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Libertarian Johnson says rival candidates don't address entitlement spending

Entitlements and pension funding are huge issues that no one seems to be addressing right now, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said Thursday.

The former New Mexico governor and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, have pledged to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the first 100 days of their administration should they win in November.

"That would involve a 20 percent reduction in federal spending. Of course you can't do that without addressing entitlements," Johnson told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Johnson said he would put Medicaid and Medicare in the hands of the states, which he called "50 laboratories of innovation and best practice." The innovations and practices developed at the state level could be emulated across borders, and failures would be avoided, he added.

He would also reform Social Security, for example by raising the retirement age and conducting means testing to determine whether those who collect should get back more money than what they paid into the welfare program, depending on income level.

"I think that's very doable, very fair," he said.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson
Molly Riley | Getty Images
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson

Military spending would also see cuts under a Johnson administration. He said that would not necessarily compromise the national defense, citing Pentagon assessments that bases could be closed with little impact on military effectiveness.

He suggested a 20 percent reduction in military spending, and the same decrease in bases at home and overseas.

Johnson said he is optimistic he will reach the threshold in polls necessary to earn a spot on the debate stage alongside Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. To reach that threshold, he needs at least 15 percent of support among voters in national polls.

He was polling at 10 percent at the start of the month, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted between July 31 and Aug. 3. An average of polls crunched by Real Clear Politics sees him attracting 8.7 percent.

"Right now all of the polling asks about Trump and Clinton and then 99 percent of the media reports only that top line, Trump and Clinton," he said.

"I think if we were included in the top line, Johnson-Trump-Clinton, we'd be at 20 percent right now, and a lot of that just simply has to do with just how polarizing the two of them are," he added.

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