As the Presidential election looms just six weeks away, the two major party candidates continue to campaign fiercely in swing states. Republican Mitt Romney, speaking in Ohio yesterday, attempted to counter the damage to his campaign from leaked remarks that dismissed 47% of Americans as “victims,” who didn’t pay taxes and were dependent on the government. He said, “My heart aches for the people I’ve seen,” who are unemployed.
Just in the past few weeks, incumbent President Barack Obama has opened a significant lead over Romney in several swing states including Ohio, where new polls by Quinnipiac and the New York Times have given him a ten point lead over Romney. Multiple blunders by Romney on domestic and foreign policy are being attributed to Obama’s surge, implying that Obama’s popularity is less linked to his own successes, and more a result of Romney’s failures.
It’s a familiar conversation every four years: voting for President often comes down to picking the lesser of two evils. Unlike in many other countries, only two major parties dominate the American political landscape. But a growing movement behind one of the few so-called Third Parties, is the Green Party. Famous for its high-profile presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000, this year the Green Party nomination was won by Dr. Jill Stein, a physician from Massachusetts who has been making waves around the country on her campaign tour.
Jill Stein is considered an environmental health pioneer, known for her widely cited reports, In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, published in 2000, and Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging published in 2009. She works closely with parents, teachers, community groups and others, advising them on a variety of health and environmental issues. In Massachusetts, she was involved in a successful campaign to clean up coal plants and has been involved with the group, Physicians for Social Responsibility. She is also the co-founder of Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities.
Jill Stein’s running mate is Sheri Honkala, a well known housing rights and anti-poverty activist.
GUEST: Jill Stein, Green Party Candidate for President
Visit www.jillstein.org for more information.
Jill Stein will be speaking at the following events in Southern California:
Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Woodbury University in Burbank, CA
Los Angeles Valley College
Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Monarch Hall in Valley Glen, CA
Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 05:00 PM
The Great Hall in Woodland Hills, CA
Kolhatkar: So much to talk about, but before we get into your own platform, concerning what the Green Party is about. I’d love to hear your analysis as someone who stands outside these major parties and the two candidates who get the majority of airtime and news. Let’s focus on Mitt Romney first. He just can’t seem to say the right thing these days. Not only was his mis-characterization of President Obama’s response to the Libya embassy attack a source of public derision, the recent Mother Jones leaked video, that reveals his real opinion perhaps, of nearly half of all Americans, seems to have hurt his campaign pretty badly. Is Mitt Romney prematurely revealing his true self? Does the fact that it’s costing him politically, mean that Americans want something better than what he and the Republican Party have to offer?
Stein: Certainly, I think it does. Mitt Romney’s been around for a while. He was my governor for four years. I actually ran against him in 2002 in the race for governor. Back then, he was saying that we needed to run America like a better business. I was responding that, no we need to run America like a better democracy. I think that the test of time has proven that democracy is what we need, not to turn our civil society over to the powerful, to the banks to do what they want with it and continue to exploit people and the environment and labor and so on. I think that Romney is the master of buy-it, strip-it, flip-it, as the paradigm for the economy. He is sort of the spokesperson for unabashed selfishness and for a culture of greed. I think it was only a matter of time before the real Mitt Romney was revealed by the media circus that surrounds him. Yes, it’s wonderful that finally a little bit of the truth leaked out and the American people are responding, but within a very censored set of choices. Americans are a little repelled by Romney’s personality and culture. It’s less of an endorsement for Obama than it is a statement about how very limited are the choices the American people have.
Kolhatkar: It’s interesting. I love your characterization of Romney and what he represents about American businesses and how he seems to want to have it both ways. On one hand he wants to appeal to a broad array of Americans, because they will be the ones voting for him. On the other hand, what he very openly represents, perhaps not as much when he’s not running for president, is that profit matters above all. If it’s not profitable to hire American workers, we outsource and [if we’re not] unions never get their way, except maybe where football is concerned. So is that essentially what the Republican party stands for these days, to try to appeal to business interests, but then curb that sentiment when they are talking directly to their base?
Stein: Exactly, in the same way that Mitt Romney is the etch-a-sketch candidate and politician, he sort of modifies his message depending on who he’s talking to. In many ways, the Republican party seems like it’s a poster child of what American politics is all about and what it’s becoming. The Democratic party is maybe a slightly less blatant version of that, but what you see is essentially storefront politics, where you have an effort to create a populist phase on what is essentially a money-driven product of the economic elite which is just driving its own agenda, whose basic engine seems to be nothing but greed and further obscene and outrageous profits and economic disparities.
Kolhatkar: Let’s talk about his main rival, Romney’s main rival, being of course incumbent president Barack Obama. I’m wondering if you agree with my assessment that I made earlier, that Obama’s new found, sort of marginally greater popularity, particularly in battleground states, is likely the result Romney’s gaffs, or is he actually reaching Americans with his policies or even his rhetoric? He is a powerful orator. [He] At his convention speech, he managed give off, as he often does in his speeches, this air of honesty, populism and sincerity. His own background and community organizing really gives him this sense that he is particular to progressives, one of us.
Stein: Yes it sure does and I think the question is whether people will be charmed by that again, or whether there will be some reality testing of the talk against the walk. He is a very charming and endearing person who radiates a lot of warmth and you want to like the guy.
Kolhatkar: Unlike his predecessor, he actually seems quite smart and probably is very smart.
Stein: Exactly and you have to respect him and he’s such a magnificent orator; it’s very easy to be drawn in. I think it tests us, it tests our strength to see if we will sort of drink the kool-aid again because there is a five year track record between his campaign before the last election in 08′. And then his four years of record on the ground, where he’s basically embraced the policies of George Bush and then gone beyond him on more massive bailouts for Wall Street, expanding the free trade agreements that send our jobs overseas and undermine our wages here at home, expanding the wars for oil, in which he withdrew from Iraq, ironically only because it was George Bush’s day to withdraw on which the immunity of US soldiers expires, so he was forced to withdraw after having tried to extend that date as long as he could. On virtually every front: civil liberties, the attack on immigrant rights, on the environment, embracing the policies on “drill baby drill” and going much further, it really questions our focus, our intelligence, our ability not to just be shaken as little etch-a-sketch machines ourselves and to forget what’s actually gone on for the past four years and be fooled by rhetoric again. If this was a real debate, if it included true opposition candidates like myself, voters would be reminded what the track record is and there would be a real focus on the really blatant manipulation of the debate that’s going on. This really false debate, which is no debate at all between him an Mitt Romney, it’s really a debate around the margins. It doesn’t question the fundamentals of both of them, economic policies, favors for Wall Street, the dominance of the big banks and so on, their ability to run the White House. People need to be reminded and in my experience, when they are reminded, they just back away as quickly as they can. In fact there are 90 million voters right now estimated according to USA today. About two weeks ago, they published a study showing that 90 million voters, that’s one out of every two eligible voters is expected to stay home and sit this one out because they haven’t been fooled; their lives are a daily reminder of the betrayal of both of these corporate sponsored political parties.
Kolhatkar: Now, the first of these presidential debates will happen next week on Wednesday and of course, I assume you haven’t received an invitation. I’m wondering because these debates are kept so narrowly focused and people like you are left out of it, if President Obama is able to distinguish himself in the margins from his rival, the Republican? If somebody like you were part of the debate, he might have to really contend with the issues that you raise and try to distinguish himself from you.
Stein: Which would be devastating for him because it would blow his cover for people to be reminded for example that he invited Larry Summers into the White House even before his inauguration to essentially bring in the architects of waste fraud and abuse on Wall Street as the the supposed fixers for this situation. No way, that he brought in Jeffrey Immelt, who has personally fired more workers, off-shored more jobs, closed more factories than any other single person and this is who continues to head the president’s job council, that he appoints General Motors as the symbol of the recovery of the American economy, where it is the poster child of the American economy because corporate profits are off the charts, CEO salaries have more than recovered, but worker’s wages has been absolutely slashed, cut almost fifty percent. This is not a recovery, this will not jump start the economy. The president is saying nothing more than be patient, it takes time, more of the same, more of what has failed us for the past four years, and the eight years before that, and the decade before that. So, when people are reminded, they are very quick to change their minds or to step up to the plate when they actually have an option to do the right thing.
Kolhatkar: Now how much progress has the Green Party made this year in getting the word out and presenting itself as a third party alternative? Compared to previous years, you’ve been campaigning for a significant amount of time and I understand that you and your running mate Ms. Honkala are on a majority of ballots nationwide and you’ve also been running TV ads.
Stein: That’s right. In fact, now we are now on the ballot for 85% of American voters. It’s 39 states at this point. We’re litigating in a couple states, so we may have a few more. But the states we’re on are on the high population states, so most voters will have the opportunity to go into the voting booth and not be forced into a choice between two Wall Street sponsored candidates for whom voting, giving your vote, even if it is a reluctant vote on your part, in their mind, that vote is a mandate for four more years of the same. So we’re really excited we’re getting word out. The system is designed to keep you tied up and running in circles if you are an opposition voice, so we had to spend the first few months of the campaign to put our resources entirely into getting on the ballot. Now we are transitioning in the final six weeks here, into running a real campaign, nonetheless we’ve begun to creep up in the polls from basically undetectable to one percent, now to two percent, essentially the word is spreading by itself, going viral on the internet. People are telling each other. So our hope is in the final six weeks that we can really begin to boost that vote and we very much encourage people to go to our website jillstein.org and become a part of the team, we are fighting to get into the debates and we have a petition drive going on now that we hope to accelerate it beyond the petition drive as time goes on. We have qualified for federal matching funds. This is the first time that the Green Party has actually qualified running a candidate who is an actually member of the party. So there are any number of achievements and however far we get, we feel that this is a win for simply recovering a political voice and our political courage and having a vehicle here for the long haul on which we can build to bring the voice of the public interest into our politics, because without our voices it is not a democracy. It is only corporate spin campaigns that are competing for more corporate campaign dollars.
Kolhatkar: Now you’re here in California, I should mention you’re going to be speaking at Woodbury University this afternoon, in just a few hours at 12:30PM, that’s in Burbank, California, Woodbury University. Jill Stein will also be appearing at the Los Angeles Valley College this afternoon at 3:30PM in Monarch Hall. Los Angeles Valley College is located in Valley Glen California and then she’ll be at Pierce Hall at 5PM at the Great Hall in Woodland Hills. That’s Pierce College’s Great Hall in Woodland Hills at 5PM. So you’ve got a full schedule for yourself today, but here in California it’s considered, for Democrats, a safe state. Jill, and not to risk of rehashing the standard argument why one votes for third party and risks handing the country over to a Republican from the perspective of a progressive, are you campaigning primarily in safe states like California where the Democrats traditionally win or all over the country, even in swing states where you risk taking votes from Obama?
Stein: Well, I’ll say simply that in a day and age where forty percent of the wealth is at the top, in the hands of the one percent, the lower fifty percent of the population has one percent of the wealth to share amongst us, where the climate is in unmitigated meltdown and where President Obama has gone far beyond George Bush in the drill baby drill policies that contribute to climate devastation, where the president vastly expanded the war effort, expanded the bombing into Pakistan on day three of his administration, where are the Republicans to blame on that? Where are the Republicans to blame for the handing over of Wall Street in our economic policies to the Wall Street crooks who got us into this mess like Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner and Jeffrey Immelt. That is the reality now, it’s not the narrative that’s out there, but that is the reality. In my view, no state is safe, where our environment and our economy are crashing around us where our jobs continue to be off-shored. It is a myth, it is a propaganda campaign designed by Democrats and others and their wealthy corporate sponsors to essentially silence opposition. If you look at where Ralph Nader’s votes came from, they came equally from Democrats and Republicans, but the vast majority of his votes came from Ross Perot voters, who had voted for Ross Perot in the prior election; they were not Democrats, they were not Republicans. They would not have otherwise come out to vote. Same is true now, one out of every two eligible voters is sitting this one out and voting with their feet, that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney represents them. In my view, it is unfair to deny half of voters a real option to come out and vote for and that’s true in every state. No state is safe. As I mentioned, where our jobs are shriveling out from under us, wages are declining, our homes are being stolen from us. With the millions this president had, 300 million to stop the foreclosure crisis, he declined to do it, saying that there was a moral hazard here in helping the families who had been victims of predatory loans. The moral hazard is in the hands of Wall Street, who conducted that waste fraud and abuse, yet the president refuses to use that money to help homeowners. So in my view it’s an absolute fallacy that we should be voting for the lesser evil. In fact, the politics of fear has actually delivered everything we were afraid of. The answer to the politics of fear is the politics of courage, we are running hard in every state, and as Alice Walker says, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Politics as usual. They do not have a single exit strategy in mind from the crises that are absolutely driving us over the cliff. The longer we wait to stand up and take our future and our democracy back, the harder it’s going to be to dig ourselves out of this hole.
Kolhatkar: Your party has put out what’s called a Green New Deal. This is a centerpiece of your candidacy Jill and it’s an extensive program, sort of like an environmentalist’s, FDR-styled New Deal dream come true and it’s got several parts to it. I’d like to really get in depth into that, so that listeners can know where you are coming from. Let’s talk about the economic bill of rights part of the program. In it, this bill of rights guarantees jobs for all Americans, single-payer health care, debt forgiveness for college students, among a number of other things. I mean this almost sounds like the Socialist party’s platform, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Stein: I think you could say that. As Greens, we see ourselves not as socialists inherently, although there is enormous overlap, we see ourselves as responsible members in our community and that includes the planet and that also includes the people. So if there seems to be overlap with socialism, I think that’s a fair statement. We actually have the endorsement in the race of the Socialist Alternative Party and find many of the elements on our agendas are actually shared. We are calling for this economic bill of rights which Martin Luther King said in his own words beautifully that we are not truly free until we have addressed the economic insecurities until we are free from the scourge of poverty and racism and that an economic bill of rights is essential to secure true freedom. FDR said the same thing, United Nations promotes the same bill of rights, Richard Nixon himself actually supported guaranteed minimal income. These are things that many patriotic Americans throughout our history have been promoting and seems like a good time. The absence of the economic bill of rights has led us to a situation where there is no economic security, where economic disparities have taken us over the cliff. They are not only hurting the 99 percent, they’ve effectively destroyed the economic system, because when so much wealth and power is concentrated at the top, we just can’t function as a society.
Kolhatkar: How would you as president guarantee jobs for all Americans?
Stein: Similarly to the New Deal program that got us out of the Great Depression, so this isn’t just a hypothetical idea. It’s actually a program that has worked. What we would do would be to provide national funding similar to the stimulus pack in 2009. But instead of simply creating, as the bulk of that program did, where the largest portion of it was tax breaks and tax breaks unfortunately do not create jobs, especially if they are tax breaks for corporations or tax breaks for the wealthy, the money gets salted away. Instead this program directly creates jobs. It distributes that national funding to local communities who then engage in a participatory community process to decide what are their priorities for becoming sustainable, both ecological as well as economically and socially. We provide that funding proportional to the needs, so the higher the unemployment rate in a community, the more funding it receives to create the jobs.
Kolhatkar: So Nevada could get a huge amount of money for building solar panels on rooftops as a way to not only create jobs, but green that state because they get a lot of sunshine?
Stein: Exactly and communities can prioritize. Do they need housing, do they need teachers? It includes a very broad spectrum of needs, but it does prioritizes jobs that transition us to a sustainable green economy that has many offshoots, many benefits including that it makes wars for oil obsolete, which is partly how this can be funded. Right now we are spending a trillion dollars a year on the bloated military industrial complex. If you don’t need and you cannot justify these wars for oil, you can enormously scale down that military budget, recalling year 2000 levels, which is essentially half of what it is now. That means hundreds of millions of dollars that can go back into our communities, so we can create jobs and clean renewable energy, conservation and efficiency as well as local sustainable organic agriculture as well as public transportation as well as an active component so you can bike and walk. And actually have activity integrated in your life. You don’t have to buy an expensive health care prescription to get your exercise, as well as clean manufacturing to make the things we need, to have that green economy as well as the spectrum of jobs in the social sector to meet our social needs.
Kolhatkar: The Green New Deal has a green transitioning to this green economy as part of the program and some of it sounds lot of the campaign promises President Obama made more than four years ago that Democrats often endorse on paper, investing in green technologies and investing in renewable energy sources etc. How is your plan to green the US’s economy different from the theory that the Democrats back, that President Obama backs because they might say they’re with you?
Stein: I’m sure they are with us, in theory at least, in the fact that I’ve always been accused of bringing the true Democratic agenda to this race for the first time.
Kolhatkar: I mean it’s popular. These sorts of issues of are popular with a fairly wide spectrum of Americans.
Stein: Again, it’s the case of the talk versus the walk because much of that programs in those package of 09′ and also the president’s job proposal in 2011, much of it was tax breaks and a good chunk was also tax breaks for corporations. That does not create jobs and in fact the cost of each job created by the 700 billion dollar in the 2009 stimulus package was enormous per job created and there were two to three million jobs created. That was good, it was a small step in the right direction. This plan, the Green New Deal is far more efficient because it only puts money into direct job creation, not into tax breaks or incentives or things like that. It’s directly creating those jobs. It is expected to create 16 million jobs directly and another 8 million spin-off jobs, to create about 24 million jobs. We’re also prioritizing community base jobs, this would include public works and services. Instead of going down to an unemployment office, you can go down to an employment office and actually get a job as well as providing start-up, zero interest loans and grants for small businesses and worker-owned cooperatives, to get jump started or to expand. This creates a diverse spectrum of jobs in the private sector and in the public sector to really get the green economy up and running.
Kolhatkar: Well financial reform is a big part of the Green New Deal, which you can find on Jill’s website, jillstein.org and of course finance reform is a huge issue that is necessary to fix the problems in our economy. Your plan calls for the nuts and bolts of what many in the Occupy Wall Street movement have been calling for, not necessarily what the movement itself as whole, but individuals at least, things like restoring the Glass-Steagall Act which Clinton of course overturned breaking up big banks, regulating financial derivatives. How deeply influenced is the Green Party by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which just celebrated its first anniversary here in Los Angeles, celebrating our Occupy LA’s first anniversary?
Stein: Yes, and congratulations to Occupy LA. We were actually in New York at Zucotti Park for the one year anniversary as well and it was a wonderful event. Yes, there’s been so much give and take I think between the agenda of the Green Party and Occupy Wall Street, that it’s very hard to sort out who came from what and which elements of the agenda came from which party when. I think Greens have long shared this agenda of breaking up the big banks, of re-localizing our economies, decentralizing our economy and ending this rush to financialization which has gobbled up the productive economy in our country. I think there’s no doubt that the Green Party has been very influenced, encouraged and uplifted by Occupy, by its spirit, its courage and its agenda, but I’d be hard-pressed to say exactly which elements weren’t there before and were in fact introduced by Occupy because there is so much blend between the two movements.
Kolhatkar: Well, election years tend to be movement killers. We hear this over and over again. And given that Occupy Wall Street was birthed only about a year ago, the encampments have disappeared. Many people make the case that the work continues, particularly in communities. But are you calling on those who are so disillusioned by the two major parties, who camped out in front of City Hall here in Southern California, to vote Green?
Stein: We are certainly putting out that encouragement, and putting out the concept that if we work very hard outside the voting booth but we don’t also fight inside the voting booth, that it puts everything that we accomplish out here in the streets at risk, for the repression that emanates from the voting booth. In other words, we need to vote with our feet, but we also need to vote with our vote. It’s like the quote of Winston Churchill during the Second World War, about, “We have to fight them in the trenches, fight them in the cities, fight them in the towns and on the farms.” That’s very much my feeling, that we have an economic and political predator, which is out there, and we should not raise the white flag of surrender on any battlefront, and that includes the voting booth. I share the view of Occupy Wall Street that at the end of the day, it really is the social movement that is the driver of social and political change. So I would not want anyone working in Occupy to stop for any reason, or for a moment, the work that they’re doing, which is absolutely critical. But I’d simply piggyback on that, you know, it’s another tool which I think can be very powerful, it’s an organizing tool in itself. I think Occupy Wall Street has been very smart, and very well advised, to be firewalled against getting politicized, getting co-opted. The wolves have been at the door of Occupy Wall Street from the very beginning, just salivating over this mass of energized and powerful empowered people. It’s wonderful that Occupy has refused, and continues to refuse, to be co-opted. And I always make clear when I am at Occupy, or speaking with Occupy, that I’m not there to ask for their votes, but there to support them, and it’s their decision what they do. But that said, I really encourage them to use the full breadth of their power, and to occupy the voting booth as part of their broader occupation of society.
Kolhatkar: Well, voting rights are a big issue this year. So what you just said I really think is relevant in terms of the threats to people’s ability to vote all over the country and in many, many different states, particularly in the battleground states. And the way that our electoral system works is also of great importance to the Green Party and to third party candidates. It’s not exactly geared towards creating openings for dissent. The electoral college system, many would say, is a very, very obsolete system. How would the Green Party like to see these mechanics of our democracy improved? Each state determines by itself things like access to the ballot box. And I should mention, by the way, in California we now have the right to register online to vote, and Jerry Brown just signed a same-day voting registration law, and so here in California we might be in some respects ahead of many states. But overall, the mechanics of our democracy are in trouble around the country.
Stein: They absolutely are. And they’re getting worse by the day. We call for, for example, a constitutional right to vote, which would make these voter ID laws obsolete and impossible. We would ensure that every voter has the right to vote, we would make, prioritize the—
Kolhatkar: Federalize the way in which people can qualify to vote?
Stein: Exactly. And ensure that everyone has a constitutional right to vote, which would put voter ID laws basically into court, and would render them unconstitutional, essentially. It would make very clear that anyone who tries to restrict the right to vote will be taken into court, where they will have to prove before a court of law and a jury that they are not violating that right. And right now that decision, you know, is left up to secretaries of state, and to legislatures and so on. So there would be constitutional protection. We call for same-day voter registration, for example, to be universal, to ensure that we have reliable voting technology, in the form of a hand-marked paper ballot, that we do away with electronic voting machines so the voting cannot be tampered with. We call for voting reforms that ensure that your vote has meaning, and that the results of the vote are actually representative and meaningful, in the form of proportional representation and ranked-choice voting. Which means that it’s a voting system that allows you to rank your choices. If you voted for Ralph Nader as number one, he would count as your first vote. If he lost, your vote would automatically be assigned to your second choice, Al Gore, if, you know, if that was in fact your second choice. So ranked-choice in 2000, that’s right, so ranked-choice voting eliminates the fear that your vote won’t count, or that it will have unintended consequences and so on.
Kolhatkar: And so you’re also calling for whoever wins the popular vote through this particular system to actually be president, as opposed to the most electoral college votes.
Stein: And abolishing the electoral college, exactly.
Kolhatkar: Let’s talk about some other issues that you discuss on your website. Immigration is a big issue. Mitt Romney’s position on immigration has recently come under serious fire. He spoke at an Univision forum where there was an opportunity for the host there, I suppose on behalf of the Spanish-speaking here in the country, to confront him directly. And he had to admit that, no, he wouldn’t actually round up all 12 million undocumented immigrants and deport them. Recently, at least, President Obama seems to have won more favor among immigrant populations and Latinos, compared to Romney, because of his policy announcement this summer that he would offer, his administration would offer deferred status to some young immigrants. It’s a huge issue. Comprehensive immigration reform is something that has really stymied a lot of presidents and elected officials. So how would the Green Party propose to solve the issue of immigration? As president, what would you do with the border, at the border? What would you do about ICE and the Department of Homeland Security? This huge infrastructure created around enforcing broken, in many cases, immigration laws.
Stein: Yes. You know, I think we need to go back to first causes here. What was it that stimulated this wave of undocumented immigrants, undocumented Americans? Going back to real causes, root causes here, it was NAFTA. It was the North American Free Trade Agreement, which essentially enabled American corporations to dump cheap agricultural goods into the countries south of the border, which put millions of Latin American farmers out of business. That’s what drove this wave of migration.
Kolhatkar: You mean people don’t just want to leave their families and culture behind and come to the U.S.?
Stein: And communities. Exactly, and great peril, and cross the desert, and put their lives at risk, exactly. And then work in secret for low wages here, and be exploited, and, you know, without benefit of police protection and all that.
Kolhatkar: So you would renegotiate NAFTA.
Stein: We would turn this corporate free trade agreement into a fair trade agreement and fix this problem at its root causes. We do not think that the violation of human rights—and we see immigration rights essentially as human rights—we don’t think that the violation of those rights, the building of a border wall, the targeting and deportation of families, splitting up families, and sending immigrants back to their home communities, we don’t think that’s a solution here.
Kolhatkar: And so for the people who are already here?
Stein: We would create a legal and welcoming path to citizenship. I think President Obama’s plans to basically provide a two year at a time worker permit program to students and former members of the military, up until the age thirty, is no solution at all. It provides a way out only to a very small portion of the undocumented Americans, and it leaves them facing a brick wall when they hit age thirty. So it’s really not a solution. In the meantime, the President’s very draconian and cruel so-called Secure Communities program continues. So, again, this is a president who takes one small step forward while he continues to take some very giant leaps backward.
Kolhatkar: Jill Stein, let’s talk about the other big issue that affects low-income communities of color, and that’s the criminal justice system. Here in California, it’s a very important issue. We’ve got the most overcrowded prisons, our prisoners go on hunger strikes to protest conditions, we’ve got the three strikes law, L.A. county jail system is rife with abuses, our inmates are disproportionately people of color and the poor. How would you, as president, use your authority through the Justice Department to reform all of the various prison systems and criminal justice systems around the country?
Stein: Well, for starters we need to put an end to this racist and failed war on drugs. Because the size of our prisons have effectively doubled over the last fifteen years, being filled largely with people of color, who have been victims of this criminal war on drugs. So we would push very hard to legalize marijuana, and hemp, while we’re at it, and in doing so, move the issue of drug use or drug abuse into a public health context, where people, when they have problems of addiction and overuse, could be treated, rather than thrown into prisons, which is not a solution to the problem. It only creates recidivism, it denies people voting rights, and housing rights, and education rights, and all that, and it effectively isolates people into lives of crime. So this is an extremely ineffective system. Prisons are the second-fastest rising cost of our state governments countrywide. So it’s absolutely a crime that this continues. And we would work very hard to reform the number one driver of the growth of our prisons. We would also work very hard to stop the privatization of our prisons, which creates further dehumanization of our prisons, and creates these quotas that need to be filled, and so on.
Kolhatkar: It’s a profit industry.
Stein: Yes, it’s outrageous.
Kolhatkar: There was a massive teacher strike in Chicago recently, of course that are listeners are familiar with. Which brought up a couple of important issues: the power of organized labor, when it does go on strike, and then the problems of public education. Let’s focus on labor. Traditionally, organized labor supports the Democratic Party. How would you get labor groups to endorse you and the Green Party?
Stein: I think the key here is by getting the word out to members of organized labor.
Kolhatkar: So members, rather than the leaders?
Stein: Exactly. Because you see the rank-and-file unions, like the Chicago Teachers Union, standing up and doing the right thing, and not being intimidated because this is a presidential election, and organized labor would not want a teachers’ strike against Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s right-hand man. Chicago, where Arne Duncan, who’s the mastermind of the president’s education policy, you know, this is what the teachers were standing up to object to. When I went there, to support the teachers, it was really exciting, and so different from our relationship, as Greens, to most of organized labor in the past, where we can show up to support them, but it’s always, “Thank you very much, but we can’t let you speak,” because that would be partisan, so they say. But in this case, the Chicago teachers were just elated to have me there, and were very quick to say that education policy has really deteriorated under Barack Obama, far worse than it was under George Bush. That Obama’s been far more aggressive in privatizing education, in pushing the development of charter schools, in closing schools, in demonizing teachers and unions, in pushing high- takes testing. All these elements of education that are so wrong-headed, and fly in the face of the science of education and what we know about how students learn, and all that. The teachers were very clear that Obama has been absolutely on the wrong side of education, and the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of labor. And they were very quick to invite me to speak, and to give me a podium, and to thank me so much for being there when Obama has not set foot in Chicago.
Kolhatkar: So much to talk about, Jill Stein, not enough time to talk about it. We’re going to give our listeners a chance in a few minutes to question you. But first, let me ask you about foreign policy, which is a huge issue in a president’s work. And these days, there are a lot of foreign policy issues, from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, to Iran and Israel and the tensions there, to Palestine and Israel, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, China. Of course I’m not going to ask you to comment on each of these issues, it would take us all day, but how does Green Party foreign policy differ from the two major parties? Who, on the issue of foreign policy, Democrats and Republicans tend to agree more than disagree, particularly when it comes to war.
Stein: Very much. And we see this in the case of Iran. Again, there are differences around the margins, where the president has drawn a line between himself and Netanyahu, and is not caving to Netanyahu’s pressures right now around Iran, whereas Romney is basically cuddling up as close as he possibly can to Netanyahu. But Obama nonetheless has beaten the war drum as well on Iran. And has threatened to use every means at his disposal, including an attack on Iran, and so on.
Kolhatkar: He escalated the war in Afghanistan, the drone war in Pakistan.
Stein: Oh, for sure.
Kolhatkar: You’ve recently commented about the drone attacks.
Stein: That’s right. Obama expanded vastly the drone wars into Yemen and Somalia and into Pakistan. And what we saw recently, with a study that Stanford and NYU released last week, it just confirms common sense that dropping bombs on weddings and funerals has not been an effective way to win the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East.
Kolhatkar: And that study showed that more civilians have been killed than so-called militants.
Stein: Absolutely. And in fact, it’s like two percent of the casualties that are actually found to be high-ranking and significant members of Al Qaeda or associated groups. So this is an absolutely counterproductive policy which devastates human rights, and is essentially a war crime in and of itself. This unfortunately characterizes so much of U.S. policy, and we’re seeing enormous blowback throughout the Middle East right now, everything from the uproar about the racist anti-Muslim film, but also the shootings of American soldiers by Afghani soldiers. Which long predated that film, and reflects the same kind of outraged perception of Americans as the problem, and not the solution. So, in general, as Greens, we believe that our foreign policy should be based on international law and human rights, not on brute military force and the securing of oil resources and other scarce resources. So this is all the difference in the world. Because we provide for a Green New Deal, which would green our economy, get us off of oil, we would no longer have the need, nor the justification, to be sending our troops around the world. We have bases now in over 140 countries, over a thousand bases. So the differences between us and the corporate- ponsored political parties is that we would bring our troops home. We would downsize the military, cut the budget by half to year 2000 levels. We would not be building a new generation of nuclear weapons, which is what the president has called for, and promised 600 billion dollars to renovate and upgrade nuclear weapons production, and to upgrade delivery with a whole new fleet of nuclear bombers, nuclear armed submarines, and nuclear armed ballistic missiles. We think this is absolutely a disaster. He’s been expanding the bases around China and Russia. You know, we think this is exactly the wrong posture to be taking. We need to be members of the community of the world, and use diplomacy and international law to move forward.
Kolhatkar: My guest is Jill Stein. She’s here in Southern California, and she’s going to be speaking at Woodbury University at 12:30, L.A. Valley College at 3:30, and Pierce College at 5 pm. And she’s going to be with us for the next few minutes. We’re going to take a short break.
Kolhatkar: Welcome back to Uprising. I’m your host Sonali Kolhatkar. With me still is Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, and we’re taking your calls right now. Let’s go first to Ran, who is calling. Welcome to Uprising, Ran. You’re on the air.
Ran: Hi Sonali, hi President Stein, [unintelligible]. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you, make a comment, you know, I’m African American, but every time I see President Obama on TV, it makes me sick, and I’ll tell you I’m from the military, I fought in Vietnam, got a bronze star. How can these people send people over to die? [unintelligible] and they go home, and they play with their children, hug their wives, and then people, you know, they die, their kids can’t play with their parents anymore or whatever, it’s ridiculous. So, I’ll go and, good luck, I’ll vote for you.
Kolhatkar: Thank you very much for that comment. Let’s go next to Andrew. Welcome to Uprising, Andrew.
Andrew: Yes, hi Miss Stein, thank you for your work. I think folks like you would, especially women, would serve our country well in any fashion in our national government. If you were offered, would you accept a position in a cabinet of a future president such as President Obama, and if so, what position do you think you would serve well, in that position?
Kolhatkar: Thank you very much for that call, Andrew. Jill? What would you, if you were offered a cabinet position in Obama’s future presidency if he wins?
Stein: It’s hard for me to imagine, and I’ll tell you why. I’ve run for office several times in Massachusetts, where Deval Patrick is our governor, and after my first run against him, I was—I’m sorry, it was my second run for governor that included him in the race—and a lot of people had suggested that I serve in his cabinet. And I actually considered exploring that, but it became so clear that I would be such a thorn in the side of the cabinet that I was never included in any of those discussions. And I presume there would a similar process here. It would just be way too dangerous to the Obama administration to have an actual, you know, voice for truth and justice in their administration. I just can’t see any way that it would work.
Kolhatkar: Well, let’s go next to Ed, calling in to Uprising. Welcome to Uprising, Ed.
Ed: Hi. I have a question for Jill. Jill, would you rescind the Patriot Act and the National Authorization Defense Bill, which now currently gives Obama authority to lock any one of us up, and accuse us of being, or kill, any one of us as being terrorists, and reinstitute Constitutional Amendments one, four, five, six and fourteen, which the Patriot Act has basically taken away from us?
Kolhatkar: Excellent question, thank you so much Ed.
Stein: Absolutely, hands down, and thank you for bringing that up, because it’s very important. And I think it’s really important to mention, not only did the president support the NDAA, and also HR 347, which criminalizes the right of protest, can make any one of us felons simply for being in a peaceful and legal protest when they decide that it is a zone of national security, special national security, even if we don’t know that it’s been declared that, we can be thrown into jail for ten years, and the NDAA allows the president to do that without trial, or without accusing us of a crime. Chris Hedges took the president to court, and his case was upheld, an injunction was put against this terrible provision of the NDAA, and the president came back, his justice department came back, and declared that an emergency stay on that injunction. So for some really scary reason, the president considers it an emergency, to strip us of our right to the presumption of innocence. And this is extremely alarming, and I think makes it really important that we stand up, with the politics of courage now, while we still can defend our civil liberties, and use our votes in the voting booth, to say no to this outrageous violation of our civil liberties.
Kolhatkar: Time for one last question. We’ll go to Norma. Welcome to Uprising, Norma, you’re on the air.
Norma: Hi Sonali, hello Jill Stein.
Stein: Hi Norma.
Norma: If you were elected president, how would you make the Congress move along with you?
Stein: Great, thank you for asking that. Think of the SOPA bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was considered a slam dunk. There was no way that we ordinary mortals were going to stop it—until the word leaked out. And what a powerful thing that was, because then it spread like a wildfire on the internet. People got on the phones, on the email, showed up at their representative’s office, and told them in no uncertain terms, don’t you dare mess with my internet. This should be the rule, and not the exception, for how the Congressional agenda moves. And the president is in the wonderful position of being able to be the whistleblower on Congress, to actually inform and empower the American people about what is coming up and provide [three] them with good reasons that everyday people can bring to their elected officials, and tell them exactly why they need to either move, or stop that bill. Imagine that we had healthcare as a human right, Medicare for all that was on the docket. Say next week it was going to be voted on. The president could be on prime time TV, could be on public service radio, etcetera, letting people know that it’s there and for us to weigh in and be the drivers of the Congressional agenda that we need. President, in short, can be not just the Commander in Chief but the organizer in chief.
Kolhatkar: Well, Jill Stein, it’s been a pleasure to have you on this hour, and thank you to all our great questions from our listeners. You can continue the conversation at uprisingradio.org. Jill, best of luck to you, your website is jillstein.org.
Special thanks to Brian Lee and Marjorie Hunt for transcribing this interview. Special thanks to Michael Casey for proofing.