American Watchmen: Interview with U.S. Senate Candidate Austin Petersen
American Watchmen Contributor John Tuttle recently had the opportunity to sit down and interview US Senate Candidate Austin Petersen. Petersen previously had ran as a candidate for President in the Libertarian Party’s 2016 Presidential Primary before switching to the Republican Party in 2017 to run for Senate in Missouri.
John: “Hey, Austin. Thanks for being willing to take some time out of your schedule to answer a few questions for the American Watchmen. The following are just some generalized inquiries.
For starters, you have had a great deal of experience working in the media, particularly as a writer. And you obviously recognize the importance of the media in your current line of work. But what really made you transition from the media field to the political arena?”
Austin: “I was concerned about the lack of leadership in the liberty movement. There were very few credible public leaders who were able to rally supporters and defend free market principles to a hostile media and political establishment. It’s one thing to be able to understand economics, but it’s another to be able to communicate them to an audience unfamiliar with the concepts, particularly in a way that doesn’t appear cold hearted. I decided to run because I felt I had the capability to convince more people that economic freedom and personal liberty is the best path forward for American prosperity.”
John: “Earlier this year, some light was shed upon the fact that the social media platform Facebook banned you for 30 days because you posted about an AR-15 giveaway associated with your campaign. Of course, we all know that much violently and sexually graphic imagery, as well as hate speech, is permitted on the Facebook platform. Discussions of the past year or so have brought Facebook’s nonregulation of “fake news” into question. What do you think social media’s role and responsibility should be in the case of content monitoring?”
Austin: “I don’t see that social media platforms which rely on voluntary participation from their communities have any legal responsibility to monitor their content. They may have a moral responsibility, but that should be determined by their own user communities giving them the type of feedback that’s necessary to create a superior product.
Unfortunately, as soon as any company gets big enough, government regulators start seeing dollar signs and any public outrage will necessarily cause politicians to grandstand and demand accountability based on laws that they’ll frequently misinterpret, or new laws that they’ll create. It’s not the social media entities which have the responsibility to monitor the content, it’s the users. Individuals need to be responsible for vetting and ensuring factual accuracy of the content they consume.”
John: “As a man who knows drug abuse to be a serious medical condition, do you know anybody personally who struggles with abuse?”
Austin: “I knew someone, unfortunately they passed away last summer from an overdose. Because the war on drugs has driven users underground, we can’t know what dangerous chemicals these drugs are laced with. Because of the criminality of drugs, and there being no clear way to establish quality standards, people suffer, and people die. People should absolutely be personally responsible, but one of the biggest problems of drug abuse are a direct result of their criminalization. More government is the problem, not the solution.”
John: “How did you know the person who passed away?”
Austin: “They were a friend of mine from DC.”
John: “Do you feel the need for the construction of a wall on the border as envisioned by President Trump?”
Austin: “The question should really be asked if I support a massive FDR-style redistribution of wealth project so we can raise spending, raise taxes, and steal land from Republicans in Texas. No, I do not.
Infrastructure that doesn’t actually improve our lives and needs constant maintenance and doesn’t take into account the fact we have airplanes and oceans to skirt around it aren’t going to solve the problem. The real problem is one of economics, and economics is about incentives. We’re incentivizing people to break the law with our current system. We can’t have open borders and a welfare state, true, but the welfare state is the problem. End the welfare and the handouts, and then the only people that are incentivized to come are those who contribute to the economy.
Otherwise, we do need a vetting system that takes into account security and disease concerns. That should be something like a TSA pre-check, or like a new Ellis Island. If you’re not a security or disease risk, and go through the pre-check, you can begin the path to naturalization. If you don’t, and you want to try to come in another way, then border security should be able to handle the rest. Reagan would not be happy with this proposal, and I’m from the Reagan/Goldwater wing of the GOP.”
John: “Do you think self-employment mixed with hard work is essential to the American Dream? Why or why not?”
Austin: “I do think entrepreneurship is really a key part of the American dream, and I am upset with how Obamacare is destroying that. It’s becoming impossible for small businesses to be able to self-insure with so many companies pulling out of the individual insurance market. I think healthcare reform with free market principles in mind would go a long way in ensuring that more people have the options to get out of their jobs and spur innovation to create their own businesses.”
John: “What ideals do you think the U.S. military would currently be able to benefit from?”
Austin: “It’s our politicians who need better ideals, not our military. The purpose of the military should be for the nation’s defense. Trying to use our military as pawns to enforce diplomatic protocols, nation-building, and prolonged occupations turn our offensive forces into something like U.N. Peacekeepers – and we are paying for those soldiers as well.
The politicians who abuse our service members by sending them off to fight and die without just cause ought to take a lesson from the old remnant of the GOP, as well as the Founding Fathers, who advocated for a humble, non-interventionist foreign policy that truly put America first.”
John: “In regards to international happenings, what are some of your biggest concerns over the tense current U.S. relations with North Korea and the possible outcome?”
Austin: “My concerns are that our intelligence agencies are so fixated on the policing of the world in regions not connected to our national security, that they’re too distracted to focus on real threats to our national security like North Korea. This is a brutal regime, and it should be watched like a hawk to ensure they do not launch an attack that puts lives in jeopardy. I’m concerned we’re so overstretched around the world that we’re not focused on real threats.”
John: “Refocusing back on the homefront, could you go into detail on your proposed 15% flat tax?”
Austin: “Sure. I propose we cut individual and corporate rates so they can be paid simply and with minimum fuss. Let’s take tax season and turn it into tax 2 minutes. A flat rate would broaden the tax base, but people would be paying lower rates overall. It would make it so that everyone had some skin in the game, and more people would be aware of how we’re getting ripped off by the IRS and the politicians.
Every year Americans spend roughly nine billion hours and $400 billion collectively complying with the tax code. That’s nuts. It’s also a huge drag on our economy. If we simplified the tax code, you’d get higher compliance and less people worrying about whether or not they’re breaking the law simply by filing their taxes incorrectly.”
John: “As far as taxpayers are concerned, what sort of unnecessary costs do you think the Federal Government could most cut back on?”
Austin: “Pretty much everything. I’d like to see the Congress pass the Penny Plan alongside a balanced budget amendment. We shouldn’t be spending more than we take in. Let’s cut every single federal program across the board by 1% to start, until we get to a balanced budget. The Penny Plan would make it so that every federal program gets a penny out of every dollar removed. I also like the idea of zero-based budgeting, where programs don’t start fully funded, but have to justify their budgets every year so we can see which programs are actually deserved of the funding they get.”
John: “Lastly, in your professional opinion, what do you believe is the biggest threat to the U.S. society at the moment?”
Austin: “Honestly? Economic illiteracy, as well as the desire to force others to pay for what you believe is correct. The prevailing progressive attitude that infects both Republicans and Democrats is that everything they like should be subsidized, and everything they don’t like should be banned. Here’s a thought: maybe try leaving people alone; follow the golden rule; do unto others. Radical stuff, I know.”