Bob Barr says the Republican Party has lost its way.
The Libertarian presidential candidate and former member of Congress is fed up with the party he once aligned himself with.
"I believe in liberty and smaller government—principles the Republican Party used to stand by and practice," Barr says. "Now it's become even more big government-oriented than the Democratic Party."
The former CIA employee speaks quickly and forcefully about his plans to lower taxes and limit the role of government.
As president, Barr says he would slash the federal budget. He would cut funding for social safety net programs like welfare, Medicare and Social Security. He says he would also reduce military and education spending.
For Barr, the less influence the federal government has on the lives of its citizens, the better. He would pass along the savings from a shrunken federal government to every taxpayer. "All Americans are paying too much because their government is spending too much," Barr says. "I believe in a much fairer, much less complex and cumbersome tax system."
I believe in liberty and smaller government—principles the Republican Party used to stand by and practice. Now it's become even more big government-oriented than the Democratic Party.
Presidential candidate Bob Barr
Barr would like to institute a national "consumption tax," which would be applied to goods and services much like a sales tax.
The former congressman from Georgia sees problems with both major party presidential candidates' tax proposals. He's against the corporate subsidies Sen. John McCain supports, and he's especially critical of Sen. Barack Obama's call to increase taxes on high-income Americans. "I don't play class envy games like Sen. Obama," Barr say. "He would reduce taxes for most, but increase them for those who are most productive in economic terms."
Barr says the federal government should leave it up to the states to determine which drugs it chooses to make illegal. He takes the same stance on whether abortion should be against the law. "That's a matter for the states to decide," Barr says.
Barr authored and sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed in 1996. The law says only marriages between men and women can be federally recognized. He has since changed his view and says states should decide whether to allow same-sex marriages.
“We need to go after terrorists who are trying to do us harm. But I don't think it's a matter of sending more troops.”
Presidential candidate Bob Barr
The turmoil created by the demise of financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch is a serious concern for Barr. But he is opposed to the billion-dollar bailouts issued by the Federal Reserve. Obama and McCain have said the bailouts are unfortunate but necessary to keep the American economy as strong as possible. Barr says he doesn't think the Fed should have the authority to give out large sums of taxpayer dollars; especially since its members are not elected by the populous.
"The Federal Reserve Bank is unaccountable to the American people," Barr says. "I have serious questions about the constitutional and legal authority of the Reserve to issue these seemingly arbitrary bailouts of selected industries."
Both Obama and McCain have also pushed for greater regulation on Wall Street—something Barr is against.
Barr heaps criticism on Obama and McCain for their support of warrantless wiretapping. He says he would keep government surveillance of its citizens to a bare minimum. "Certainly, the government must be able to confront crime and terrorism," Barr says on his campaign website. "But its powers must be limited to those truly necessary to protect Americans and which are consistent with the Constitution."
America's foreign presence needs to shrink, according to Barr. He's advocated a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and says he would probably not support sending more military forces to Afghanistan—something Obama and McCain have said they would push for. "We need to go after terrorists who are trying to do us harm," Barr says. "But I don't think it's a matter of sending more troops."
Another way Barr would reduce military spending is to get American troops out of nations they have no business being in, he says. "We maintain tens of thousands of troops overseas in countries perfectly capable of defending themselves," Barr says. "We need more focused military operations."
The conventional wisdom is that Libertarian presidential candidates tend to attract more conservative voters to their campaigns. Some political pundits have voiced speculation that Barr could steal votes from McCain. If that's the case, Barr says, it's not his problem. "If Sen. McCain is worried about losing votes, he should do a better job of gaining votes," he says.
When the dust settles, Barr contends he will have attracted voters from both sides of the political spectrum. "I think we'll have gained votes from people who were not inclined to vote for McCain or Obama," Barr says. "We're also attracting young voters who are not wed to the status quo parties like their parents."
Barr says he knows he and all other third-party candidates are at a financial disadvantage compared with the major party nominees. He's also frustrated he hasn't been allowed to participate in the presidential debates. Even so, Barr remains upbeat. “We're polling in double digits in some states, and I'm doing better than any Libertarian candidate has done," he says. The most successful Libertarian presidential candidate was Ed Clark, who ran in 1980. He pulled in slightly more than 1 percent of the vote. Many polls show Barr winning 2 percent or more. “It’s a long shot,” he says. “No doubt about it.”
Barr would significantly reduce taxes for everyone, which, he argues, will mean more money in people's pockets. According to Barr, the best way to improve the economy is to keep government out of its way, allowing for the market forces inherent in capitalism to ensure economic prosperity.
Barr says troops should withdraw from Iraq as quickly as possible. "A continued U.S. presence in Iraq emboldens both insurgents and terrorists, and discourages the Iraqi government from taking control of promoting peace and prosperity in Iraq," Barr says on his website.
Barr is not in favor of government subsidies to oil companies and is also opposed to hitting them with a windfall profits tax. "The free market, driven by consumer choice and reflecting the real cost of resources, should be the foundation of America’s energy policy," Barr says on his website. He would also allow drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Barr would reduce government regulations on the health care industry, he says, thereby reducing the cost of care. He would reduce government spending on Medicare and Medicaid and transfer the savings to Americans in the form of tax cuts. Barr says the free market operating with a minimum of government interference will provide cheaper, better health care for all.