May 22, 2015 11:10AM

Texas Pastors Are Wrong about School Choice

Today, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published my op-ed addressing the claims of a group called Pastors for Texas Children. For the last month, the pastors have been flooding the pages of Texas newspapers with op-eds opposing school choice. Although they raise some legitimate concerns about school vouchers, their charges against scholarship tax credits—and school choice laws generally—range from lacking substance to being demonstrably false. 

There wasn't enough space to address all of their claims in a single op-ed, but fortunately, here at Cato@Liberty we buy megapixels by the barrel (or whatever they come in). 

The claims made by six Fort Worth pastors in this op-ed were typical. I’ll address their major claims point by point:

The Texas Senate recently passed Senate Bill 4, providing tuition tax credits to donors giving scholarships to private schools. These are plainly private school vouchers.

Actually, the scholarships plainly are not vouchers. Voucher programs are government-funded and administered. Tax-credit scholarships are privately funded and administered by nonprofit scholarship organizations. As I wrote in the Star-Telegram, it’s like the difference between government-issued food stamps and nonprofit food banks. Donors to both scholarship organizations and food banks have their tax burden lowered as a result, but in neither case do the donated funds transmogrify into government property.

Our state Legislature has repeatedly rejected private school vouchers because they divert public money to religious schools in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits any establishment of religion.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that school vouchers are constitutional because they serve a secular purpose, are neutral with respect to religion, and the funds are given to parents who can choose among religious or secular options. This is no more offensive to the First Amendment than holding a Bible study in a Section-8 subsidized apartment or using Medicaid at a Catholic hospital with a crucifix in every room and chaplains on the payroll.

Second, as noted previously, tax-credit scholarships are private funds. In ACSTO v. Winn, SCOTUS held that private funds do not become government property until they “come into the tax collector’s hands.”

Nevertheless, whoever runs the Pastors for Children Twitter account argued that “Tuition tax credits reduce the public treasury in diverting money for [a] religious cause.” But if that’s all it takes to turn private donations into government money, then the churches to which the pastors belong are entirely government-funded. After all, donors to those churches receive tax deductions and the churches themselves receive 100 percent property-tax exemptions. Fortunately for the pastors, no one really believes that.

Moreover, unlike the tax benefits that churches receive, well-designed education tax credits reduce the overall tax burden by reducing state expenditures more than they reduce state tax revenue. Whenever a child leaves her assigned district school to accept a tax-credit scholarship, the state no longer has to fund that child. In 2010, Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability calculated that the Sunshine State’s scholarship tax credit produced $1.44 in savings for every $1 of reduced tax revenue, saving Florida taxpayers more than $36 million in a single year.

Religious liberty is at stake. The separation of church and state is intended not to protect the state from the church, but to protect the church from the state.

With Thomas Jefferson, we believe it is sinful and tyrannical for government to compel people to pay taxes for the propagation of religious opinions with which they disagree, or even with which they agree. Authentic religion must be wholly uncoerced. [emphasis in the original]

Indeed! Of course, the pastors don’t extend that logic to its conclusion: public schools regularly propagate opinions with which many citizens disagree. If the pastors truly held that principle sacred, if they truly believed that such compulsion is “sinful and tyrannical,” then they would seek to end government-run schooling altogether.

Moreover, even school vouchers have an advantage over the government's near-monopoly in K-12 education because they allow parents to enroll their children in schools that reflect their views and values, rather than forcing parents into social conflict. And, of course, tax-credit scholarships achieve that end through voluntary contributions. In any case, given the pastors' rhetoric, they should support school choice.

As a practical matter, vouchers channel public monies to private schools with no public accountability.

Actually, vouchers and tax-credit scholarships enhance accountability by making schools directly responsible to parents. This is especially true in low-income communities where parents have no financially viable options besides their assigned district school.

Private schools could use public money to discriminate on race, gender, religion and special needs.

There are four claims here. The first is patently false; as Patrick Gibbons noted at RedefinED, all schools—public and private—are forbidden by law to discriminate based on race. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the issue in its 1976 decision in Runyon v. McCrary. The pastors should issue a retraction.

The second and third claims are red herrings. Of course, in a free and pluralistic society that treasures freedom of association, a private school can be single-sex or have a particular religious affiliation. Do the pastors object to Wellesley College or Notre Dame accepting students on Pell Grants?

The fourth claim is more complicated. Not all private schools are equipped to handle particular special needs, but any school that accepts federal funding must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Moreover, there are numerous private schools that cater to students with special needs. Indeed, more than a dozen states have school choice programs that specifically benefit students with special needs, such as the child in this video:

Returning to the pastors’ op-ed:

Texas benefits from a robust economy, yet hovers near the nation’s bottom in per-pupil spending. We feast at bounty’s table while some children subsist on crumbs.

The underlying but unstated assumption here is that more money means higher performance. However, there is no good evidence to suggest that’s the case. Texas public schools already spend north of $10,500 per pupil on average–how much do the pastors think should they should spend?

Education is a core component of democracy.

Indeed it is! Yet as Neal McCluskey noted recently, the best evidence shows that private schools do a better job instilling civic knowledge and values.

In a second op-ed, a Pastors for Texas Children member takes a different approach:

As tempting as it may be for private, religious schools to pluck the low-hanging fruit of “free” public money, the cost is too great. … Vouchers come with government strings attached.

Here the pastor raises a good point. Vouchers do tend to come with strings attached—but tax-credit scholarships do not. For that matter, the government could impose regulations on private schools even in the absence of vouchers. School choice or not, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

These government payouts seek to fill in for faith. They whisper from the shadows that they are the answer to the problems of funding a Christian school. God does not need vouchers.

Frankly, I’m not even sure what to make of that. Does that mean that there are no religious schools with a waiting list? And does God also not need public schools?

Whether or not God needs vouchers (whatever that means), there are low-income families who need financial assistance to send their kids to a decent school. Ideally, those funds would come through private charity, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Instead, we live in a world in which the government provides “free” education that crowds out most alternatives. Tax-credit scholarships would reduce that crowd-out by encouraging private giving to empower low-income families to choose private schools.

At one point, the pastor strays into darker territory:

There however, are some faith-based schools ready to receive the funds. I don’t want tax dollars diverted to them anymore than I want them diverted to my school. In North Carolina’s voucher program, 8 percent of the public money is diverted to a single school, the Greensboro Islamic Academy. Louisiana’s voucher system only passed the state legislature when an Islamic school’s request for funds was withdrawn. Where public funds are diverted to faith-based schools, all faiths will have access to the funds.

Why raise the specter of Islamic education if not to appeal to the assumed bigotry of the reader? We should expect better from a man of the cloth.

In short, none of the pastors’ central claims withstand scrutiny. Let us hope that after prayerful reflection on the evidence, they will—like the Texas Catholic diocese—come to support education for all students.

May 20, 2015 9:01AM

The Year of Educational Choice: Update II

Educational choice is on the march.

As I noted back in February, the stars appeared to be aligned for a "Year of Educational Choice." By late April, state legislatures were halfway toward beating the record of 13 states adopting new or expanded school choice laws in 2011, which the Wall Street Journal dubbed the "Year of School Choice." The major difference in the types of legislative proposals under consideration this year is that more than a dozen states considered education savings account (ESA) laws that allow parents to purchase a wide variety of educational products and services and save for future education expenses, including college.

On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the Individualized Education Act, an ESA program for students with special needs. Earlier this year, Mississippi enacted the nation's third ESA law, behind Arizona and Florida. Lawmakers in Montana also passed an ESA, but Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed it earlier this month.

Nevertheless, Gov. Bullock allowed a universal tax-credit scholarship bill to become law without his signature. The law is an important step toward educational freedom, albeit a very modest one. Taxpayers can only receive tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations up to $150, meaning that a single $4,500 scholarship will require 30 donors. No other state has such a restrictive per-donor credit cap. Unless the legislature raises or eliminates the cap, Montana's tax-credit scholarship program is likely to help very few students.

Fortunately, other states are working toward aiding as many students as possible. Lawmakers in three states--Arizona, Florida, and Indiana--passed expansions to their educational choice programs this year. Unfortunately, despite passing both legislative chambers unanimously, Florida's ESA expansion legislation did not become law due to a standoff between the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. 

For those keeping track at home, there have been five newly enacted educational choice law thus far this year, plus four programs expanded in two states:

New educational choice laws

  • Arkansas: vouchers for students with special needs.
  • Mississippi: ESAs for students with special needs.
  • Montana: universal tax-credit scholarship law.
  • Nevada: tax-credit scholarships for low- and middle-income students.
  • Tennessee: ESAs for students with special needs.

Expanded choice programs

  • Arizona: Expanded ESA eligibility to include students living in Native American tribal lands.
  • Arizona: Expanded the types of businesses that can receive tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations.
  • Indiana: Increased amount of tax credits available for donations to scholarship organizations ($2 million over two years).
  • Indiana: Eliminated cap on the value of each voucher. Vouchers are worth 90 percent of the state's per-pupil funding.

Several more bills are pending around the nation:

  • The Texas Senate passed a tax-credit scholarship bill that is currently under consideration in the state house.
  • The Pennsylvania House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation to increase amount of tax credits available under the Education Improvement Tax Credit from $60 million to $100 million by a vote of 166-26. Unlike tax credits for filmmaking or green energy, scholarship tax credits can save the state a significant amount of money because the average size of the scholarships are significantly less than the amount the state spends per pupil. The legislation is now pending before the state senate.
  • New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking the legislature to support a proposal to create a $150 million tax-credit scholarship program for low-income students. While the state senate included a version of the legislation in the budget, the New York Assembly left the tax credit out of its version of the budget. Ultimately, Gov. Cuomo signed the budget without the tax credit.
  • Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget would eliminate the cap on the number of available school vouchers in Wisconsin.
  • The legislatures in Nevada and Rhode Island are currently considering ESA legislation.

On New Year's Day, 23 states had educational choice laws. Now 28 states do. As more states enact choice laws, we may be reaching a tipping point. It is becoming increasingly difficult for choice opponents to scare legislators with dire predictions about the impact of educational choice because those legislators can now see the impact of such laws on neighboring states. And as with Uber, once people get a taste of what the market offers, they don't want to go back to the monopoly.

UPDATE: The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has informed me that there are a few more pending bills:

  • Iowa legislators are contemplating a new ESA.
  • Nebraska is considering a new tax-credit scholarship law.
  • Ohio may expand the voucher program in Cleveland.
  • Oklahoma may expand its tax-credit scholarship program.

[Note: updated to correct impact of the amendment to Indiana's voucher law.]

April 24, 2015 7:37PM

The Year of Educational Choice: An Update

Back in February, I speculated that 2015 might be the "Year of Educational Choice" in the same way that the Wall Street Journal declared 2011 the “Year of School Choice” after 13 states enacted new or expanded school choice laws.

This year, in addition to a slew of more traditional school choice proposals, about a dozen legislatures considered new or expanded education savings accounts (ESAs). As I explained previously:

ESAs represent a move from school choice to educational choice because families can use ESA funds to pay for a lot more than just private school tuition. Parents can use the ESA funds for tutors, textbooks, homeschool curricula, online classes, educational therapy, and more. They can also save unused funds for future educational expenses, including college.

Currently, two states have ESA laws: Arizona and Florida. Both states redirect 90% of the funds that they would have spent on a student at her assigned district school into her education savings account. The major difference between the two laws is that Arizona’s ESA is managed by the Arizona Department of Education while Florida’s is privately managed by Step Up For Students and AAA Scholarships, the nonprofit scholarship organizations that also issue scholarships through the Sunshine State’s tax credit law.

Both Arizona and Florida expanded their ESA programs this year. Earlier this month, Arizona expanded eligibility for the ESA to students living on Native American reservations. And just today, the Florida House of Representatives voted unanimously to expand its ESA. Travis Pillow of the RedefinED Online blog explains:

The legislation would allow children with muscular dystrophy and a broader range of students with autism to use Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts, a cutting-edge program created last year.

The legislation would also open the program to three- and four-year-olds, expand the services that can be paid for with the accounts, increase oversight for the nonprofit organizations that administer the program, and allow them to collect administrative fees.

The entire Florida Senate cosponsored the legislation and passed it earlier this month. The bill now returns to the Senate where the only major difference is the level of funding.

Three other states also passed ESA bills. Last month, Mississippi adopted an ESA for students with special needs, followed by Tennessee and Montana this month. The Montana legislature also passed a scholarship tax credit law. Both Montana bills are pending action by the governor.

In addition, Nevada passed a new scholarship tax credit law in April, and Arkansas enacted school vouchers for students with special needs.

So far, 2015 has seen state legislatures in seven states adopt eight new or expanded educational choice programs--and the legislative season isn't over yet. Legislators in Missouri and Nevada are still considering education savings accounts, Gov. Scott Walker is pushing to expand Wisconsin's school voucher program, and the Texas state senate recently passed a scholarship tax credit bill. (Alabama legislators are also contemplating expanding their scholarship tax credit law, but the legislation desperately needs improvement.)

Whether or not 2015 tops 2011 in the number of new and expanded educational choice programs, this year has seen a lot of progress toward educational freedom.

October 13, 2014 5:17PM

Greg Abbott Tells Fifth Circuit Court That Gay Marriage Won’t Stop Heterosexual Irresponsibility

In a brief filed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott says that the state's gay marriage ban may help to reduce out-of-wedlock births:

Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births. By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage, Texas’s marriage laws reduce unplanned out-of-wedlock births and the costs that those births impose on society. Recognizing same-sex marriage does not advance this interest because same-sex unions do not result in pregnancy.

As I've written before, this is a remarkably confused argument. There are costs to out-of-wedlock births. Too many children grow up without two parents and are less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to find stable jobs, and more likely to engage in crime and welfare dependency. All real problems. Which have nothing to do with bans on same-sex marriage. One thing gay couples are not doing is filling the world with fatherless children. Indeed, it's hard to imagine that allowing more people to make the emotional and financial commitments of marriage could cause family breakdown or welfare spending.

The brief repeatedly says that "same-sex marriage fails to advance the State's interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births." Well, that may be true. But lots of state policies fail to advance that particular interest, from hunting licenses to corporate welfare. Presumably Abbott doesn't oppose them because they don't serve that particular purpose.


The brief does note that same-sex marriage may very well produce other societal benefits, such as increasing household wealth or providing a stable environment for children raised by same-sex couples [or] increasing adoptions." But the attorney general wants to hang the state's ten-gallon hat on the point that it won't reduce out-of-wedlock births by opposite-sex couples.

In a previous case, Judge Richard Posner declared that the states of Indiana and Wisconsin had not produced any rational basis for banning gay marriage. Attorney General Abbott seems determined to prove him right.

July 29, 2013 12:05PM

Washington Post: Adding Insult to Obamacare’s Injury

On Sunday, The Washington Post published my letter to the editor:


The excellent July 24 front-page article “Health law’s unintended impact on part-timers” showed how President Obama’s health-care law is cutting part-time workers’ pay by forcing employers to limit these employees’ hours in order to avoid penalties. Yet the reality is even worse.

Obamacare does not authorize those penalties in states that leave the task of establishing a health insurance exchange to the federal government. That means most of the employers the article cited — the commonwealth of Virginia, various Texas employers, the Ohio-based White Castle burger chain, the city of Dearborn, Mich., and Utah’s Granite School District — don’t need to cut part-timers’ hours, because the federal government has no authority to penalize them.

Yet the Obama administration has decreed it will do so anyway, contrary to the clear language of federal law, proving that taxation without representation is not confined to the District.

Two lawsuits have been filed to stop this illegal action — one by the state of Oklahoma, another by employers and individual taxpayers in Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Even so, thousands of part-time workers are already losing wages because of a tax Congress did not authorize. As underemployed music professor Kevin Pace told The Post, “This isn’t right on any level.”

Michael F. Cannon, Washington

The writer is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

divOn Wednesday, July 31, a House oversight subcommittee will be holding a hearing on the IRS's illegal taxes, borrowing, and spending.

July 8, 2013 2:32PM

Immigration Does Not Decrease Economic Freedom

A common criticism of immigration reform (here, here, and here) is that it will decrease economic freedom in the United States, by increasing the voting pool for the Democratic Party.  Leaving aside the issue of which party supports economic liberty, if any, it’s important to see what the actual impacts of immigration are on economic freedom in the United States and the world.  The political effects of immigrants after they arrive are less certain than the economic benefits.  Do immigrants decrease economic freedom in their new countries?  The bottom line: fears of immigrants decreasing economic freedom seem unfounded.

Since 1980, wealthy countries have seen rises in immigrant populations.  Immigrants are drawn to economic prosperity, higher wages, and better standards of living so it’s not surprising that wealthier countries have higher percentages of immigrants.  I excluded numerous small countries and petro-states like the UAE and Kuwait from the analysis.

I looked at the 25 wealthiest nations in the world in 1980 (by per capita GDP PPP) and considered their economic freedom rating and the percent foreign born.  I then tracked those same countries every 5 years until 2010.  Here are the averages for all 25 nations:


World


Year


Economic Freedom Rating


GDP Per Capita (PPP)


Immigrant (%)


1980


6.27


$20,875


10.11


1985


6.44


$21,475


10.72


1990


7.05


$23,912


11.61


1995


7.39


$24,671


11.95


2000


7.65


$28,788


11.82


2005


7.68


$30,454


13.96


2010


7.15


$30,481


14.37

Sources: Economic Freedom of the World: 2012 Annual Report, World Bank Development Indicators

From 1980 to 2010, the average economic freedom rating for those 25 nations increased by .88 points and their foreign born populations increased by 4.27 percentage points, while per capita GDP increased by $9,606.  The Great Recession makes those numbers appear less remarkable because of the decrease in economic freedom between 2005 and 2010 that accompanied the slowdown in growth.    

 

Media Name: immgraph.jpg

And when we zoom in on the United States:


United States


Year


Economic Freedom Rating


GDP Per Capita (PPP)


Immigrant (%)


1980


7.92


$25,510


7.20


1985


8.11


$28,562


8.19


1990


8.53


$31,899


9.31


1995


8.50


$33,874


10.71


2000


8.65


$39,545


12.34


2005


8.21


$42,516


13.29


2010


7.70


$42,079


13.84

Sources: Economic Freedom of the World: 2012 Annual Report, World Bank Development Indicators

From 1980-2010, the United States’ economic freedom rating fell by .22 and the foreign-born population increased by 6.64 percentage points.  The entire loss in economic freedom occurred post 2005 while the foreign-born population rose by .55 of a percentage point, the smallest increase in any 5-year period.  It seems highly unlikely that a .55 percentage point increase crossed a threshold that caused the economic freedom rating to decrease so much.   

Remember that the claim made by many opponents of immigration reform is that more immigrants will cause a decrease in economic freedom.  A linear regression (OLS) of the economic freedom rating and the percent of immigrants in the United States produced a coefficient of -0.0013908 with a t-value of -.02.  The R-squared for that regression is 0.0001.  That means that factors other than immigration explain 99.99 percent of the decrease in America’s economic freedom rating.  On its face, the hypothesis that an increasing percentage of immigrants in the United States will decrease economic freedom does not hold much water.

 

Media Name: immpic2.jpg.png

Sources: Economic Freedom of the World: 2012 Annual Report, World Bank Development Indicators

Excluding small countries, here are the wealthiest nations in the world in 1980:


1980


Richest Excluding Small Countries


GDP per capita, PPP

Income % Immigrant EF Rating

1

Saudi Arabia

33,903


19.60%


--


2

Switzerland

29,363


16.90%


7.99


3

Norway

26,205


3.00%


5.79


4

Bahamas

26,045


11.40%


6.26


5

United States

25,510


7.20%


7.92


6

Canada

23,070


15.50%


7.68


7

Netherlands

22,271


3.50%


7.23


8

Iceland

21,847


2.50%


5.25


9

Bahrain

21,139


28.90%


7.42


10

Belgium

20,793


9.10%


7.06


11

Denmark

20,790


3.20%


6.39


12

Austria

20,714


9.50%


6.33


13

Sweden

20,362


7.50%


5.68


14

France

20,264


10.70%


6.09


15

Australia

19,784


19.70%


6.86


16

Italy

18,814


2.00%


5.37


17

United Kingdom

18,154


6.00%


6.57


18

Finland

17,858


0.80%


6.65


19

Japan

17,835


0.70%


6.88


20

New Zealand

17,391


15.10%


6.35


21

Greece

17,043


1.80%


5.76


22

Gabon

17,007


13.90%


4.50


23

Spain

15,368


1.60%


6.10


24

Trinidad and Tobago

15,310


5.70%


4.83


25

Israel

15,028


36.90%


3.48

  Average

20,875


10.11%


6.27

Sources: World Bank, Cato Economic Freedom of the World Index.

In 1980, 9.4 percent of people living in all countries (including small ones like Monaco and the United Arab Emirates) were immigrants, compared to 10.1 percent in the richest countries.  The average economic freedom rating in the world was 5.4 compared to 6.27 for the richest.  In 1980, the 25 richest countries in the world had more immigrants and more economic freedom than the average nation. 


2010


Richest Excluding Small Countries


GDP per capita, PPP

Income % Immigrant EF Rating

1

Norway

46,906


10.00%


7.53


2

United States

42,079


13.50%


7.70


3

Switzerland

39,072


23.20%


8.07


4

Netherlands

36,925


10.50%


7.58


5

Ireland

35,993


19.60%


7.92


6

Austria

35,313


15.60%


7.55


7

Canada

35,223


21.30%


8.09


8

Australia

34,602


21.90%


8.14


9

Sweden

34,125


14.10%


7.62


10

Germany

33,565


13.10%


7.53


11

Belgium

32,882


9.10%


7.47


12

United Kingdom

32,814


10.40%


7.87


13

Iceland

32,779


11.30%


7.02


14

Denmark

32,379


8.80%


7.76


15

Finland

31,310


4.20%


7.89


16

Japan

30,965


1.70%


7.61


17

Equatorial Guinea

30,493


1.10%


--


18

France

29,484


10.70%


7.39


19

Italy

27,083


7.40%


6.73


20

Spain

26,901


14.10%


7.40


21

Korea

26,774


1.10%


7.20


22

Israel

25,995


40.40%


7.25


23

Slovenia

25,053


8.10%


6.62


24

Oman

24,559


28.40%


8.00


25

New Zealand

24,400


22.00%


8.38

  Average

32,307


13.32%


7.60

Sources: World Bank Development Indicators, Economic Freedom of the World: 2012 Annual Report.

In 2010, 11 percent of people living in all countries were immigrants.  The average economic freedom rating in the world was 6.84, 1.44 points higher than in 1980.  The 25 richest countries in 2010 had a greater percentage of immigrants and a higher economic freedom rating than the rest.

These results are not surprising.  To the extent that economic freedom produces greater economic prosperity, immigration will likely increase.  Given the results from the regression analysis, there is practically zero evidence that immigrants have caused a decline in economic freedom.  Other factors, such as an increase in the regulated state, likely explain changes in economic freedom more than the intensity of immigration. 

Opposing immigration reform for the reason that new immigrants will decrease economic freedom is a popular excuse in some circles – but there is surprisingly little evidence to support this myth.  Moreover, merely pointing out that immigrants are more likely to vote for the Democratic Party is insufficient because actual policy shifts count more than partisan political outcomes.  Those who claim immigrants will decrease economic freedom have yet to prove it. 

Upcoming: A comparison between economic freedom in American states and immigration. 

November 27, 2012 11:17AM

Voting in 2012, Libertarian and Otherwise

Somehow, election results continue to trickle in, and David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report continues to update his spreadsheet of the national popular vote. At this point, he shows President Obama reelected with 50.86 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney's 47.43 percent. For whatever reason, the late-arriving results all seem to widen Obama's lead.

The total vote appears to be down by almost 4 million votes from 2008, and Obama has received about 4.7 million fewer votes than he did in his first campaign. Romney received slightly more votes than John McCain did.

Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson received 1,265,000 votes, according to Wikipedia, whose mysterious editors show the votes for every candidate. That's the most any Libertarian presidential candidate has ever received. It amounts to 0.99 percent, just shy of Ed Clark's 1.06 percent in 1980. If Johnson had been on the ballot in Michigan and Oklahoma, he would surely have broken 1 percent, though he still probably wouldn't have exceeded Clark's percentage. (Michigan and Oklahoma haven't been very good states for Libertarian candidates.) Johnson's best states were New Mexico, where he served two terms as governor, followed by Montana and Alaska.

The Libertarian Party reports that seven Libertarian statewide candidates in Texas and Georgia received more than a million votes.

Don't forget to read the new ebook The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center, which discusses how the millions of libertarian-leaning voters in America tend to vote. (It does not have 2012 results.)