Lincoln Chafee on SS Privatization, Drugs, and When Taxation is Theft

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with Lincoln Chafee about his Presidential run and overall philosophy. I’m not sure I have to pass much judgment on how it went, because his words really do speak for themselves.

TLR: This is Gary Doan talking to Lincoln Chafee, former Governor, US senator and Mayor, former Democrat, Republican and Independent. Currently he’s a Libertarian lifetime member and the highest profile libertarian seeking the presidential nomination. Thanks for talking with me.

LC: My pleasure, Gary, how you doing?

TLR: I’m doing peachy keen. I’d like to start off with issues you don’t seem to have said much about in previous parties but that animate some sectors of the libertarian base. What is your overall philosophy concerning monetary policy and the Federal Reserve?

LC: Well, I’m anti-deficit and all my 30 years in public service have my votes and actions support that. Certainly as a mayor, required to balance a budget… Governor, required to balance a budget. As Senator, yes, I voted against all those tax cuts, because I did not see the commensurate cuts in spending. And that’s exactly what happened with reduction of our revenue and soaring expenditures on wars and entitlement programs. And then, of course, natural disasters such as Katrina.

TLR: Speaking of entitlements, you’ve supported privatization of social security in the past. The program recently started paying out more than it’s taking in and the so-called trust fund is widely forecasted to be depleted in the early to mid 2030s. Do you see any appetite for addressing this crisis from either major party? Or do you think they’ll just continue to kick the can down the road until it’s too late?

LC: One thing I do want to correct. I believe you said that I have in the past supported privatization?

TLR: Yeah?

LC: No, no, that’s incorrect. I never did. And I think somebody put that on my Facebook or on Wikipedia, because I’ve been asked that question before. And that’s, that’s inaccurate. I looked at programs where we could make improvements such as raising the age of eligibility, which already is being done… means testing other programs, but was never was in favor of privatization.

Okay. To answer your question, do you see any appetite from either party? There is no doubt a demographic tsunami coming with the baby boomers coming into Medicare and Social Security. So, yes, at some point. And we, back when I was in the Senate, President Bush, President George W. Bush, suggested privatization that didn’t go anywhere. And at that time, both parties were raising the priority of reforming Social Security, but then it went away.

TLR: Most of the country outside of Joe Biden has come around to supporting the legalization of marijuana. However, do you think our culture is ready for a broader conversation about the legalization of other drugs? Or is that conversation likely to turn away voters?

LC: No, I think the success of the states that have legalized marijuana are going to lead to further discussions on other drugs, particularly plant medicines, and the veterans are leading the way on this. The Iraq veterans and Afghanistan veterans that are coming back, and they’re saying some of these plant medicines do work and they want them want to be legal.

TLR: Regardless of party affiliation, you’ve been pretty consistently pro trade. What are the problems with Trump’s protectionism? And do you see any Democrats running as supportive of free trade principles?

LC: No, I don’t see any Democrats running in favor of free trade. And in my brief time in the Democratic Party, it was certainly a third rail to be in favor of free trade, which I was, and I was proud of it. But in particularly in the base, the Democratic base, that is a third rail. And I just believe that in the freedom of the of commerce and the market, let’s give the freedom to the markets.

TLR: Um, as governor of Rhode Island, you made certain government grants available to farmers and seafood businesses. As such, do you support the agricultural subsidies Trump is using to offset the negative effects of its trade war on American farmers?

LC: As Governor, those were mostly federal pass-through dollars, they were not state dollars. And no, I’ve always been very conservative, if you will, about taxpayer dollars going to certain sectors. And there’s all sorts of powerful lobbies out there… the sugar lobby, the corn lobby, and and they just get a disproportionate amount of power and federal policy’s then dictated by that, and I’m more conservative about the taxpayer dollars.

TLR: In the 2016 cycle, you were the most anti-war Democrat running. You were the only Republican Senator to vote against the Iraq war. From a libertarian perspective, you seem rock solid on issues. War and peace. America’s foreign policy, however, has been far removed from such a vision for quite some time under both parties. Do you see any hope of a genuine pullback from our oversea adventurism? And what are the most important steps the country could take to get there?

LC: I’m very depressed about the mainstream media’s role in the escalation of these conflicts. And in even an initiation rather than escalation. We wouldn’t be in Iraq if the mainstream media hadn’t been part and parcel of it. And as we’ve talked about my membership in other parties, I have been looking for an anti-war party. And that’s why I became a Libertarian. And it’s going to be enough uphill battle of trying to get these points out to the American people because the mainstream media don’t want to hear it. They like these wars there. They wouldn’t be happening without the support of the mainstream media.

TLR: You brought up the media’s role in some of the warfare state. But when it comes down to it, I mean, who deserves more blame for the modern warfare state… modern Presidents or Congress for effectively conceding their power on that front to the Executive?

LC: Oh, there’s lots of blame to go around, that’s for sure. After the turn of the century here, we had what one European Prime Minister called “the lasting peace for our children”. That’s before September 11, there was a lasting peace stretching before us. The Soviet Union had disintegrated. We were getting along with all the countries around the world. And then after September 11, you have to, I would put most of the blame on the George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, neocon administration, and then the falling in line by the mainstream media, the falling in line by the Democratic Party and that… that’s why we’re in this endless military stranglehold on our country.

TLR: I’ve noticed you’ve talked a lot about deficits. And in Rhode Island, you oversaw an increase in state sales tax while decreasing the state corporate tax. At the federal level, if you could lower some specific form of taxation while raising another form in a revenue neutral way, what would you increase and what would you decrease?

LC: Well, I proposed when I did run in the 2016 cycle. I proposed another high, another tier of tax for the wealthy and that and to be revenue neutral that went to the every penny that was generated from that higher tier tax went to the write-off. The middle class write-off. And it was revenue neutral dollar for dollar and shifted the money from the wealthy to the middle class.

TLR: In the New Hampshire delegates survey last weekend, you came in essentially last place. Why do you think that was? And what is your strategy for getting the support of more delegates moving forward?

LC: Well, I’ve been successful in politics by going door to door and standing in front of supermarkets and meeting people. And this is no different. I’ve been to the Libertarian meeting in Miami, a meeting in Denver, meeting in New Hampshire, in Nashville, and just continue to get out there and listen and share my thoughts on the direction of the country.

TLR: The winner of that survey was Vermin Supreme. What do you believe would be the effect if it happened? A Vermin Supreme presidential nomination on the Libertarian Party?

LC: Well, I think the American people… I mean, in 2016, the Libertarian Party was the third party. And they back even in 2016, after Donald Trump was nominated, and Hillary Clinton was nominated, the American people were looking for an alternative. And the Libertarian Party did the best that they’d ever done in any national election. And they had two candidates that had held elective office. So I think that as Libertarians look at who they want to nominate, they’ll probably be looking to the past and seeing what has given them the best success. And what happened in New Hampshire was non binding. But nonetheless, I think when the by the time the Austin convention rolls around, the delegates want to have a serious candidate with, with ideas that are going to appeal… broadly appeal, to the American people.

TLR: I’ve heard you supported the Patriot Act and the assault weapons ban. Do you regret doing so? And assuming you do what changed your mind on those two issues?

LC: Yes, times do change, and especially on the Second Amendment, and I’ve seen it change with all the lies that our government has told us. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Afghanistan papers that came out that said, there’s no end in sight. The generals know it. The Pentagon knows it. Yet we’re still there. There is no hope of success in Afghanistan. And the lies that the government told us about trampling on our fourth amendment that Edward Snowden revealed, proved that our government is untrustworthy. And I do believe that the authors of our constitution wrote the Second Amendment, First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment for times when the people don’t trust the government. And legitimately, people across the country have less trust in our government. I see it, more than when I made those votes.

TLR: So do you regret supporting the assault weapons ban?

LC: At that time, it was different. And this time now, where we are now… is greater distrust of government. And that’s why the authors wrote that second amendment for this distrusted government. Back then I had greater trust in our government. I didn’t think they’d lied to us to the extent that they have on weapons of mass destruction, on fourth amendment warrantless wiretapping. And, so these are different times.

TLR: If I had to guess, the average Libertarian Republic reader likely favors Hornberger at this point. Why, in your view, are you a better option? And what are his strengths and weaknesses compared to yours?

LC: Well, I’m a new Libertarian, so I know that there’s going to be natural apprehension about someone that comes in new to the party. And many of the other candidates running have been very active in the party for a long time. And I respect that. And there’s a long path to the convention at the end of May in Austin. And we’re all putting our ideas out there and I’ll be… I’ve always worked hard for… I’ve always been out-spent in all my political campaigns but I’ve never been outworked, and I don’t think this will be any different. And I’ll give it my best shot. And I know my strong points for Libertarians are anti-war, anti-deficit, pro-personal liberties, and that I will always tell the truth, and I’ll take that to the delegates.

TLR: Regardless of how necessary taxation may be, do you believe that taxation is theft?

LC: Its theft when it goes to an endless war that is counterproductive to American best interests. I certainly believe that. And that is what’s happening. And that’s the, that’s the lion’s share of our tax dollars right now. Look at the pieces of the pie of the federal budget. Look at that Defense Department. Andty, they’re counterproductive. They’re not in our best interest, all those dollars going into these wars that don’t help our children’s future, in my view.

TLR: So similar to Tulsi’s answer, um…

On a lighter note, do you know what they call a quarter-pounder with cheese in France?

LC: Sorry, Gary?

TLR: Just, you know, light-hearted metric humor. All right. Um, thanks for talking with me. I really appreciate it. And I wish you the best of luck.

LC: You’re very welcome. Good to talk with you.

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