Meet Republican Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson: Nullificationist Who Opposes Child Labor Laws

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"Meet Republican Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson: Nullificationist Who Opposes Child Labor Laws"

ThinkProgress filed this report from West Palm Beach, FL.

The newest entrant in the Republican presidential field is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Johnson, a libertarian-oriented Republican best known for supporting marijuana legalization, surprised many critics with his third place finish in the February CPAC straw poll.

ThinkProgress spoke with Johnson after a stop in West Palm Beach, Florida last week. In a wide-ranging conversation, Johnson endorsed the nullification movement — a radical view pushed by right-wing pseudo-historian Thomas Woods that states can invalidate federal laws which they don’t like — calling it “terrific.” When asked a simple question on whether or not it’s constitutional for states to nullify federal laws (hint: it’s not), Johnson was unable to muster even a rudimentary defense, conceding instead that “that is a criticism.” Unperturbed, Johnson called nullification “a formula for righting all our wrongs”:

KEYES: I know a lot of states have been taking up these nullification bills.

JOHNSON: Yeah, which is terrific. Which is just terrific. I just think the whole notion, that’s another way to drive this exact point.

KEYES: I take it you’re in favor of this nullification movement?

JOHNSON: Yes, yes.

KEYES: I know a lot of critics have said, “well, you know, it’s questionably constitutional.” What would you say to those critics?

JOHNSON: I think that is a criticism, but that that initiative, that these initiatives are getting launched, nullification is getting launched. I think people become more aware as a result of the nullification movement and the rights that states do have. This is really a formula, and it just gets back to the Constitution. It really is a formula for righting all our wrongs.

Watch it:

Later, the conversation turned to child labor laws and Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) declaration that child labor laws are unconstitutional. Johnson argued against child labor laws because, as he asked rhetorically, “I use the example of the kid fixing your computer for a couple dollars an hour, is that taking advantage of a child or is that giving a child a real motivation and an understanding of earning money and providing a good or a service?” He noted that if child labor laws were just “loosened up,” you’d see more “10 year-olds or 13 year-olds” working for wages “in a good way”:

KEYES: Do you think it’s overreach or do you think it’s fair game to say, for instance, Mike Lee said that child labor laws are probably unconstitutional?

JOHNSON: Back to unconstitutional. I think there are a lot of kids today, let’s say 13 year-olds, 10 year-olds, that have better knowledge of computers than a 70 year-old. And because of our child labor laws, you can’t pay one of those 10 year-olds, 13 year-olds for a few dollars an hour to help out the 70 year-old with their computer, their computer problems, which might exist if we didn’t have child labor laws.

KEYES: So it might be better to rein in some of those child labor laws, if I’m hearing you correctly?

JOHNSON: Well, by rein in, the unintended consequence of child labor laws is that we don’t have the entrepreneurial sense with our kids that perhaps existed when I was a 13 year-old, pitching papers and mowing lawns. If there weren’t any child labor laws and you could pay, I use the example of the kid fixing your computer for a couple dollars an hour, is that taking advantage of a child or is that giving a child a real motivation and an understanding of earning money and providing a good or a service? And then on the other side of that, besides child labor laws, there’s the whole notion of you retire and you can’t go back to work for the 75 year-old or the 80 year-old who still has contributions to make.

KEYES: And bills to pay, certainly.

JOHNSON: And bills to pay. But if all these labor laws were loosened up, you’d have that phenomenon that exists, in a good way.

Watch it:

Ian Millhiser has more on the nullification movement and the widening Republican war on child labor laws.

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