Home 2019 Elections Grading 2017 VA GOV Libertarian Candidate Cliff Hyra

Grading 2017 VA GOV Libertarian Candidate Cliff Hyra


How does the Libertarian Party’s 2017 Virginia gubernatorial nominee Cliff Hyra stack up from a progressive, environmentalist perspective? Let’s check out his website and other sources, including the Virginia Libertarian Party platform and see (note: my comments in green). Also, for the record, I’m all for including Hyra in gubernatorial debates.

  • On Dominion’s proposed fracked gas pipelines, Hyra writes, “I oppose the taking of private land by the federal government for the benefit of private companies such as Dominion. I would ensure that the environmental review is conducted fairly and thoroughly, according to the law, without any favoritism shown to Dominion because of its size or perceived political clout.  Virginia’s excellent eminent domain reforms need to be enshrined in the state Constitution to avoid backtracking from future legislatures.”  I like this as far as it goes, but the focus here is far too much on “the taking of private land” – a problem, no doubt – while ignoring the enormous environmental problems associated with building massive new fossil fuel infrastructure. Also, I’d like to see an understanding that the way to go is NOT natural gas as a so-called “bridge” fuel (actually, it’s a “bridge to nowhere”) but on the cleanest (by far) and increasingly cheapest forms of energy – efficiency, solar, wind, etc. I’d also like to see some understanding of the importance, including from a libertarian perspective, of distributed power generation. Since I don’t see any of that here, I’ll give Hyra a “C+” grade for going as far as he has, but for not including everything I’ve mentioned above.
  • “Ensure full liability for individuals and corporations; private property rights as a protector of the environment”: Libertarians like Hyra have some useful insights here, such as how it “creates a moral hazard when individuals are not held accountable but a mythical creature called the corporation.” All in all, though, Libertarians are no friends of environmental protection. For instance, their platform places a huge emphasis on having “[s]trict liability, not government agencies and arbitrary standards, should regulate pollution.” The platform does give a nod, at the very end, to “times when externalities come into the equation and property rights alone cannot solve the issue,” and how “in these cases government intervention may be appropriate.” That’s true as far as it goes, but it’s also an enormous underemphasis on the importance of market failure in properly pricing “negative externalities.” Even worse, the Libertarian platform says completely false stuff like “[g]overnments are the biggest polluters of the environment worldwide.” In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the vast majority of CO2 emissions come from transportation (e.g., cars, trucks, airplanes), the residential sector, the commercial and industrial sectors. So…no, the government’s “creation of the corporation” absolutely does NOT explain the causes of pollution. And the concept that we can protect the environment if we just “free the market,” while “[r]ecognizing and respecting private property rights again,” is frankly just bonkers. Finally, I see no mention at all in the Libertarian Party platform of global warming or many of the other environmental problems we face. So yeah, this is all ideological mumbo jumbo detached from reality. I give Hyra – or at least his party – an “F minus” on this one. Gack.
  • Repeal Certificate of Public Need regulations that deter healthcare innovation”: A bad idea for a whole host of reasons. For more, see here.  Hyra gets an “F” on this one.
  • Exempt first $60,000 of household income from state tax. To avoid massive marriage penalty, allow $30,000 exemption for individuals. Taxable income above that taxed at flat 5.75%”: I’m all for making Virginia’s tax code more progressive than it is now, so I’m all for exempting people making low and/or very modest incomes. However, unlike Hyra, I’d increase the tax rate above 5.75% on those individuals making over, let’s say, $200k per year, which would help fund the reduction in taxes to low-income Virginians. As it is now, Hyra’s proposal is still not progressive enough, nor is it fiscally responsible. So…I’d give him a “C-” on this one.
  • “Encouraging localities to repeal or reduce business-killing ‘meal taxes'”: Yeah, and replace the revenues (which help fund local government – e.g., mostly public schools) with what exactly? I’ll give Hyra a “D,” not an “F” on this one, only because he does say he’d FORCE localities to get rid of “meal taxes.”
  • “Assisting and encourage [sic] localities to streamline and eliminate unnecessary food truck regulations”: As long as they’re really “unnecessary,” fine. Not sure what he means by “assist and encourage,” though. I’ll give him a “C” on this one for now.
  • Privatizing the Virginia ABC: Allow brewers and distillers to sell in non-VABC stores”: I’m not definitively against the idea, but we’d have to replace the revenue these stores produce for Virginia. Also, we need to keep in mind that alcohol causes a lot of problems, so do we really want to make it cheaper and more abundant? I’ll give Hyra a “C” on this one for now, pending further details. 
  • “Allow the purchase of insurance across state lines“: This COULD be ok, perhaps by using health care choice compacts,  but Hyra provides no details. The problems with this popular right-wing talking point, as Kaiser Health News explains, include: 1) “consumers would be attracted to the least comprehensive policies because they would be cheapest — some call it ‘a race to the bottom’; 2) “insurers selling across state lines might market policies to younger, healthier individuals. That could leave the insurance pool with older and sicker individuals, who would face ever-rising rates — or face being turned down — because their insurers would have fewer healthy people to spread risk.”; 3) “fears that consumers dealing with out-of-state companies would have difficulties resolving disputes”; 4) “Republicans and others who created this do not want to create adequate standards for the sale of health care”; 5) “such provisions would erode many state protections, leave policyholders with inadequate coverage and could actually lead to higher premiums for some people.” In short, no thanks. Hyra gets an “F” on this one.
  • On Medicaid expansion, Hyra says “Expansion is forever. It’s almost a poison pill because once you get that expansion it’s really hard to roll it back.” Nope; Virginia should absolutely expand Medicaid, help hundreds of thousands of poor Virginians obtain health care, and take the billions of dollars of federal money, currently going to other states, that come with expansion. Hyra is totally wrong here — “F” grade on this one.
  • “Introduce more competition and choice by expanding charter school program [sic]…Emphasize the importance of education in growing Virginia’s economy, reducing inequality and promoting growth across all of the Commonwealth”: I’m not a fan of charter schools or “school choice” that takes money away from public schools, but I’m all for the other goals Hyra expresses here. Again, though, there are no details, so it’s hard to know how Hyra would do the things he’s calling for.  Hyra a “C-” on this one.
  • Repeal Virginia’s expensive, antiquated Standards of Quality (SoQ) funding formula. Replace SoQ’s with test [sic] at beginning and end of the school year to measure gains”:  SoQ’s won’t be easy to get rid of, as they’re in Virginia’s constitution, but I’d definitely scale back the emphasis on testing, particularly at the expense of teaching students to think creatively. I’ll give Hyra a “B” for at least raising this issue.
  • “Start a program to find budget savings by improving energy efficiency of schools that are in disrepair” Love love love energy efficiency. Personally, I’d go further and set a goal of making every school in Virginia a “net-zero” building from an energy perspective, or as close to “net-zero” as possible. I’ll give Hyra a “B” for at least raising this issue, but I wish he’d go a lot further.
  • “Make arrest quotas illegal: Yep, this is a disgrace. Hyra gets an “A” on this one.
  • End civil asset forfeiture abuse: Require a criminal charge, as well as clear and convincing evidence – the money goes to the general fund and not police”: Absolutely; civil asset forfeiture abuse is a disgrace, unAmerican, unconstitutional, etc. Hyra gets an “A” on this one.
  • “Pardon prisoners in jail only for drug use (after completion of anti-recidivism/treatment programs)”: Absolutely; let’s empty our jails and prisons of non-violent drug offenders, which is a massive waste of money, also discriminatory and just plain stupid. Hyra gets an “A” on this one.
  • “Stop enforcing laws against marijuana possession – legalize marijuana and set it on a level playing field with tobacco and alcohol, thus generating tax revenue”: Agreed; legalize pot and tax it. No brainer. Hyra gets an “A” on this one.
  • “Libertarians support lowering the age to consume alcohol to adults 18 years or older”: I get the argument, but given the risks of drunk driving, I lean against this. I’ll give Hyra a “C” on this one.
  • “He advocates for gun rights and opposes a higher minimum wage as a Republican might, but he also supports abortion rights and marijuana legalization as some Democrats would.” (source: WaPo): Hyra gets an “F” when it comes to guns and an “F” on the higher minimum wage. I’ve already given him an “A” for supporting marijuana legalization. As for Hyra’s stance on abortion, I’d like to hear more details, beyond his vague response here that, “In general, on abortion issues I would defer to the legislature. So the exception to that would be if there’s something that I feel is unconstitutional.” Of course, deferring to the Republican-controlled Virginia legislature on abortion would be a disaster, unless Hyra feels that a lot stuff – mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, “personhood” legislation, etc. – is unconstitutional. For now, I’m giving Hyra a “D” on women’s reproductive freedom based on his “defer to the legislature” comment.
  • “Libertarians support marriage equality…Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices, personal relationships and marry whomever they want regardless of sexual identity, preference, gender.” Good. I’m also happy to hear Hyra defend transgender people in the military and in general (e.g., Hyra has stated, “Transgender people have so much to offer us. Discriminatory policies undermine our efforts to open up Virginia’s economy to innovation and economic growth. Virginia’s military families and LGBT citizens deserve better.”), also against North Carolina’s stupid “bathroom bill.” I’ll give Hyra an “A+” on this one. 
  • Immigration Law Should Reflect Our Dynamic Labor Market:  I agree with some of this stuff, such as “When large numbers of otherwise decent people routinely violate a law, the law itself is probably the problem. To argue that illegal immigration is bad merely because it is illegal avoids the threshold question of whether we should prohibit this kind of immigration in the first place.” I also agree that we should “change our immigration law to more closely conform to how millions of normal people actually live.” What I don’t see here is any discussion of a path to legal status. So…I’ll stick with a “C” grade for now, until I hear more from Hyra himself on this subject.
  • The KKK rally in C-ville/racial discrimination. I strongly agree with Hyra’s statement on this and am reprinting it in full. “This weekend’s KKK rally in Charlottesville is a stark reminder of Virginia’s shamefully racist past, a past that includes violent attacks by the KKK against African American Virginians, all too rarely followed by judicial sanction, ‘Massive Resistance’ by the state government to integration efforts, and explicit legislation taking away the ability of African Americans to vote or to get an education. Unfortunately, this racist legacy lives on into the present day, through a web of abusive criminal justice practices including the continuing disenfranchisement of first time, non-violent offenders who have completed their sentences and all probation, suspension of driver’s licenses for small unpaid fines and minor drug offenses, civil asset forfeiture, subjective and severe sentencing for nonviolent crimes, and the grossly disproportionate jailing of African Americans for marijuana use. All Virginians should send a message that the KKK is not welcome here, that modern day Virginians are respectful and inclusive of all people, no matter their culture, beliefs, or skin color, and that we stand strong and unified in the face of hate groups hoping to spark controversy in our midst through the use of scare tactics and intimidation. I call on the other candidates to further take this opportunity to condemn Virginia’s continuing discriminatory legal practices, which lend succor to groups such as these and detract from our message of unity.” I give this statement an “A+”, but I do wonder about how a Libertarian governor would approach things like, for instance, stringent voter ID requirements and other voter suppression measures.

Overall, on the issues listed above, Hyra gets 5 in the “A” range, 2 in the “B” range, 7 in the “C” range, 2 in the “D” range and 6 in the “F” range, for an overall grade of roughly a “C.” The reason why Democrats shouldn’t vote for Hyra is that some of the areas where he gets particularly low grades – Medicaid expansion/health insurance in general, women’s reproductive freedom, the environment, guns – are very important ones for most of us, while stuff like marijuana decriminalization is great, but not much different than Democratic nominee Ralph Northam’s position on the issue. So then why choose Hyra over Northam? Got me. On the other hand, perhaps if you’re a Republican who detests corrupt crony capitalists like Ed Gillespie, perhaps you should consider a vote for the Libertarian candidate this year?



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