listen to Episode 27 with Austin Petersen
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I talk with Austin Petersen, the runner-up for the 2016 Libertarian presidential nomination and now-Republican candidate for the US Senate. Austin tells us about how his libertarian background will influence how he governs as a Republican. Additionally, he discusses his stances on issues such as taxes, government spending, immigration, and more. Be sure to tune in for a thoughtful conversation.
Show Notes (abridged script)
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Become a Patron!The Interview
In 2016 Austin Petersen was the runner up to Governor Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. On July 4, 2017, Austin announced his candidacy for Missouri’s Senate seat, challenging current two-term Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.
Luke Scorziell: In an interview with Dave Rubin last year, you threw around the idea of running for the president again in 2020. What changed your mind and motivated you to run for the senate?
Austin Petersen: Running for office is many times about timing. There was a gap in the 2016 election cycle that needed to be filled by somebody who was a pro-life, pro-constitution, pro-liberty libertarian. However, I don’t see there will be the same demand for that kind of presidential candidate in 2020.
But when I looked at my home state, Missouri, I saw that one of the least popular Democrats, Claire McCaskill, was up for re-election. I thought it would be a good idea to run against her.
Spending and Taxes
LS: What ideas do you have for cutting spending once you’re in congress?
AP: My plan is the penny plan. Instead of trying to kill one department or another entirely, I think that a simple one-percent cut across the board to every program is a good way to go. Especially, so the special interests don’t cry too loudly if you try to get rid of something like PBS or the National Endowment for the Arts.
After that, we could pass a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment or even spending cap reform, which other countries like Switzerland have seen success with.
LS: Are we moving towards having more conservative-Republicans in congress? Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be the most conservative president we’ve ever had.
AP: When I think of conservative, I don’t think of Donald Trump. His policies, however, have actually been very conservative. This tax bill makes the biggest tax cut we’ve seen since Ronald Reagan, and Trump has cut more regulations that George W. Bush and Barack Obama combined. He’s pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord. I mean the man doesn’t seem to be a big fan of big government.
“Quite frankly, if at the end of the day the President is tweeting like a madman but cutting regulations and cutting taxes, that’s really all I care about. I want to see the policies of limited government enacted.” ~ Austin Petersen.
LS: What are your feelings on the new tax bill?
AP: A lot of economists believe in the Laffer Curve, that if you cut taxes the government will actually get more revenue because more people have more money to spend. The problem is that conservatives often simultaneously cut taxes and increase spending.
“I want to be the Republican who votes for the spending cuts and for the tax cuts.” ~ Austin Petersen
You have to delineate between those who voted for the spending increase and the tax cuts. If you want economic growth to be locked in, we need spending cuts.
LS: Are there any specific areas you’d want to cut entirely?
AP: I don’t think the federal government should be involved in healthcare. So, obviously getting rid of Obamacare and the Healthcare exchanges would stimulate the competitive market economy we need in healthcare.
We can get rid of the federal War on Drugs entirely and let the states handle their own drug policies. Additionally, getting rid of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. People think that we need one monopolistic agency to regulate our food and drugs. I think that we should have more free-market agencies whose job it is to rank the food in the United States.
I’d like audit some of the agencies. Auditing is the first step, the cuts come later.
Drugs and Immigration
LS: Why are you for the decriminalization of drugs? Is this an area where traditional conservatives and libertarians diverge?
AP: True conservatives are with us on this issue: They agree that prosecuting the War on Drugs as a criminal problem rather than a medical problem is a no-go. I’d say big-government Republicans aren’t with us on this. They argue that the Federal Government should be involved in regulating drug policy, but then they have to start making liberal arguments about where the government got that authority in the first place. It’s against the entire ideology of conservatism.
Ben Shapiro and I have talked about this before. We agree that conservatives need to accept the libertarian position on government and libertarians need to accept the conservative view of institutions –– families, friends, neighbors, and churches –– as the people who will solve the problems that we face in society today. Drugs are dangerous, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to do drugs. What I am trying to say, is that if we have problems with drugs they need to be solved as locally as possible.
LS: Where do you stand on illegal immigration and amnesty?
“I’m glad to see that the president is starting to take a more reasonable approach with this. I’ve never been a big fan of a border wall, but if we get some sort of a deal…solving the problems of the DACA recipients and the dreamers, I think it may be the reasonable compromise that has to be made. That’s probably going to anger a lot of my supporters, but frankly at the end of the day we’re talking about people’s lives here. I think the president recognizes that, and I applaud him for doing so.” ~ Austin Petersen
LS: What changes would you make to how legal and illegal immigration work?
AP: I’ve always advocated for an Ellis Island-style system where you have a strict security and disease check, and if you can pass those then you can start on the path to naturalization. The problem is that the debate is dominated by the two extremes: the total open-border type and the shut ’em down, build-a-wall, and shoot anyone that comes across type.
Nobody has the right to come and bring an infectious disease into the United States. Nobody has the right to come in for malicious reasons and harm our national security. Even the people on the right who call themselves open-border advocates say no one has that right.
LS: What are your thoughts on the Diversity Visa Progam?
AP: I believe in a multiethnic society that’s homogeneous…and in having a melting pot in the United States. The government has the power to set a process of naturalization in the US. That process, if it’s going to be restricted at all, should be based on merit. It should actually benefit the citizens of the United States.
Free Speech, Net Neutrality, and Politicon 2018
LS: What are your feelings on the current sentiment toward free speech on college campuses?
AP: I do think that free speech is under attack on college campuses, but it’s also under attack in the wider world. The IRS was used to target conservative groups in order to stop them from participating in elections. In Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker introduced public-sector union reforms and Democratic prosecutors did police raids on people’s homes and issued gag orders.
I do think we need to have more open debate on campus, but I would say the greater danger is government cracking down on free speech.
LS: What are your thoughts on Net Neutrality? Does the FCC have the prerogative to be regulating the internet?
AP: I don’t believe they do. Congress has recently started to craft legislation to reinstall net neutrality. I don’t agree with it, but if it is going to be done then that’s at least the proper legal way to do it. We are propagandized to believe Net Neutrality is something that it’s not.
LS: Will you be back for Politicon 2018?
AP: It turns out, there are a lot of liberty loving people out in Southern California. Politicon was so impressed that they said they definitely want to have me back. This time I might actually be a featured speaker instead of just a panelist. So yeah, it’s looking good!
LS: Where can our listeners find out a little more about you?
Bills with Luke Scorziell does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice or recommendations. This material is solely intended for educational purposes based on publicly available information and may change at any time. Additionally, this article’s content is a summary of the Interviewee’s comments and, while rephrased by the Author, are not from the Author himself.
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