Libertarian Party presidential candidate nominee Jo Jorgensen visited Ketchikan on Monday as part of a four-day whirlwind visit to Alaska.
Following events Saturday and Sunday in Anchorage and Wasilla, respectively, Jorgensen, who resides in South Carolina where she’s a senior lecturer in psychology at Clemson University, had a roundtable discussion with Ketchikan marijuana and beverage industry representatives at the Stoney Moose, a meet-and-greet event at the Bar Harbor Ale House, and a town hall at the American Legion Post #3.
Jorgensen, along with the Libertarian’s vice-president nominee Jeremy “Spike” Cohen, will appear on the 2020 presidential ballot in at least 49 states and the District of Columbia. She’s been battling to be included in presidential polling and is engaged in a “Let her speak” campaign to appear in whatever upcoming presidential debates will be scheduled.
She was asked during the town hall what her “come back” would be to President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden when they talk themselves up as being “great and wonderful.”
“I guess I would tell them that I've got a PhD in psychology and ask them if they've ever heard of delusional personality disorder, and see what they have to say,” Jorgensen said. “They can say all they want, but they're going to have to show some facts.”
Jorgensen said she “completely understands” why people voted for Trump in 2016.
“They wanted an outsider,” she said, noting that she had predicted a Trump win and that the polls got it wrong because they didn’t include people who had never voted or hadn’t voted in decades.
But although voters thought they were getting a businessman who knew how to cut spending and balance a budget, Jorgensen said Trump turned out to act the same as a professional politician.
“So I would say everybody who voted for Trump last time, I’m the real outsider,” she said. “So what you thought you were getting with Trump, you would get with me.”
The Libertarian Party platform is big on individual freedom, economic liberty and free markets, and limited government that doesn’t incur debt or get entangled in foreign aid or military actions.
In that regards, the U.S. military should be a well-armed, well-trained defensive force.
“If I’m elected president, my first official act will be to bring the troops back home and turn America into one giant Switzerland, armed and neutral,” Jorgensen said. “We absolutely have to be armed. We have to be well trained so that we can protect our shores.”
That includes maintaining bases in Alaska and other states, but not overseas, according to Jorgensen.
“There’s no reason why we should be supporting France and Germany,” she said, also noting the Middle East.
Jorgensen said there are soldiers currently deployed who weren’t even born when the “War of Terror” began, and that political candidates have promised more peace in every election since then, “but what they give us is more war.”
She thanked everyone who has served in the U.S. armed services.
“I really appreciate it,” she said. “And I know that everybody joined the military with the idea of serving our country, as opposed to being put in some situations that they should not have been put in.”
She opened her remarks at the veterans town hall with a focus on health care, saying that health care is something of great importance to veterans and the rest of the nation.
“And I think that getting the system going for veterans would actually helped the country. So right now our health care system isn't working for anyone.
“For decades, the politicians in Washington have been telling us that it's the fault of the free market, and that's why we need a single-payer system,” she said. “But here's the thing, we haven't had a (free market) system in nearly a century.”
Jorgensen said she equates “Medicare for all” with a “VA hospital for all,” which isn’t a positive comparison in her view.
“As we've seen, this top-down monopoly isn't good enough for anyone, let alone people willing to risk their lives for our country,” she said.
The biggest problem with the American health care system is that insurance is geared to pay for every medical expense rather than just unexpected costs, according to Jorgensen. That leaves little or no incentive for price competition among health care providers or service shopping by health care consumers.
“Imagine what it would be like if your car insurance pays for gas, oil and car washes,” Jorgensen said. First of all, you would have absolutely no incentive to drive around and look for the lowest price gas. In fact, you'd probably just pick the closest gas station or maybe the one that gives you a free coffee while you wait. And it doesn't matter to you because you just pull out your little $5 co-pay card and pay it and not even know what the real price is.
“Consequently, there's no incentive for gas stations to lower their prices because they would typically pass on any costs to the car insurance companies,” she continued. “This is exactly the way our health care system is working now. Patients have no reason to shop around for the best prices and health care providers don't have any reason to compete because they simply pass their prices onto the health insurance companies, without any accountability, and we’re the ones left footing the bill.”
Her solution is a free-market system in which providers compete to provide services. She cited Indiana, where, she said, where the state government gives health care dollars directly to its workers, who go out and shop for the best prices for health care, and health insurance itself is just for catastrophic care.
Jorgensen said one change wrought by that system was the precentage of generic drugs used went from about 10% to 90%.
“They (health care consumers) were glad to do it because they got to keep up the savings, and that's the way it should be,” Jorgensen said If you shop around for a car, then if you get savings— you know, if you find one dealership, ‘We'll sell you the same car for 800 bucks less than another dealership will,' — you get to keep the $800. And that's the way it should be in health care.”
She said she would be interested in using this type of system for veterans and enrollees of Medicare and Medicaid, letting them shop prices and deciding where and when to use their health care money.
In addition to not liking top-down monopolies in health care, Jorgensen doesn’t care for top-down federal mandates is other areas, such as education.
“Education is a local issue — it should be decided among parents, teachers and the students,” Jorgensen said in an interview with local media after her town hall remarks. “The needs of those in rural Appalachia are much different than the needs in downtown New York City or anywhere in Alaska. And the federal government shouldn't be trying to fit a one-size-fits-all for everyone. And I think this is just horrible, that, for instance, President Trump is saying, ‘Well, you need to go back to school.’ Well, all around the country, we've got different (COVID-19) rates, we've got different populations, we've got different everything. ... and the government really needs to just butt out of local issues like that.”
She used education as an example of why U.S. society is polarized at present.
“Why are we at odds with each other? — I would suggest it's because every decision has to go through the government,’ she said. “So if I want my kid to go to a school prayer and my neighbor doesn't, we have to fight that out. We've got to each support our own candidate. You donate money to that candidate, put out yard signs, recruit friends to vote for our candidate. And then on election day, one of us is going to lose.
However, if parents can keep their resources and direct them to meet their individual preferences, “I can send (my kid to a) school with prayer and my neighbor can send his kid to school without prayer,” according to Jorgensen.
“If we have to get together and agree on everything — education, health care or retirement, it's no wonder we're battling,” she said.
During the town hall, Jorgensen was asked about the large percentage of land owned by the federal government in Southeast Alaska and western states. How would she manage that?
“Sell it,” she said. “ Sell it to the highest bidder, whether that be the State of Alaska or conservatory companies.”
Jorgensen said she finds it “really tragic” that somehow people think that the government is the best steward for the environment.
“The Department of Defense (is the) largest polluter on the face of this earth, which is why it's kind of ironic that the socialist party is going to government to solve the problem, when the government is causing the problem,” she said.
On other topics, Jorgensen spoke against government subsidies for oil or any other types of energy sources, saying that she would “just level the playing field and say, ‘nobody gets any subsidies,’ and let’s have the free market figure out which way is best.”
As to whether the Libertarian Party’s message is getting out and attracting new supporters, Jorgensen said about 75% of the campaign’s volunteers are from outside the party. She said she didn’t have the statistics, but, in general, “we draw equally from Democrats and Republicans, but most of the voters come from either independents or people who've never voted.”
In the past, much of the support has come from people with long-held Libertarian views, and campaigns have started small circles of friends and family, and built from there.
Now, “we have all these outsiders coming in and saying, ‘We’ve got to get something different,” she said. “... Now we're hearing people say, ‘I just want Jo to be president. I don’t want the other two guys.’ So it's much different attitude. We’ll see how it works at the ballot box.”
Exposure remains an issue, Jorgensen said she needs to hit the 15% mark in polls in order to be considered for the presidential debates, but her name hasn’t appeared on recent polls.
In August, Jorgensen made a 20-city “Real Change for Real People” bus tour in some of the southern states before her Alaska visit, which had been postponed by the death of her mother. Jorgensen planned to travel from Ketchikan on Monday evening to Juneau, where she planned to participate in the pick-up hockey game at Treadwell Arena and attend a meet-and-greet at Lena Beach.
Jorgensen said she was enjoying the Alaska scenery and the informal hospitality of the people here.
“I love it. If it weren’t so darned cold, I would move up here,” she said. “One thing that I really like about Alaska is how informal everybody is — everybody is so down to earth, so nice, so informal.”
Jorgensen said that when she went to Colorado for the first time, she was disappointed by the mountains there.
“I thought they were going to look like the mountains here,” she said. “So I finally get to see what I thought mountains should look like.”