A LIBERTARIAN RESPONSE TO THE STATE OF OF THE UNION FROM CHASE OLIVER
Good Evening. I’m Chase Oliver. Last November, my US Senate campaign in Georgia made national news and afforded me a platform to discuss with a wide audience the burning need for real change in our approach to national politics. Listening to the State of the Union address tonight, as well as the Republican response, the need for that change has seldom felt more powerful and pressing.
Tonight, America was presented with an octogenarian president and a spokesperson for the prior octogenarian president each regurgitating the same tired and trite partisan talking points. These addresses are supposed to offer us two competing visions for what our nation could become. However, I only heard one vision tonight – that of a stale and stagnant status quo that only promises us the same unproductive and unending partisan polarization in which so many feel so trapped, unrepresented, and underserved. Most Americans already sadly know this song and dance by heart.
Many of us also know how empty and distant from the daily problems that real people confront that partisan rhetoric is.
Two months ago, I announced that I was forming an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian Party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Since then, I’ve been traveling the country and meeting not just with Libertarians, but with Independents, disaffected Democrats and Republicans, members of minor parties, and many who feel represented by no one at all. In other words, everyday people.
And I’ve got news for the President, many of them are struggling to get by. They are struggling with inflation and mounting personal debt, with a criminal justice system so broken that we lead the free world in incarceration, with graphic videos of unbridled police violence that have become a near daily fixture. They are struggling with friends and family who bear the scars, seen and unseen, of foreign wars, and with growing fear that a new war may yet be on the horizon. Many still grapple with the financial and mental health repercussions of heavy-handed COVID lockdowns and mandates, while women and the transgender community in many states are now confronting the fresh trauma of finding their healthcare autonomy under direct assault by their own governors and state legislatures.
And yet, the President stood tonight on an elevated dais surrounded by those most responsible for those struggles and proclaimed that the state of our union is strong. Well, I say this: though the spirit and determination of everyday individuals remains an inspiration to me, under such governance as this, the state of our union has seldom been more in peril.
This administration has presided over the highest rate of increase in consumer prices in 40 years, robbing many of the value of their long-time savings and jeopardizing the ability to make basic ends meet for the most vulnerable among us. The last time inflation was this out of control, The President had already been a United States Senator for nearly a decade. For me, like most of you, this is the worst period of inflation in my lifetime. Like most Americans, I feel the pinch of inflation when I’m buying my groceries or putting gas in my car. The policy makers in DC have lost touch with you, and this is why the President downplayed inflation in his address tonight.
We need to restore prosperity by reducing inflation and stabilizing the purchasing power of the dollar. The government must stop printing money out of thin air to pay for increasingly unsustainable spending and relax regulations on business to create more jobs while increasing supply to meet demand.
And let’s be clear that the current level of government spending is unsustainable. This administration spent nearly $6.5 trillion in fiscal year 2022 and has already spent $1.45 trillion in fiscal year 2023, adding to a national debt that is already more than $31 trillion and climbing. The national debt is now approaching a quarter million dollars per taxpayer.
The runaway spending must be reduced. Moreover, our government should have to live by the same simple practice as every individual and household does, balancing their budget to make ends meet.
To help individuals make those ends meet, we must boldly reevaluate, simplify, and modernize our system of federal revenue collection. The current system of forcing individuals to bury themselves annually in mountains of complex and easy to mess up tax forms is onerous, opaque, inefficient, and expensive. The President tonight talked about junk fees. The biggest junk fee paid by most Americans is their taxes. We must be open to exploring new options and ideas, including the wholesale elimination of the income tax. And whatever, if anything, replaces it must represent an overall reduction of the individual tax burden in order to provide families and individual wage earners with much needed relief. With everyday prices continuing to rise, and many Americans crippled by the increase in costs, citizens need and deserve more of their hard earned income back in their pockets.
As much as our government owes it to its citizens to reduce the fiscal costs it imposes on us, it bears even more responsibility to limit the human cost – and there is no greater human cost than war. My generation has known practically nothing in our lifetimes but a nation at war, and once again it seems the grim drumbeats are beginning to grow.
Make no mistake, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a naked, unjustified, brutal war of aggression. Every voice of peace should sound in unison its condemnation of his violation of that peace. Every voice of liberty should rise in outrage at Putin’s senseless and violent war that affects the lives of millions of Ukrainians and Russians alike.
Many individuals have rightly rallied to the support of the brave Ukrainians defending their homes and their lives, but to maintain peace both at home and abroad, the policy of our government must be for that support to be voluntary. No form of charity, however noble its intent, should ever be coerced.
We must end foreign and military aid, and at the same time remove impediments to private aid, including private arms sales. We must allow US citizens who wish to travel to Ukraine to aid them in their struggle to do so unfettered, and we must open our doors wide to any and all refugees seeking to make a peaceful life for themselves outside of the warzone so that they may do so here. Throughout history, the United States has been looked to as a beacon of hope and liberty. It is time for us to live up to that ideal. Allowing people to escape warzones and seek peace is the fulfillment of that promise. Finally, we must end selective service, so that in the event this nation fails to avoid a future war, our government at a minimum cannot forcibly condemn to the battlefield those who do not wish to fight.
Unfortunately, we have learned by painful experience in this country, not all wars are foreign wars. For the past 50 years, the War on Drugs has been waged cruelly and utterly unsuccessfully in our own towns, streets, and homes. Legalizing Cannabis would help the mental health crisis, the opioid crisis, and many other things that the President listed, not more government intervention and laws. The war on Drugs is a war of aggression – one waged by government at all levels, federal, state, local, against the most vulnerable among us through a weaponized criminal justice system. The abuses and brutality meted out at the hands of police, often captured in chilling video, have become a too-frequent fixture of a system that cultivates such abuse.
Tyre Nichols should still be alive today, let us take a moment here to honor his memory.
I vehemently condemn the way police violence that ended his life – as well as the 1994 crime bill that has contributed to the aggressive militarization of police. Our current President supported that bill. We need a dramatically new approach to policing– reform isn’t enough. When a foundation is as broken as this, a structure must be dismantled and a new foundation laid. The militarization of police, in terms of both equipment and training, has time and again manifested in deadly outcomes for the innocent. It is imperative that we stop criminalizing victimless acts, demilitarize police forces, and end qualified immunity so that officers of the law who violate their oath to protect and serve the citizens of their communities can be held accountable for rights they violate and the lives they destroy. And officers of the law and other agents of the state should be privately insured so that the burden of damages awarded to their victims doesn’t fall to the taxpayer and violations will price them out of continuing in the positions they have abused. This will get bad cops off the street.
I recognize the intrinsic right of all people to defend themselves. This includes the right of all Americans to keep and bear arms. This right is a natural and inherent right. It does not belong to the government to grant or take away at will, and attempting to do so by criminalizing the exercise of that right is an act that leaves the most vulnerable amongst us needlessly prone to victimization and abuse. Armed people are harder at attack and harder to oppress – it’s easier to stop a violent shooter if you are armed yourself.
Unfortunately, far from standing down on the over-criminalization of our society, many states in recent years have pursued precisely the opposite policy, particularly with regards to deeply personal medical decisions and procedures. Beginning with the pandemic, governors and legislatures across the country asserted greatly expanded and unjustified authority to mandate the behaviors and medical choices of their citizens as regards masking and vaccination. Many rightly resisted these mandates, regardless of the personal medical choices they wished to make for themselves, because our bodies are not government property
Now, the same broad intrusion into individual healthcare is being leveraged to attack women’s abortion rights in the wake of Dobbs, and to erode the access of trans men and women to gender affirming care. In both of these instances, the care being limited or banned to appease political interests can be lifesaving in its nature. Depriving citizens access to lifesaving care is not just wrong, but inhumane. It is the worst reflection of the human cost of failing to break free of old dogmas and find a bold, new direction forward.
Government intervention into healthcare markets has not only deprived citizens of treatment options, but also dramatically increased the cost of care, too often leaving the most vulnerable either unable to seek care at all or feeling trapped in the low-end jobs to which their healthcare is tied. We need to reduce cost by reducing regulation in healthcare and promoting market-based alternatives like the Direct Primary Care model as an alternative to employer-provided insurance. We also need to radically reform and streamline the process that brings drugs to market. This includes pharmaceuticals like insulin. While there is a $35 a month “price cap” on insulin for medicare, this like most government “solutions” is merely smoke and mirrors. This doesn’t actually cap the price, it shifts the costs around making it harder to see. It also does nothing to address the millions of consumers who need insulin who aren’t on Medicare or Medicaid. Only market based solutions can achieve the goal of actually lowering drug costs.
And a bold, new direction marked by bold, new ideas is what’s required to make real progress outside of the healthcare market as well. Our current, broken political system riddled with power-brokering, out of control interest groups, and cumbersome bureaucracy has proven itself incapable of addressing the problems of the present, let alone the future. Yet I believe that with the innovation unlocked by freeing individuals and markets, no problem is intractable.
That is why I support ending the Department of Education and returning federal education spending back to the states to act as incubators for innovative new approaches to educational choice that will empower students to succeed and grow into the independent adults who will build that future. If we want to have the best-educated workforce, let’s unlock the real potential of our education system by breaking the stale public monopoly and introducing real school choice. We must also get the government out of the student loan business so that the cost of higher education can return to a stable and attainable level.
It is innovation and growth that I believe will solve another of the problems our current political system finds intractable – the environment. The main approaches that have emerged from the current stale environmental debate seem to be equally foolish and implausible – either bury our heads in the sand and hope the problem disappears, or return to a pre-industrial lifestyle. Like so many of the options presented by the old political establishment, this is a false choice. As technological free market economies have become more advanced and more robust, they have consistently also become cleaner, greener, less reliant on CO2-producing energy sources, and less dependent on high-pollution manufacturing. Both directly and indirectly, the environmental challenges we face must be solved through economic progress, not regression.
Perhaps, though, the single problem our current system is least suited to address is itself. In a recent Gallup poll, 21% of Americans identified the government itself as the most important problem facing the country – more than any other issue. Almost everything about the lives of the average person has changed radically and rapidly over a relatively short period of time – from how we communicate, work, relax, to the media we consume, the products we buy, and the way we invest in and provide for our futures. Yet we still elect political representatives using the same 18th century election techniques.
I made the corrupt, inefficient, and unrepresentative election process a cornerstone of my Senate campaign in Georgia. In my debate with Senator Warnock, his only solution to prevent a runoff was “vote for me”. I instead offered a solution that would have removed the expense of runoffs, kept our elections responsive to the will of the voters, and ensured that the winner of an election wins over 50% of the vote. This would have saved the Georgia taxpayers an estimated 75 million dollars in runoff costs and should be implemented in future elections in Georgia and across the nation.
This country has a desperate need to adopt modern, advanced, representative voting techniques – like ranked-choice, approval, or STAR voting. Americans deserve a fair and open chance to have their voices heard and true preferences expressed. And I support as well an end to onerous, draconian, barriers to ballot access which are so often weaponized to protect the two establishment options that more and more Americans find deeply unsatisfactory.
As a country, our greatest challenges and most inspiring triumphs no doubt still lie ahead of us. We cannot continue to look to figures of the past to lead us into that future. A stale system, led by stale politicians will never bring about the innovation, energy, and creativity necessary. It is time for our future to be shaped by those who must live the longest with its consequences – for power to pass to a new generation of American leadership. I believe we can bring that about.
My life has not always been an easy one. I have seen people struggle and suffer, but I have also seen people thrive and succeed. I have seen the love that binds families and communities and the energy that moves them to action in time of need. I believe in what we can voluntarily accomplish together, precisely because I have seen it, I have lived it, and I feel grateful every day for the people who bring that into my life and the lives of others. Thank you and may God bless and bring unity, peace, and liberty to all.