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Rocky Anderson speaks about jobs and US foreign policy

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.

Rocky Anderson is the presidential candidate for the new Justice Party. He was for several years a very successful mayor in Salt Lake City. And he joins us now from Salt Lake City. Thanks for joining us again, Rocky.


JAY: So poll after poll shows that the American people consider the number one priority jobs and the economic crisis way more than what you would think, given the amount of dialog you hear in Washington about austerity and the need for cutting the debt. One of the polls I saw recently had 74 percent of people were concerned about unemployment and the economy and was—I think we’re at 5 or 6 percent in that poll actually focused on the size of government debt. You wouldn’t know that from public discourse. But let’s get to the real issue that everyone wants to know in terms of their own lives. What would be an Anderson program for jobs?

ANDERSON: Number one has to be renegotiating free-trade agreements. They need to be fair-trade agreements. We—I don’t know if you remember Ross Perot when he was running as a third-party candidate and he talked famously about you hear that sucking sound? That’s jobs being taken away from the United States and sent overseas. And that’s exactly what happened, because we have created this tremendous imbalance where there are no workers rights written into these free-trade agreements, no environmental protections.

And so we have employers in this country that are paying enormous health care premiums, where other countries don’t have to do that because they have good universal health care programs, where there aren’t the kinds of worker protections. And so the government in this country—paid off by the corporate sector under this perverse, corrupt system that we have—our government has negotiated these contracts so that these corporations can benefit so much, and the working people in this country being entirely shafted in the process.

JAY: So what would these agreements look like? What would your presidency—under your presidency, what would these agreements look like, these trade agreements?

ANDERSON: Well, you would equalize things in terms of worker rights, in terms of benefits, in terms of the working conditions, in terms of the environmental protections. You can’t impose all of those things on employers in this country who are trying to hire employees in the United States, and yet give a free pass to corporations to go over to China, where people are breathing in toxic fumes, where they’re emitting all these toxins into the air and into the water, where people are paid a fraction of what they’re paid in this country. And then China is charging ten times the tariff on U.S.-made goods going into China than what the United States is charging for Chinese goods coming in United States. It is an unbelievably unbalanced system that is benefiting these multinational corporations but absolutely destroying the workforce and our manufacturing capacity in the United States.

JAY: Well, that—.

ANDERSON: Secondly,—

JAY: Yeah, go ahead.

ANDERSON: —we need to provide good jobs programs like the WPA program, like the CCC program under Roosevelt. They worked. We could be putting millions of people to work building up our infrastructure. You know, President Obama talked in this State of the Union address the other night about getting the business sector to refit their buildings in this country, but he didn’t say anything about all the old federal buildings that could be refit, where we could bring them up to lead certified standards, so that they’re using less energy and we’re putting millions of people to work as they’re engaged in these kinds of construction projects. And the money that’s going into them, it’s truly serving later generations. It’s an investment in the future of this country.

JAY: Well, that seems to be a major point of President Obama’s presidency, right from the beginning, has been economic stimulus must be done through the private sector. He brags about that, and he’s been more or less true to that. I mean, some of the stimulus money went to states and cities to maintain some level of employment. But the idea of a direct-funded, publicly funded jobs program has seemed to be right off his table. And, of course, the Republicans are opposed to it, and if there’s any hint of that, they call it socialist. So that’s what you’re talking about, though, is it?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. And you can call it anything you want. These programs work. They put people to work. They help train them for later jobs. They build up our infrastructure. It is as patriotic a thing as we can do, to get people working, to invest in our own nation and in the future. And for those who just want to throw labels at it that—. The right’s very good about this. They find terms that will scare people away. All we need to do is look back in history and see how successful these programs were. And this president, it’s like he is sound asleep at the switch. He is so timid, because he’s not willing to stand up to those who are going to use terms like socialism. He’s as timid about this as he was about health care reform.

JAY: Yeah, he actually had a very interesting moment just in the last days of the presidential election, when as a last-gasp attack McCain started attacking him as a socialist. And he said—I actually thought he had a pretty good line there. Instead of getting defensive, he said, I read my Bible, and it says I am my brother’s keeper. And he defused the whole thing. But since he’s been elected, we haven’t heard—we haven’t seen that Obama.

ANDERSON: You know, and it’s not only in terms of his policies. He doesn’t even bother to go out to sell his case to the American people, because it’s we the American people that really have the power. If we’re organized, if we’re mobilized, if we let those in Washington know that they’re going to pay a heavy political cost, that there will be a heavy political cost if they don’t do what’s in the public interest—. And yet there’s none of that coming from the White House. This president hides back, he’s got all these Wall Street folks surrounding him, and it’s as if he is so terrified of any accusations from the right that he won’t stand up for the American people, for the working men and women of this country. There’s been no effort in all these years of this presidency to renegotiate these trade agreements with other nations.

JAY: Right. Now, Rocky, you’ve talked about wanting to have your campaign appeal across the political spectrum. And I know you’re trying to talk to left and progressives, but also to libertarians. And when they hear some of these interviews, they’re probably nodding their heads saying, yeah, yeah, yeah, that sounds good. But when you get to support for a direct jobs program, I’m hearing libertarians say, oh-oh, hold on here, that’s bigger government and it’s also more debt. How do you respond to that?

ANDERSON: You need bigger government when we’re in a recession, when people aren’t working, when people’s homes are underwater, when you have students that have sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition debt and it’s nondischargeable in bankruptcy.

You bet we need a government that’s responsive to these kinds of problems, because people are suffering, people are going without health care coverage. Of course we need to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world. You know, look at all these other nations. Do they forgo essential health care coverage for their citizens because somebody might say, oh, that’s socialist? Well, it’s not socialist. There are plenty of multi-payer programs, there are plenty of single-payer programs where the providers are private. But they have responsive governments that will stand up to protect the people.

That’s what government’s all about, just as much as it’s about providing for a good military for the defense of the country. We need to provide, in our government, for the interests of the people. And that’s exactly what’s not going on.

JAY: Well, what do you make of a Ron Paul position on issues of foreign policy, for example, close foreign military bases, a massive cut to the military budget, out of these kinds of interventions that we’ve seen over the last few years?

ANDERSON: Ron Paul and I end up with the same conclusions, but coming at it from a very different direction. I’ve been absolutely opposed to these wars. I was standing up against the invasion of Iraq before we invaded. I saw it as based on lies. But we can’t be the kinds of isolationists that Ron Paul is calling for. I absolutely agree: get our bases out of these other countries where it’s not serving a legitimate purpose except for expanding the American Empire.

JAY: But where would you see bases that do serve a legitimate interest?

ANDERSON: Well, first of all, I would say we live up to the promise of never again after the Holocaust and the Genocide Convention. Ron Paul would not do anything in cooperation with the international community to stop genocide. I absolutely would. I’d say that the United States, as a major international leader, needs to work with United Nations, needs to work with the international community. And if 800,000 people are being butchered in Rwanda in 100 days, we can do so much better than sitting on our hands and turning a blind eye, because in the long term, it all—it’s not only the right thing to do; it serves our interests. But it seems like the only time that the United States responds is when we can expand our empire and control resources and control the destiny of other nations.

JAY: Well, how would you—what would have been your policy on Libya?

ANDERSON: With Libya?

JAY: Yes.

ANDERSON: Well, Libya was an absolutely unconstitutional exercise of the war power by the president. The war power resides solely with the United States Congress. And you know what Congress did? They were so cowardly that they didn’t even bother to pass a resolution. They didn’t even unconstitutionally delegate to the president the power to make the decision. They bowed out of it entirely. But they continued to fund the operation. That’s how absolutely cowardly and timid this Congress has been on these issues.

But if there are those kinds of occurrences where it meets international law and you can work through the United Nations with our allies and stop the slaughter of civilian populations, stop these mass atrocities, then I’m for it. But it’s got to be consonant with the war power clause of the United States Constitution. You can’t justify violating the Constitution and have one person, the president of the United States, make those determinations as to whether we’re going to go into other nations and engage in armed combat.

And I heard the excuses of, like, John McCain and the president’s representatives saying, well, we don’t have any boots on the ground, we’re doing it from the air, and it’s going to be over with really quickly, so it really doesn’t implicate the War Powers Clause. That is absolutely nonsense. I mean, that would mean that the dropping of a nuclear weapon from the air wouldn’t be hostilities, in their definition.

JAY: Right. Let’s, before we conclude this, go back to the economy again. When you talk about this big jobs program, it has to be funded. And obviously if we’re talking about—I’ve seen you use the term—in recessions you do need to prime the pump. So how big a priming of the pump do you think, in terms of the numbers of dollars that would be involved in that kind of stimulus—how you going to pay for it? And what about the whole question of state—American government debt?

ANDERSON: Well, the accumulated debt is absolutely criminal in terms of what we’re handing off to later generations. Republican and Democratic parties have both been complicit. You’ve got the Republicans listening to the likes of Grover Norquist that have said, let’s starve the beast, let’s just keep spending and spending. We saw it under even President Reagan. We saw it in historic fashion under President George W. Bush. The spending was outrageous. And the Democrats, Republicans have done this in combination. The money that we waste on interest on the accumulated debt is enough to pay for 12 departments of the United States government. So, tremendous waste there.

But we need the revenues. The Bush tax cuts are absolutely shameful, and the continuation of those Bush tax cuts. That’s a place where President Obama should have drawn the line, he should have provided the leadership, and said no way (to the Republicans) are we going to continue not bringing in the necessary revenues, we’re not going to keep building up the accumulated debt and these kinds of deficits. So you need to revenues.

You also need the major cuts. Get rid of the wars. The waste involved in those wars, you know, we hear of $1.2 trillion for the Iraq War and Afghanistan so far. It’s going to be four or five or six trillion dollars by the time we pay off the interest that’s been accrued because we haven’t been paying our own way. You know, the Iraq War is the first war ever in the history of this country where we were fighting a war and at the same time gave massive tax cuts. That is the height of irresponsibility.

So we do have to make the investments, though. You do have to prime the pump, absolutely, during a recession. We need to be making those investments. But how do you pay for it? You bring in the appropriate revenues by getting rid of these massive tax cuts to the wealthy, and you cut military spending. The stranglehold that the military-industrial complex has on our nation right now is preventing us from investing where it’s really going to do so much good, where it could be doing so much good for the American people.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Rocky.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Rocky Anderson is the presidential candidate and founder of the newly-formed Justice Party. Anderson served as Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah for two terms, and he rose to nationwide prominence as a champion of several national and international causes, including climate protection, immigration reform, end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, restorative criminal justice, GLBT rights, and an end to the "war on drugs."