The Niagara Falls Reporter believes the public is served when voters cast an educated and informed vote. In this interview with Johnny Destino who is challenging State Senator George Maziarz in the Republican primary for the 62nd State Senate District, Mr. Destino discusses fundamental issues of governance, revealing he is clearly a candidate that believes we need less, not more government.
Niagara Falls Reporter: What is your position on gay marriage?
Johnny Destino: I am opposed to the state redefining marriage. Marriage is worth fighting for and I will work to dismantle the failed social policies that have had ruinous effects on our families and society.
Quite apart from my moral and religious objections to gay marriage, the real issue for me is about the breakdown of our civil society. Many advocates of redefining marriage are seeking the forced acceptance of their lifestyle by those with strong religious convictions opposing it. They demand not only tolerance, but acceptance. For many on the left, civil unions are unacceptable not because they don’t solve the problems they complain about regarding state benefits and privileges, but because they don’t come with the power of the state to force everyone to accept their lifestyle as an acceptable and normal alternative.
Marriage has historically been understood as a public – not private - arrangement resulting in the formation of a new family. Our roles and responsibilities to each other and society were not defined by the state, but by experience. They form the very foundation of every social order from time immemorial. Other than these reasons, the State has no interest in the institution. It matters not to the state who you love, but with whom you join to create a new family line.
NFR: Do you support civil unions for gays in order for them to have the same legal benefits and obligations?
JD: People already had the right and ability to organize their personal affairs by contract. When Senator Mark Grisanti explained his vote in favor of recognizing gay marriage, he commented that there were hundreds of benefits that were being denied to gay couples. I believe the size and scope of government is the problem – not that some people were being deprived access to government.
NFR: Senator Maziarz opposed the gay marriage bill also.
JD: All I hear about is how powerful George Maziarz is and his role in the leadership in the Senate. He could have prevented the gay marriage vote from coming up to the Senate floor and he didn’t. Either he’s carrying water for (Gov. Andrew) Cuomo or some lobbyist but he arranged it so he could vote against it and pretend he’s against it. In reality he’s the one that allowed it to come up for a vote in the first place and his continued support of Senator Grisanti is proof that his real interest is not in protecting our religious liberties or conservative principals, but in advancing his career and influence.
NFR: Do you think it’s true that over the last 50 years the authority of fathers has been diminished?
JD: Did you see President Obama’s new website about Julia? A woman who from the time she went to Pre- K in a government HeadStart Program through her senior citizen years took every government handout that was available. At some point in her life, Julia decided to have a child and there was no father involved. It is a perfect illustration of the State as the husband. Men are no longer necessary! You have to see this; it is an official Obama site.
It’s an attack against Republicans and traditional notions of family and society. “Oh the Republicans are cruel and you need the safety of government programs and if you have that, what do you need a husband for?”
NFR: What about government deficit spending?
JD: We have built into the Federal Budget, every year, $1.5 trillion deficit. The only way out now is monetizing the debt. Print $15 trillion, pay yourself back in inflated dollars and basically screw all your bond holders and the citizens’ savings are cut in half. Then massive inflation. That is the only way to get out of it at this point unless you reform unfunded mandates and liabilities.
NFR: How does it relate to New York?
JD: New York State can’t print money like the Feds. They just lost two Congressional Seats. The Federal Government is supposed to be self-correcting. The more people flee New York, the fewer representatives they have in Congress. In the meantime, you have fewer New York State taxpayers shouldering the burden, hastening this state’s decline. We can’t afford the pension backed guarantees so the system just collapses back on itself.
NFR: What would you do differently?
JD: We need to turn Albany upside down. I think Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regionalism plan, where he gives each region a billion dollars for economic development, is just more of the same government centric largesse that got us to where we are today. This is a just another hurdle for people who want to develop in their region. It’s more bureaucracy. It’s inefficient and gives too much power to politicians to extract their pound of flesh from whoever wants to do business here. It’s not about allowing unfettered capitalism or unfettered Darwinism to take place, but about letting politicians decide where resources are best applied. Just lower our damn taxes already! Do these politicians have to have their hands in everyone’s pocket?
What happens to every dollar you send to Albany? What are the overhead costs of government?
By the time you pay for directors, executive directors, chairmen, board members, travel, dinners, what’s left for the person who worked and jumped through hoops? There isn’t much left. Instead it would be better to just reduce taxes.
NFR: Some politicians believe that development projects are best when there is a government/private partnership. What is the alternative?
JD: Streamline the process. Government doesn’t need to have editorial say over what people want to build. If someone purchases land in a city and wants to build and their project conforms to the “use of the land” then your job in government is to help them achieve completion of the project. Not sit in with them on the design, construction and building. Get in, make sure it conforms to use. If they need permits, help them get permits. The primary reason developers need public money in these projects is that the high taxes and regulatory hurdles make the project unaffordable without government subsidy.
NFR: Do you oppose corporate welfare like Hard Rock Concerts and Holiday Markets?
JD: Government should focus on reducing red tape, make doing business more affordable by reducing taxes. I don’t even like the idea of having to subsidize lower cost power – yet we do because our politicians have interfered in the market and have created so many market dislocations that the price and the cost have no relationship to one another. We live next to one of the greatest sources of hydropower electricity in the world! The reason you have to do that is because taxes are so high. Again they have inserted themselves into every level of the process and built in inefficiencies. Consequently people don’t want to do business here.
NFR: What about freedom principles?
JD: I was the President of the Federalist Society at the UB Law School. That is a lawyers group that believes in protecting and promoting the concept of freedom and that your rights are not bestowed upon you by government. I believe the founding documents of this country should be dusted off and ought to become the focus of a great public discussion. Our rights are unalienable and every day Congress or our State Legislature convenes, we lose a little bit more of our freedom.
Living in a free and civil society means you are good to your neighbors and you are respected to the extent you are being a responsible member of society, not a burden on it. What we have done now with the welfare state is that we have divorced the obligation of being a good person from the benefit of the charity of others. You get to take my money even if you are not a good neighbor. So you see the breakdown in society where now you resent people on welfare because they feel they are entitled to the fruits of your labor without the requisite responsibility of adhering to the moral social code that existed when private charity stood in governments place. If someone is a good neighbor, and he falls on hard times, we are not such a cold-hearted people that we wouldn’t donate to help. Americans are the most charitable people in the world. Neighbors will give you a helping hand. Our current system is completely upside down.
NFR: Do you believe taxation is violence imposed upon people?
JD: Taxation is not violence, if it is collected in furtherance of legitimate governmental ends. If it is not using taxes to fund legitimate government enterprises, then it is most certainly committing violence upon your rights. We only have a finite period of time on earth. Every hour spent working to pay for government is one hour less you have to spend with your family or engaging in other pursuits of happiness. More people are waking up and recognizing the fact that the wasteful and unconstitutional spending going on needs to stop. We shouldn’t have to work for six months of the year paying the government before we pay ourselves.
NFR: Do you believe the jury or the government is the ultimate arbiter of laws?
JD: It’s the people you directly elect that authorize the laws, but what’s happened now is there is an unelected 4th branch of government that has been delegated power by our politicians that can create rules with criminal penalties through administrative procedures. It’s easier for a politician to explain away a terrible rule created by a faceless bureaucrat than it is to explain away a vote directly on the issue. I believe any time criminal penalties are involved, you ought to have the right to a jury or your peers, not simply an administrative agency review.
NFR: Do you envision framing legislation that would ensure everyone the right to trial by jury before any citizen could be imprisoned? Presently the government can impose criminal penalties on people with a non jury trial.
JD: Yes trial by jury that would be a good way to go about it, but first I would begin working to undo as much of the bloated bureaucracy as possible. A jury of your peers who know the situation in your area can form an effective check on tyrannical government in their area. Jury Nullification is the ultimate sovereign power of the individual.
NFR: Do you see any other ways to tame a wild and capricious government?
JD: Government has currently outgrown its usefulness or its proper purpose. I don’t know how they manage to hide so much of the graft from the public. Its purpose has become to further politicians own interests and careers. What I hope to expose is who benefits from some of these contracts, assignments, and appointments to various positions. It’s not the people, its certain people, its particular people, not the area, not the region. They’re just about furthering their own interests, not the public interest.
NFR: Can suffrage cure a runaway government?
JD: The alternative is rebellion. I do not think we are that far along. We can still change it at the ballot box. It lies in changing the people that are there. I also like the idea of negating a lot of this regulation, government interference to impose criminal like penalties, by using the jury.
NFR: What is your view of George Maziarz?
JD: The same as Sheldon Silver. They both use government to advance their ends. Most often government is an impediment. One thing that is revelatory is that every time there is a problem in life, their first instinct is to pass a new state law. Government is going to save the day for you and take care of you. That is an impulse I don’t have. I want to deconstruct much of what they have done to get us to where we are today. I won’t be running up to the podium every day with a new resolution to add to the government’s power at the expense of our liberties.
NFR: Would you be in favor of giving people the choice on personal and family safety decisions?
JD: It’s not government’s job to protect us from ourselves. I watch kids on bikes – mine included - and they have to wear helmets now. I didn’t wear one when I was a kid. As with any type of body armor, you develop an increased sense of safety. Now kids have helmets and they behave more recklessly. I played rugby in college and you don’t wear helmets in that sport. When you tackle someone in rugby you don’t lead with your head as they do in football. I observe my children at play and it ought to be my decision if they have to wear a helmet or not. One kid may have superb balance and one may be clumsy. The state can’t possibly protect everyone from every conceivable harm and accident. It shouldn’t try to.
Driving recklessly? Yes the State has an interest because you might injure other people. Wearing a seatbelt? If you get in an accident and it is no fault of your own and you get injured because you were not wearing a seatbelt, the State has no interest in your safety in that instance. Motorcyclists, whether they wear helmets, is their decision. Basically you are turning your police officers into meter maids. They are looking for people committing minor infractions rather than protecting us from assault by others.
NFR: If there were a way to monitor seatbelt compliance with non-human methods would you support government monitoring?
JD: No. I am not for government regulating this. It is too intrusive. I do not like where they are going now. They are going to utilize “black boxes” in cars now so they can track where you are going, how fast you’re going. It’s not the government’s business.