Jill Stein, frontrunner for the Green Party presidential nomination, wants a New Green Deal for America
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.
As we get closer to the 2012 elections, the mainstream media are focusing on the two mainstream parties, but they’re missing something. There are other parties running in this race, one of which is the Green Party.
Now joining us from Philadelphia is Jill Stein. She’s an award-winning Massachusetts physician with a background in environmental health. She’s the frontrunner for the Green Party presidential nomination, having won more than two-thirds of the vote in the first eight state primaries. And she’s running on a New Green Deal for America. Thanks very much for joining us, Jill.
DR. JILL STEIN, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE, GREEN PARTY: It’s great to be with you, Paul.
JAY: So when you run a campaign with a party that’s essentially within the realm of progressive politics, you need to kind of explain to people, I’m sure, over and over again why you aren’t doing this in the Democratic Party. President Obama recently did describe himself as a progressive candidate or presidentâ€”presidency. So, first of all, why a new party? Whyâ€”I shouldn’t say new. Green Party’s been around. But why not working in the Democratic Party?
STEIN: You know, people are hurting. We’re in crisis in so many ways. You know, let me count the ways. You know, people are hurting for jobs, they’re losing their homes by the millions. They cannot afford their health care. The students are coming out of college up to their eyeballs in debt. Our civil liberties are under attack. And our climate is in great peril. You know, really, across the board we’re facing crisis.
Yet the wealthy few who got us here, who crashed the economy, are making out like bandits, rolling in more dough than ever. And meanwhile we have a political establishment which is making things worseâ€”not only failing to fix it, but actually making it worse, imposing austerity on people while they squander trillions on wars, Wall Street bailouts, and tax breaks for the wealthy.
So, in short, people are clamoring for something different, and there’s a movement out there for democracy and justice that’s alive and well out in the streets and in our communities. It deserves to have a voice in this election and choice come November that’s not bought and paid for by Wall Street or K Street.
And we’ve seen about as far as we can go with the Democratic Party. You know, we just hadâ€”we elected a president who claimed to be that progressive. He had both houses of Congress for two years. And people were so bitterly disappointed, they didn’t show up to the polls in 2010. And, you know, we got where we’re going.
We really need real change, not just the change of the corporate representative. We need a party fundamentally about people.
JAY: So before we get into some of the big domestic economic questions, which certainly are going to be the overriding issues in the election, let’s take on a bit on the issue of foreign policy. Where do you differentiate, for example, with President Obama when it comes to Iran?
STEIN: President Obama is waving the flag, you know, for keeping all options on the table, including a preemptive attack on Iran. Yet 16 security agencies for this country and other international agencies agree that there is no evidence that Iran is currently building a bomb or intending to build a bomb. It’s very clear the case needs to be made to Congress and to the American people that there’s reason for war. That’s why we have a congress empowered to declare war. And that case hasn’t begun to be made.
So where we stand is basically with a foreign policy that’s guided by international law, by national law, by human rights, not by the drive for oil. We need a foreign policy that we can stand up and defend. And currently there is no discernible threat to the United States from the actions of Iran. We do need to watch carefully. We should be pursuing nuclear disarmament, starting in the Middle East. There are many countries who already possess bombs whose governments are extremely unstable and not necessarily friendly to the United States. So the region would benefit enormously from pursuing a very vigorous and active policy of nuclear disarmament. But attacking Iran is only going to get us into very deep trouble.
JAY: So let me go back to my first question, then. Some people are raising the issue that, then, why aren’t people like you fighting this out within the Democratic Party, where there’s, in a sense, some access to power? And not that you canâ€”just by joining the Democratic Party you’re going to get power, but could have primaried Obama and forced him to have this debate in some kind of primary campaign. Why not that, versus, you know, a separate-party campaign?
STEIN: You know, I think people have been there and done it. You know. And it’s fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I think people considered Obama really the Hail Mary for the Democratic Party. It wasâ€”people went all out, and then double that and triple that, and people really went to the wall to try to move progressive politics through a corporate-sponsored political party, and discovered that it just wasn’t [incompr.] There were people, you know, who really tried to get someone to primary Obama, and nobody would, and to my mind that also speaks volumes about the condition of the Democratic Party. It just is a creature of its corporate funding. That’s not where we’re going to make change.
If you look through the history of progressive politics, independent political parties have played an enormous role in driving forward key issuesâ€”abolition, women’s right to vote, 40 hour workweek, the right to organize in our workplaces and form unions. These have all been pushed forward by independent political parties, and we clearly need that in droves.
JAY: Okay, then, let’s talk a little bit about your green deal for America. What are the basic points you’re addressing?
STEIN: So the Green New Deal is an emergency program that would address the twin emergencies we’re facing. We have an employment crisis (and an economic crisis with that) and we have an environmental and a climate crisis, and we can solve them both at the same time and also have enormous health benefits to boot with that.
So the Green New Deal is inspired by the New Deal that substantively helped us out of the Great Depression. So it’s not an academic idea. It actually works. This is has been done before.
It would create, on an emergency basis, 25 million jobs, put everyone to work who needs a job, who needs employment, and who needs full-time work. That’s 25 million jobs. It would end the recession, because when people are working and you have full employment, you don’t have a recession any longer. And it would transition us to that secure green economy that will basically combat climate change. So it solves a whole group of ills. It would put communities in charge. It would be nationally funded. It would cost less than the cost of the president’s first stimulus package. And it would basically put communities in charge of deciding what kind of jobs they need to become sustainable.
JAY: Why would you get 25â€”or I should say, how would you get 25 million jobs out of less money than this president’s stimulus package? ‘Cause the job numbers under that plan came nowhere near that.
STEIN: Exactly. They came to about 2 or 3 million. And the problem there was that that was predominantly tax breaks, and tax breaks do not create a job. A lot of those tax breaks just go into the corporate coffers. And these were predominantly business tax breaks. So every job created had a huge price tag associated with it under the Obama stimulus package.
This would be money directly invested into the job itself. And many of these jobs, about one-third of them, actually would be spinoff jobs, that is, secondarily created because the economy starts churning. And that money would be basically made available to communities through an inclusive decision-making process to decide what kind of jobs they need. There are other advantages that come to play, because instead of paying unemployment, you’re paying employment. So that’s part of the cost deferral here as well, because by directly funding jobs, you don’t have to pay unemployment, and that helps defer the problemâ€”or I shouldâ€”that helps defer some of the cost.
JAY: So how does this work? So this isn’t, like, just a federally funded, big national jobs program like the 1930s. When you say you’re funding communities to decide how to use the money, you mean essentially city councils and such.
STEIN: Well, there would be a broad process of community input that would rely in large part on city councils and existing municipal governments, but it would also include nonprofits and the public sector and community input, so that you would hear from a lot of people about the needs of the community, and you would create, basically, a jobs creation council for each community to determine. And there would be guidelines with that funding that help direct that funding to meet needs both in the green sector for making communities ecologically sustainableâ€”that includes jobs in the clean renewable energy sector, weatherization efficiency; it includes clean manufacturing, sustainable local agriculture, and public transportation.
JAY: And how much money are you talking about?
STEIN: It’s roughly on the order of $600-$700 billion to jumpstart this. And there would, again, be some ongoing costs, but they would be diminished. So to get it started, it’s about $600-$700 billion. This is based on various cost analyses, one of them by an economist named William Harvey, who’s done one of the analyses. So there would be definitely a cost associated, but they would be costs that would diminish markedly as the economy begins to churn and as the pump becomes primed.
Look, for example, at Germany that invested a lot of money in jumpstarting its solar energy sector. They have had to draw back markedly on their subsidies for it, because it’s taking off like gangbusters and the price was coming down too quickly of solar panels and the sector was growing too quickly, that other sectors were getting upset about it. So it took off in a way that enabled the public finance to be drawn back.
JAY: And where does the $600-$700 billion come from?
STEIN: Well, it will come from the public treasury, and where that money comes from is a number of sites. So we’re calling for a fair tax system. So we have, for example, a financial transaction tax, which would bring hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy; an offshore tax haven tax; and a progressive tax on millionaires and billionaires.
But here’s the other piece. We also want to draw down on our military-industrial-security complex, which is costing us $1 trillion a year. So by switching to a green renewable energy economy, we no longer need to be fighting these wars for oil. So you can bring hundreds of billion dollars back into the economy that is currently being spent on these wars that are illegal and immoral and making us less secure, not more secure. That’s where part of the support comes from.
And there’s one other area that I’ll mention as a medical doctor. We know that we’re spending, for example, as taxpayers, about $1 trillion a year on what’s not a health care systemâ€”it’s a sick care system. And we know that 75 percent of our expenditures on so-called health care are actually spent on chronic diseases that are prevented at a fraction of the cost by creating a structure for health within our communities. And we know the biggest drivers of this are a healthy diet and a healthy activity level. We can do like Copenhagen by building bike paths. Forty percent of people are commuting to work by bicycle. We can make it possible for kids to walk to school again by creating a public transportation system that includes an active transportation component. We build activity back into our communities. And that’s part of green jobs as well is creating that healthy transportation structure, as well as a healthy food system that actually makes healthy, organic, sustainable food available across our communities. This has a powerful transformative effect on [crosstalk]
JAY: And just quickly, before we run out of time, talk a little [about] your plan for financial regulation, ’cause so much of this comes down to the extent to which concentrated wealth, particularly in the banking sector, dominates politics. So what’s your plan for financial reform?
STEIN: Exactly. And financial reform is a key piece of the Green New Deal. We can’t do it without financial reform. So that means, number one, stopping the bailouts, you know, this $12 trillion giveaway to the banks and big corporations who got us into trouble. So part of it is just stopping the bleeding of our tax dollars into the bailouts and the giveaways.
In addition, we’re talking about these big banks that are too big to fail and too big to jail. Let’s break them up so we don’t wind up having to bail them out again. So those banks get broken up, and the ones that have failed actually become turned into public banks, that is, public utilities at the national, state, and municipal level, so that we have banking institutions actually in the public interest, like North Dakota, that are able to provide these funds for these investments.
We’re also talking about separating the investment from the commercial banks so that we have the protections of a Glassâ€“Steagall type bill. So there are a number of these financial changes we would make, including the changes in the tax structure that I mentioned, that would ensure that we have a financial sector that actually serves the real economy, not the phony economy of high finance, and that provides the resources so that we can implement the Green New Deal and get the win-win-win for our economy, for our health, and for this environmental and climate crisis that we’re facing.
We can have it all. We just need the democracy piece in order to get it. And that’s what our campaign’s all about. So I’d encourage your viewers to go to my website at JillStein.org and check it out and join the team, because this is our time to use this election as a tipping point. We’re at a breaking point. We’ve got to change that breaking point into a tipping point and start to take back our democracy and the peaceful, just, green future that really is within our reach.
JAY: Okay. Well, we’ll check back with you after youâ€”assuming you win and you’re the official nominee of the Green Party, we’ll come back to you and we’ll kind of drill into some of these issues. Thanks very much for joining us, Jill.
STEIN: Great to be with you, Paul. Take care.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.