Editorial: Jill Stein tells The Times editorial board why she thinks voting Democrat or Republican makes little difference
The following is a transcript of Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s meeting with the Los Angeles Times editorial board.
Nicholas Goldberg (editor of the editorial pages): Do you want to start with a very brief introduction?
Jill Stein: Yes, so… I’m a medical doctor by training. I’m a physician, not a politician. And I’m in this as a mother on fire. You could say, very concerned about our younger generation that does not have the jobs they need to get themselves out of the debt that they’re in. And have the full weight of the climate crisis exploding on them — on their watch.
And I’m also here as a medical doctor. I used to practice clinical medicine. Now I practice political medicine, because it’s the mother of all illnesses. Politics is. In my experience as a medical doctor, I didn’t feel good about just giving them pills and pushing them out to the things that are making us seriously sick. As a society, almost one 1 of 2 adults has a chronic disease of one form or another. And where we’re spending $3 trillion a year not on a healthcare system, but on a sick-care system that tries to patch us up after we’ve been made ill by a variety of institutional things around us — including a sick food system, air pollution, etc. Where we could be doing so much better even before people get to the point of getting sick.
In addition, we, of course, need to improve our failing healthcare system, where costs are skyrocketing and 1 in 3 Americans doesn’t have the healthcare that they need. Can’t afford it, even with their insurance. And basically what I learned was that if we want to cure the things that threaten life, limb and even survival, we need to heal our sick political system. That is, not just to address our physical ailments, but the things that determine whether we’re going to survive into the next century. That is war, climate change, poverty, etc. We’ve got to fix our politics.
In short, I’m here as the one candidate in this election that is not corrupted by lobbyists’ money, corporate money or a Super PAC. I have the unique liberty as part of the Green Party that operates on the same terms. We have the ability to actually speak for everyday Americans. We are not controlled by major donors, by the influence of big banks, by fossil fuel giants, by war profiteers or insurance companies. We can actually speak, much like Bernie Sanders did, for an agenda that the American people are actually clamoring for. In an election which is historic in so many ways, including that the traditional candidates are the most untrusted and disliked in our history, and the American people are clamoring for another choice and another voice. The recent AP poll that came out last month said that approximately 90% of the American people felt that the two-party system was failing us in the presidential election. And a more recent, I believe it was NBC, but it may have been ABC, poll last week said that over a third of voters said they were willing to consider voting for a third-party candidate.
Yet what’s taken place in this election — we saw recently that Donald Trump has gotten now over $4 billion in free media exposure, Hillary Clinton over $2 billion, and of course I’ve had almost none. When we had our first exposure on CNN in a town hall meeting a little over a week ago, we were trending number one on Twitter, and there was enormous interest in our campaign. Especially without coverage, we have made it to 4, 5, 6% in the polls just on the power of the public interest out there from Americans who feel like they’ve been thrown under the bus by the two conventional parties.
The issues we address basically: We call for an emergency jobs program to address the emergency of climate change. We call for a green New Deal, like the New Deal that got us out of the Great Depression, but in this case focusing on green jobs to create 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, which is exactly what the science calls for. It would require an emergency mobilization, like that of the mobilization for the Second World War, where we transformed our economy in a matter of six months. Our point is that the science tells us we are in an equivalent emergency right now.
We call for cancelling student debt, for bailing out young people like Wall Street was bailed out to the tune of $16 trillion. We call for a bailout for an entire generation that is basically held hostage by unpayable student-loan debt. Without the jobs being available to enable them to repay that debt in the course of their financial lifetimes, basically.
We maintain that, yes, that’s a significant chunk of change — it’s $1.3 trillion — but what investment is more worth making than in a generation that does not have a future? That does not have a place to live, that does not have a job? Their birthrate is crashing, which, I think, is a sign of a real human rights emergency for an entire generation. In addition, this is the stimulus package of our wildest dreams. To actually unleash an entire generation to do what they’ve already been trained to do. They’ve done the work, they have the degrees, they have the passion, but they’re working two or three part-time low-wage, temporary jobs just to keep a roof over their heads. So we’re calling for that bailout for young people in order to jumpstart the economy of our future.
We also call for free public education going forward. We know it pays for itself. We know that from the GI Bill after the Second World War, where Congress found that for every dollar we put in as taxpayers into free higher education for returning GIs, we got back $7 for every dollar invested. An enormous return on our money in public benefits and improved revenue.
We call for healthcare as a human right through Medicare for all. We call for a welcoming path to citizenship, an end to police violence, and a transformed foreign policy based on international law and human rights — not based on these policies of regime change and economic and military domination.
We basically maintain that we can have an America and world that works for all of us, but that we need to really engage, and inform and empower the American voter, who are a bunch of very unhappy campers right now. They deserve to be informed. If we’re not in the debates there will be no real discussion of climate change, because Hillary Clinton’s policy does not begin to address the threat. And her transition director being Ken Salazar, I think, indicates that she will continue to be a friend to fracking. It’s not possible to solve the climate crisis while we continue to expand fracking. We will not really address our foreign policy and these endless wars that show no end in sight and seem to be getting deeper and broader and more catastrophic with each passing day. It is very important that that be on the table and be debated. Hillary and Donald basically share a policy of brute military strength. And both, I think, make a lot of Americans uneasy about our foreign policy going forward, which needs a frank discussion. Likewise on the issue of student debt and the future of our younger generation.
And with that I’ll open it up.
Nicholas Goldberg: Thanks. Let’s start with the two-party system that you talked a little bit about. You’ve said in the past that the Democrats and Republicans are two corporate parties that have basically converged into one. This is an argument we’ve heard often from third-party candidates over the years. But this year of all years — with a Republican candidate who stands for bigotry, who seems so unprepared, who seems so temperamentally unsuited, who wants to build walls and ban people based on their religion — how can you really argue that the two candidates are the same, if you think they are, and how can you call on people to vote for you if that could conceivably lead to a Trump election?
Jill Stein: So, first of all, just for the record, we do not say, and I do say, that the parties are the same. But rather that the differences are not great enough to save your job, to save your life or to save the planet. So it doesn’t do you a lot of good to get the lesser of two lethal options. Which, essentially, in my view, they are. And we can talk more about that. But, I also want to be very clear that this is a realignment election. And the Republicans are… there is a small Trump remnant, which is going over the cliff right now. But you have the Republican establishment that is moving into Hillary’s camp. What’s happening in this election is sort of proof of principle. You have two parties that are funded by deep corporate interests, largely overlapping, that you begin to see a convergence. You have the Republican intelligentsia and the Republican spokespeople, and 50 GOP security figures who have all come into Hillary’s camp. Not to mention Mitt Romney, who has defected from Trump, although it’s not clear where his vote is going to be. But everyone from John Negroponte to Meg Whitman have all declared allegiance to Hillary. And Hillary has likewise, very formally opened the door to encouraging Republicans to come in.
Nicholas Goldberg: And that tells you what?
Jill Stein: That tells you that we’re seeing the convergence of a big, corporate party right now. A sort of bipartisan merger under the figure of Hillary Clinton. You know, the neocons are supporting Hillary just like the neoliberals are. She’s seeking the endorsement of Henry Kissinger as well. I think it’s very troubling to see the reality of where the American political establishment is going — into this big tent, which is one happy Demo-Republican family. It’s distressing how readily they are making peace with each other and unifying under Hillary’s agenda. Which is a real heads-up about what Hillary’s agenda is. We’ve seen Hillary flip-flop, but she’s had a pretty consistent track record. Which is that she has been a very good friend to the banks, received enormous support from them, including $600,000 from Goldman Sachs alone, $153 million into the personal coffers of the Clintons based on their speeches given to large corporations that can pay $200,000 and up per hit. This is sort of the epitome of the economic elite that is converging with a political elite. It’s not only the banks and insurance companies. It’s the war industry and private prisons. Certainly the fossil fuel agencies. It’s not only that they’re supporting this campaign, they’re supporters of the Clinton Foundation. And where the Clinton Foundation ends and Hillary’s political actions begin, that too is quite troubling.
But, you know, sticking to this question of what’s happening politically in this election, we’re seeing so many indicators of a political convergence. While the Republicans are arguably falling apart, coming into the Democratic tent, at the same time you have the Democrats who are really splitting now. You have the Sanders wing of the party, which was something like 44% of the elected delegates to the convention. They are in disarray and not sure what they are going to do. Increasingly they continue to pile into our camp. We just came from Colorado where there was incredible organizing going on, on behalf of what used to be the Bernie campaign, which is now coming into our campaign. So, we’ve never seen anything like this. But there is a mass defection going on. We see this also in the defection of the staff from Our Revolution. On the day of its announcement where more than half the staff quit because they felt like, still, the billionaires were winning the day. And the candidates they hoped to really support were being left, kind of hung out to dry.
So you have this big challenge going on within the Democratic Party, and many of them coming into the Greens. So there is the potential for a really profound realignment here. And remember most of this is going on with most voters not having any idea who our campaign is. If you look at the well-informed Democratic Sanders activists — I don’t know if you were in Philadelphia, but there was no secret about their enthusiasm for our campaign. But once you got more remote from the super activists in the Bernie camp, they don’t know so much about our campaign. And the question is whether they are going to have a chance to be informed. And in an election like this one, not only are voters dissatisfied, but where the foundations of our economy, our democracy, our ecosystem, and international war and peace are really crumbling and are really at grave risk for failing in many ways, we need desperately to have an honest public conversation about both the track record of where we’ve been, what are the critical problems we are facing and what it will take to solve them. That will not happen while you have two establishment corporate-sponsored candidates as the sole members of this debate. They agree with each other too much.
Scott Martelle: What do they agree with each other on?
Jill Stein: Well, um, the need for these wars, for example. They agree with each other on either doing nothing or giving lip service to climate change and the really transformative changes that need to happen…
Scott Martelle: Trump denies its happening, and Clinton embraces climate change as a problem…
Jill Stein: … while she promotes fracking and established an office as secretary of State to promote fracking around the world. The cutting edge science now suggests fracking is every bit as bad as coal. And “all the above” [what President Obama calls his policy of promoting all forms of domestic energy], compared to “drill, baby, drill,” if you actually look at the track record, we’ve massively escalated the emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. They are not just going up, they are accelerating on their way up. And remember we had two Democratic houses of Congress along with the Obama administration that laid out those policies before they lost Congress because people were very disappointed in what the Obama administration did — bailing out Wall Street instead of bailing out Main Street. So as someone who follows the climate very closely, there’s no question that “all of the above” has been an absolute disaster. While we’ve doubled renewable energy, it was only a tiny portion of the energy portfolio to start with. But what we did was totally take the lid off fossil fuel extractions in every way imaginable. On the day following Obama’s trip to the Louisiana floods, you know, we had, I think, another 25 million acres that went on sale in the Gulf for further extraction. And this administration has massively expanded fossil fuel extraction. So while they give lip service to it, they actually do not walk the walk that we need to walk if we are going to get out of here alive.
Nicholas Goldberg: So you’ve said you want to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030. How is that possible and what will that entail in our lives? No other politician that I know of has suggested anything so ambitious. Can that really be done?
Jill Stein: Well, the scientists actually have suggested things that ambitious. There are good studies coming out of Stanford, Mark Jacobson for example and others, showing how it can be done. But it really requires a sense of emergency. It cannot be done unless we really understand that literally our lives are on the line. And the most recent science including from Jim Hansen, the foremost climate scientist, suggests that we could see as much as, according to his study, meters’ worth [of sea-level rise] — that is nine, 12, 15 and more — as soon as 50 years from his study, which was two years ago. Another study described by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which they will be putting out in print soon, they have only described it verbally, calling it an “Oh my God” study, suggesting that we could see nine feet of sea level rise as soon as 2050. So these are sort of two cutting edge studies that converge around the same thing — which is to say we’re looking at catastrophic impacts in our lifetime, not only that every month now we’re setting a new World Almanac record —
Scott Martelle: You don’t have to sell us on climate change, we buy the science. But sell us on the solution.
Jill Stein: Great. And I’ll come to that in a minute. But I feel like this is the discussion missing in action. Because the public is really not kept abreast, and our leaders are not clear and forthright about what the terms of engagement are right now — that we really have no choice except to undertake a wartime scale mobilization, but a mobilization knowing that we can actually fix this. It’s only a disaster if we continue to plunge headlong into the problem, which is only accelerating in spite of everything that the Democrats have been willing to say and do about it. The problem is only getting worse — that to me underscores that we need a transformative solution.
Nicholas Goldberg: What will it entail?
Jill Stein: Twenty million jobs.
Nicholas Goldberg: Twenty million jobs?
Jill Stein: Twenty million jobs is what we call for in the Green New Deal, which is essentially a New Deal focused on greening the economy on an emergency basis. So it’s 20 million jobs, which are mixed, private sector, nonprofits, government jobs where others will not do the job and will not create the employment. So we’re looking to solve two crises at once. You cannot solve the climate crisis if you are putting people out of work. And if people fear that they have to choose between their job or fixing the climate, they will always protect their job. Because that’s how they live to see tomorrow. The climate is not tomorrow. The climate is a year off or maybe 10 years off. So we have to be really clear that we’re solving the crisis of economic insecurity at the same time.
That’s why we call for a New Deal prototype. Which means we are creating the jobs — nationally funded program but locally controlled — with guidelines to achieve 100% clean renewable energy through wind, water and sun by 2030. Also to create a sustainable food system, since this is a major portion of climate emissions, and also calling for public transportation as well as infrastructure restoration including in that ecosystem restoration. So this is like the jobs program, for example, that Bernie Sanders talked about except he focused mainly on infrastructure. We are talking about energy and food as part of that and public transportation as part of that infrastructure.
Now in terms of the cost — because this is obviously the question. So let me say two things about the costs — one is that there are detailed studies that show this, this is what some of the Stanford studies show, in fact, that we get so healthier, so much more healthy, when we eliminate fossil fuel pollution — 200,000 [fewer] premature deaths a year for example. And that’s just the death part of it. Not to mention the asthma part of it, the heart attacks and the strokes and the cancers. And we also call for a healthy food system that prioritizes sustainable healthy local food production. So that we are subsidizing healthy food instead of subsidizing food that is definitely not healthy for us. So when you actually integrate the health savings from an improved food system, eliminating food deserts, ensuring that everyone can afford a healthy diet, that you don’t have to be sort of a person of substantial means in order to have access to healthy food, there are remarkable health improvements. What the studies show alone — they don’t look at food, they only look at energy — simply from greening our energy system and eliminating fossil fuel pollution, we get so much healthier that the savings in health care alone are enough to pay the costs of the green energy transition and would repay those costs in approximately a decade and a half in savings. And that means savings on all those illnesses I mentioned. Plus right now we also have this epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
When Cuba, which is another case in point here, they lost their fossil fuel pipeline when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990. Overnight they had no choice, they had to transition to clean energy, they didn’t have any fuel to burn, and they also had to transition to a healthy food system, an organic system in fact because they did not have fuel to run the tractors or to manufacture or even to be able to import pesticides and fertilizers. So they had to convert to an organic food system overnight. Their economy is crashing, this was not a planned transition. This was a crisis, but a crisis nonetheless, in which pollution went away. And it’s very instructive to see what happened to their health. This is studied and published, very interesting. I can refer you to the studies, if you are interested in looking at them —
Scott Martelle: Yes, I’d like to.
Jill Stein: OK great; I’ll send them to you. Published in the Journal of Epidemiology, in fact.
Nicholas Goldberg: So how many jobs did you say?
Jill Stein: Twenty million.
Nicholas Goldberg: So the 20 million jobs would be fully funded by healthcare savings?
Jill Stein: So, this is what the studies show is that the savings from healthcare — and remember we spend $3 trillion a year now on healthcare — and what happened in Cuba, just to cut to the chase, their death rate from diabetes went down 50%, their death rate from heart attacks and stroke went down approximately 30% and all-cause mortality went down 18% while they adhered to the system. Then they opened up their pipeline again from Venezuela, and their health improvements went away. But while they were eating a healthy and sustainable diet and had no pollution over a period of years these health improvements were sustained. They spent zero dollars improving their health, but they had an absolute miracle of health improvements. We spend $3 trillion a year and we’re only getting sicker. That underscores that there are potentially hundreds of billion dollars, potentially more, that could be saved by moving to a clean energy system. Studies show those savings, in fact, are enough to pay the costs of creating 100% clean renewable energy.
Nicholas Goldberg: And the amount of energy created would be comparable to what we have today? This would not require people to cut back their lifestyles?
Jill Stein: That’s right. It calls for efficiency devices and so on, and improvements that would need to be installed, and a lot of jobs that need to be created making our homes efficient in terms of their heating and cooling and their electricity use and so on. But it’s really quite astounding to see what the science says we can actually do.
The other piece of this is that we call for cutting our bloated and dangerous military budget. And this is something that is made possible by moving to 100% clean renewable energy, where we cannot justify wars for oil, and where we cannot justify having some 700, 800 bases gathered around the world in something like 100 countries in significant measure protecting either access to fossil fuels or protecting routes of transportation. So this is another area in which savings can also be moved from wasteful — like the F-35 weapons system that will cost us $1.5 trillion by the time it’s done and it’s obsolete, you know, it’s a weapons system — as well as this global military infrastructure, which is unlike anything the world has ever known at any time.
Scott Martelle: What would your defense budget look like?
Jill Stein: Right now we have a $600-billion or so Defense Department budget, but when you add in, for example, a trillion-dollar nuclear weapons program over the next decade or two, it adds significantly to it. So it’s somewhere around $600 billion. We call for approximately cutting that in half and instead putting those dollars into true security here at home. We call for, on the other hand — how do you deal with ISIS [Islamic State], of course, is the question that comes up immediately, ISIS and other terrorist groups. We call for, actually, a weapons embargo to the Middle East, which we can lead since we are supplying the majority of weapons which, in fact, then find their way into all parties on all sides. We call for a weapons embargo. We also call for a freeze on the bank accounts of those countries, including our allies, with due warning. Hillary Clinton, herself, in a leaked State Department email identified the Saudis as still the major funder of Sunni jihad around the world. And we would basically say to our allies that we will no longer support such policies which we, ourselves, have been a party to and that we would put a freeze on the bank accounts of countries that continue to fund jihadi terrorism. We would also lean on Turkey to ensure that it closes its border to the movement of jihadi groups.
So, you know, we call for a new kind of offensive in the Middle East because our current approach has a track record and it’s not a good one. According to a recent Harvard study, $6 trillion, when you include the ongoing healthcare expenses for our wounded soldiers, which is the least they deserve, but $6 trillion for Iraq and Afghanistan alone. What do we have to show for it? Failed states, mass refugee migrations that are tearing apart the Middle East and Europe, and worse terrorist threats. They don’t get better, they only get worse. Bombing them has only enabled them to grow and multiply. We have not been successful in deterring the growth or expansion of any terrorist group that we’ve been fighting. So it’s really important to go back to the drawing boards on this and reexamine this policy. And, you know, it’s important to understand the origins of ISIS were in the chaos of Iraq and Libya, and the origins of Al Qaeda were in Afghanistan. And, you know, terrorism in Afghanistan had everything to do with the support for the mujahidin by Saudi Arabia and by the CIA that sought to create an international religious extremist group to fight the Soviet Union.
Nicholas Goldberg: Do you think the U.S. should be less engaged than it has been? I mean if every time we blunder in and we try to do regime change we cause unforeseen problems. Is it your argument that the U.S. doesn’t really have a role to play, say, in the crises of the Middle East?
Jill Stein: To the contrary, you know, I think we have a very critical role to play, within the spectrum of international law and human rights. You know, regime change is not within that purview. And that has been an all-out disaster. I think we need to be a superpower of human rights, of support for true grassroots democracy, not corporatist economic development, which suits our economic elite but has not been helpful to the cause of democracies around the world.
Nicholas Goldberg: Do you think there are times when the U.S needs to use force abroad?
Jill Stein: In theory? Absolutely. I’m not opposed to the use of force. But, you know, according to international law, in order to use force, we need to feel, we need good evidence that we are under imminent threat of actual attack. And I think we need to stand up for international law.
Nicholas Goldberg: So that’s the only time you would use force?
Jill Stein: Well, when it’s…
Nicholas Goldberg: Imminent threat of attack on the U.S. mainland?
Jill Stein: According to international law, those are the standards unless the U.N. Security Council…
Nicholas Goldberg: Is that the standard that you would apply?
Jill Stein: I support — Yes, I would apply international law and I think we need to be a force for international law. We helped generate that international law coming out of a very difficult and hard-won experiences in the First and Second World War. And I think we need to abide by that experience and our good judgment coming out of these catastrophes. We need to support that.
Nicholas Goldberg: But we wouldn’t have been involved in the Second World War by your standard. Not, at least, in Europe.
Jill Stein: Well, you know, I don’t want to revisit history or try to re-interpret it, you know, but starting from where we are now, given the experience that we’ve had in the last, you know, since 2001, which has been an utter disaster, I don’t think it’s benefited us. Half of our discretionary budget, right, it’s like 54% of our discretionary budget right now is being spent on the military. You know, that this is not working.
Jon Healey: So do we withdraw from all the mutual defense treaties that we’re in? Because those essentially argue for us to insert ourselves into problems which are not ours imminently.
Jill Stein: I think those are questions that have to be looked at one by one. And I think NATO, you know, needs to be looked at.
Nicholas Goldberg: What does “looked at” mean? Reconsider whether we want to be part of such an alliance?
Jill Stein: Is there a role for such an alliance? Is such an alliance helpful to us in this day and age? Are we creating a cold war in order to justify NATO? And, you know, there’s real risk right now. We are plunging headlong into a cold war, and we have 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. Is this really what we want to be doing? There are very complicated issues here, and I don’t want to give them short shrift. And I certainly don’t want to say that disengagement is the answer. It is not. But we need to really use the full force of diplomacy. And we need to be seen and understood to be on the side of diplomacy and international law. And not just, you know, the reflex, knee-jerk use of military force. Zbigniew Brzezinski, you know, who was really one of the — whose name is impossible to pronounce — who was really one of the architects of this very aggressive American interventionist foreign policy, you know, really stand up to Russia, challenge them, not only Russia but China. He’s changed his tune now and is basically advocating for a much more diplomatic and collaborative approach to the other power centers of the world that are just kind of moving on without us right now.
Carla Hall: Yeah, but it’s hard to diplomatically engage with ISIS.
Jill Stein: Exactly. Which is why, for ISIS, the answer is to cut off their food, their water, their armaments, you know, and their funding. We cannot simultaneously fight terrorism, we and our allies, while with the other hand we fund terrorism, arm terrorism and train terrorism.
Scott Martelle: But wouldn’t cutting off food and water be a war crime?
Jill Stein: I don’t mean literally their food and water. What I mean is cutting off their life support system. That is, their armaments, and their funding and their flow of militias that are reinforcing them.
Nicholas Goldberg: It’s true that some of our weapons wind up in their hands but a weapons embargo of all parties in the Middle East would mostly be taking weapons away from the people who are fighting ISIS, no?
Jill Stein: You know, I think, well, for example, until recently we’ve been funding the Al Nusra Front as well, and arming them, and also the armaments that we provide to our allies one day, the next day wind up in the hands of …
Nicholas Goldberg: Some do.
Jill Stein: Quite a few do. I mean, our disaster in Libya also unleashed enormous amounts of armaments. We are the world’s leading arms dealer, arming all sides everywhere. And have we made the Middle East a more secure place? We’re only making it more desperate, more catastrophic and more violent. We can keep doing the same thing, but it would be unreasonable to expect a different result. It’s very important, I think, for us to stop and look at what we’re doing. We’ve been applying a flamethrower to the Middle East. And not just to the Middle East. The only one benefiting from this, the American taxpayer, almost half of our taxes, our income taxes, are going to the military and to these wars. If you divide up that $6 trillion that we will have spent on Iraq and Afghanistan, by the time we complete the care for the wounded soldiers, $6 trillion, that’s $50,000 per American household. What do we have to show for it? And do you know what the next biggest line item is in the budget? I was absolutely staggered to see this. On, let’s see, the name of the website is the — what is it called? [an aide whispers the name] Yes, the National Priorities Project, which does a very interesting analysis of the budget. According to the National Priorities Project, military expenditures are 54% of the budget. The next biggest line item is 7%. And there are a whole bunch of 7 percents. So in short, we have a military budget surrounded by a lot of footnotes. This is not serving us well. In the meantime, we have just incredible economic disparities and economic despair in this country and an entire generation that is basically held hostage in debt without the jobs to get out of it. And this is not a world that’s working for us, and the climate is going up in flames right now, and the wars are expanding, and we’ve got 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. This is not a good picture, and I think the American people are discovering that.
Scott Martelle: If I could, just to follow up with the income equality —
Jill Stein: Yes.
Scott Martelle: How would you address that?
Jill Stein: That’s in part what the Green New Deal is designed to do. So it’s not only to address the climate emergency, but also to address the economic emergency, because the recovery has really gone to the top. Average wages now are still just barely above poverty, and one out of three Americans cannot afford healthcare even with the insurance—
Scott Martelle: We understand the problem, but how would you fix it?
Jill Stein: With jobs. With living wage jobs, basically 20 million of them to help jump-start a sustainable and healthy economy, with an insured, just transition, for example, for workers in both the fossil fuel and in the weapons industry, because they all need to transition to sustainable forms of production. This is also our answer to the departure of manufacturing jobs and good jobs by creating the manufacturing base here for clean renewable energy and the efficiency systems and public transportation to put these workers to work in jobs that are actually good for them, where they’re not being exposed to dangerous chemicals, where their risk of dying on the job is not elevated 700%, which is actually the occupational risk of dying on a fossil fuel energy job right now. So, you know, this is a win-win to revive the economy, to turn the tide on climate change, and to make the wars for oil obsolete and recoup our health at the same time. But very specifically, it’s about providing national funding to be locally used to create the jobs that meet these criteria for making local communities sustainable.
Nicholas Goldberg: When you say national funding, do you mean the salaries of these people employed by private places and NGOs and other such things to be paid by government?
Jill Stein: That there would be grants and subsidies provided to create these jobs. According to, for example, one academic by the name of Philip Harvey, whose expertise is basically how do we create a New Deal, today. According to his estimate, these jobs could be created for far less than the Obama stimulus package, which cost, you know, $700 or $800 billion, something like that, and produced around 3 million jobs — not a lot. According to his estimates, it would cost less to produce two-thirds of 20 million. So of the 20 million, one-third is indirectly created as a result of jump-starting local economies that produce demand and grow other jobs. So, about two-thirds of this, so around 12, 13 million jobs, would be directly created. And the cost of this would be approximately half a trillion dollars, so less than the cost of the Obama stimulus package, because these are directly funded through grants and subsidies for those jobs. And they would be provided to private businesses, you know, new entrepreneurs, worker cooperatives, nonprofits and, as a last resort, government-created jobs.
Jon Healey: How would decide where the money would go specifically?
Jill Stein: Yeah, so, the idea here is for communities to decide how they meet these criteria for becoming sustainable economically, ecologically and socially, they decide —
Jon Healey: What is the mechanism? In the United States, we have capital allocated by the market. People’s supply and demand feed each other. So, what would the mechanism be here? Would people vote on what jobs to create?
Jill Stein: Essentially through a community decision-making process. And exactly how that would be configured, you know, remains to be established. The process of community budgeting, participatory budgeting, is one model that’s been suggested. You know, that may not be the model to go with. There are other forms of community-based decision-making, not unlike, you know, our elected bodies, except that the intention here is to exclude pay-to-play players from determining how these decisions are made.
Nicholas Goldberg: As Jon pointed out, it’s not our elected bodies that make decisions about where jobs should be created, by and large.
Jill Stein: That’s true, although decisions about public programs generally are made by them.
Scott Martelle: What happens when you run into the same problem Obama did with the ACA [Affordable Care Act], where there’s no local buy-in? This whole program would be a hard sell in Louisiana and Texas.
Jill Stein: That’s right. I mean there are many reasons. What there was buy-in for, remember, was the public option, and that got eliminated.
Jon Healey: Excuse me, in the blue states, yeah, which represent a minority of the states…
Jill Stein: Um-hum.
Jon Healey: So …
Jill Stein: So, what do you do? Well the idea here is not going through the states, it’s going through local communities, so you go directly to them.
Scott Martelle: The local communities have the same politics as the state.
Jill Stein: In some cases yes, in some cases, no. So, yeah, I mean this is not a, you know, this is not going to happen without a lot of struggle. But the point is on the course we’re on right now, we’re not going to be here to struggle for all that much longer. And, you know, I think this entails being, this is why it’s so important that the truth be told about what the real stakes of this crisis are. And why it is — when Pearl Harbor was bombed, you know, there was a whole lot of buy-in to a national mobilization. And 25% of the economy was transformed in six months. And we’re not calling for six months, we’re saying 15 years. That’s about what we’ve got. And probably all that we’ve got.
Nicholas Goldberg: Can we go back to foreign policy for one minute?
Jill Stein: Sure.
Nicholas Goldberg: You’ve been very critical of Israel, with whom the U.S. has had a close alliance for decades. You’ve accused the Israeli government of apartheid, assassinations, illegal settlements, blockades, defiance of international law, and you’ve been a supporter of BDS [the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement]. Two-pronged question: One is, how would you recalibrate the U.S. relationship with Israel? Second is, do you support a two-state solution, or would you prefer to see a one-state solution where Jews and Arabs live side by side?
Jill Stein: Great. OK. Both really good questions. I’m very careful not to isolate Israel on this but to make this part of a transformed foreign policy where we apply the same standards across the board. So it’s not just Israel. It’s also Saudi Arabia, it’s also Egypt. It’s where there are massive and systemic violations of human rights and international law. That we put our partners on notice with all due humility because we have been party to these violations of international law ourselves. This is not to slam the door in their face. But to give them due notice that we are transitioning our policies to be consistent with our higher principles and we’d like to bring them along with us. And that we will be curtailing our subsidies and our support. For Israel, that’s $8 million a day, so we do have a special responsibility there to look at how that money is being used. But likewise to Saudi Arabia, where we just were selling another billion dollars worth of weapons, and we’re not only selling the weapons but we are complicit in the war effort in Yemen where there are also incredible atrocities and war crimes being committed. So, this is not to isolate Israel but rather to hold Israel to a higher standard that we also have to hold ourselves to as well.
In terms of what is the solution is going forward, in my view, it is the grassroots human-rights groups — both Israeli and Palestinian — that are doing exactly what needs to be done, which is building trust, developing relationships and building that sense of common community which is essential if we’re going to figure out how to move forward.
My view is that it should not be decided by the U.S. It’s my view that it should not be decided by the likes of the casino magnate, who is from the U.S., who is one of the major funders of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s policies. This is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to figure out themselves how they are going to support it, but with our assistance that this needs to be solved in a way that is consistent with human rights all around.
Nicholas Goldberg: So do you have a position on whether a two-state solution is a better solution than a one-state solution? Or do would you just stay out of that debate?
Jill Stein: You know, I feel like I am not as informed as I need to be to really weigh in on that. I need to go there and I haven’t yet. Until I have done that, I hesitate to put my feet down. What I hear from many people on all sides of the political spectrum is that Palestine has been so carved up now that it’s very hard to imagine how a two-state solution is possible. So that’s what I hear many experts say, but I myself am not committing one way or the other at this point. I do feel like it’s really important to allow the Israelis and Palestinians to begin rehumanizing each other and to move forward from there.
Nicholas Goldberg: Do you think that there’s still reason or there ever was reason to have a Jewish state in the Middle East? Or is that a fundamentally unworkable, inherently racist concept?
Jill Stein: I certainly understand where it comes from. Put it this way, growing up after the Second World War in a Jewish family, I really understand that, and have members of my family who are very committed to this concept. My grandfather’s first name was Israel and he thought it was his country. In my own sense of this issue as an American Jew, I have been on both sides of this. At this point I think it is very important for there to be separation of religion and state. It’s not good for Jews. It’s not good for Muslims. It’s not good for Christians. The marriage of state and religion is inherently problematic. We cannot guarantee the human rights of any oppressed group alone. We need a broad commitment to human rights across the board. We cannot attain that simply by protecting one oppressed group or the other.
Nicholas Goldberg: Mike, do you have any questions?
Michael McGough: Yes, I had one question. I was looking at your policy statement and I was sort of intrigued by a couple of lines in there about proportional representation. I don’t think you used the term “single transfer vote,” but you had a reference in there to “preference vote,” and I was just curious as to how you saw that coming about, and about what level of government do you see? Are you talking about some sort of constitutional amendment? Would you have proportional representation in Congress? Would this be similar to some of these European systems where you have proportional representation?
Jill Stein: Yes, and in fact, let me start with ranked choice voting, which is sort of simpler than proportional representation and applies to single-office elections, like president. Because this is where the question always come up, “Aren’t you going to split the vote?” To which the obvious answer is: Well let’s just rank peoples’ choices. This is a voting system we use across the country, from San Francisco to Portland, Maine, and the Twin Cities. It’s used very successfully in single-office elections like mayor. It could be used for governor. The state of Maine, actually, has a referendum this November to adopt a ranked-choice voting system for governor.
And, in fact, it could be used in the race for president. It does not require a constitutional amendment. The states have the authority to change this voting system for president, right now, in fact, if they wanted, on an emergency basis, they could adopt a ranked-choice system, which simply allows you to go to the poll, and rather than rolling your dice and deciding whether to vote your values or your fears, you get to rank your choices, knowing that if your first choice loses your vote is automatically assigned to your second choice. It’s kind of a no-brainer system. It works very well.
The first time I ran for office in 2002, running for governor in Massachusetts against Mitt Romney, we actually worked with a Democratic legislator to file that bill, so that there would be no risk of splitting the vote. The Democrats had about 85% of the Legislature at that time. They could have easily protected their access to the governorship. But they refused to do so. They wouldn’t let the bill out of committee. They still haven’t let the bill out of the committee, even though it has been re-filed many times. They won’t let it out. Why will they not allow a solution to this problem of a split vote and an unintended consequence? Why not liberate voters to actually vote your values? Democracy needs a moral compass. It’s not a matter of just what we don’t like and who we are most afraid of. We need an affirmative agenda if we’re going to move forward as a democracy. Yet we have a voting system that forbids us from actually bringing our values into our vote, which is, in my view, quite a disaster. The reason they won’t allow that is clear, because they rely on fear to intimidate people into voting Democratic. They don’t want a candidate that actually can stand up for true Democratic Party values. That’s very intimidating to the Democratic Party.
In fact, when we fought our way into one televised gubernatorial debate, I was actually told when I walked out of the debate by the press that I had won the debate on the instant online view poll. And at that point I was yanked out of the debate and that instant online viewer poll was never done again on a televised debate, that I’m aware of. The Democratic Party is very afraid of having competition that is actually unmuzzled and that can tell the truth, which is why they keep this fear voting system in place.
How are we going to get it? I think we are only going to get it by standing up and voting our values, understanding that the lesser evil doesn’t solve the problem. It just prolongs the problem and it paves the way to the greater evil. That the policies of the Clintons, the Wall Street deregulation and NAFTA, created the economic misery that becomes very fertile territory for demagogues like Donald Trump. Neoliberalism, arguably, sets the course for this kind for this kind of neo-extremism, this right-wing extremism that we are facing. The only way we solve that crisis, the rise of the right-wing extreme, is by truly progressive policies that address this crisis of economic security. That will not come from the lesser evil.
Jon Healey: So, basically, you’re saying the only way to stop extremism on the right is extremism on the left?
Jill Stein: In my view, this is not extremism on the left. This is what the American people support in poll after poll. Support the right to a job. Support living wages. Support real climate action. Support small community-based banks that make loans available to every day people and small businesses, not these too-big-to-fail banks that rip us off, that crash the economy at taxpayer expense. Support a public-option healthcare system, not Obamacare, which has been a boondoggle for insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Bernie Sanders had public support behind him that outstripped… in head-to-head polling, Bernie Sanders was ahead of all the other competition. This is a progressive agenda that the American people embrace every time they have something to say about it.
Nicholas Goldberg: We’re just running out of time. Can I ask you maybe for quick answers on a couple of things? One is something you said the other day about how we shouldn’t be subjecting our kids’ brains to Wi-Fi. And that we are making guinea pigs out of whole populations and then discovering how many die. Can you just explain quickly what you meant by that?
Jill Stein: That wasn’t about Wi-Fi. That was more generally about environmental health, and I come to that after decades of fighting for environmental health.
Nicholas Goldberg: The first part was about Wi-Fi.
Jill Stein: The first part was about Wi-Fi. Now this is not a policy statement, OK? I’m one of the few candidates that actually goes out and talks in public, so I say a lot of things based on my experience, my judgment as an environmental health physician, so I say a lot of stuff. I think it’s a sign of a gotcha political system that’s looking to take down public interest candidates that they make a big deal out of a comment to a parent concerned about the exposure of young children to Wi-Fi. Now it turns out that Wi-Fi is actually untested. A large study by the NIH [National Institutes of Health] released a month ago raised serious questions about whether kids ought to be exposed, whether young children ought to be exposed to Wi-Fi. And you know, I’m not saying they should or they shouldn’t but that this should be studied. Absolutely it should be studied.
You know that we had lead emitted in gasoline and in paint, painting generations of housing for an entire century, practically, before it was regulated. That’s what I’m talking about, is that we have a regulatory system that is biased to protect profit and not to protect people. We need a much more precautionary and proactive regulatory system that is not influenced by the revolving door, by the $700 million, for example, from the pharmaceutical industry in a two-year period from 2009 to ’11 or ’11 to ’13, but huge amounts of money that are flowing into our political, regulatory and rule-making infrastructure that does not benefit public health.
Jon Healey: Who benefits from Wi-Fi? The airwaves are free, in that case, unlicensed airwaves. What’s the profit center?
Jill Stein: Those comments were not about Wi-Fi. That was about things like lead and pesticides and mercury, things of that sort. Those were general comments that apply to our regulatory system. Who benefits from Wi-Fi? We all benefit from Wi-Fi. Is there an industry here? Of course, there is an industry, as well. The point is public health needs protecting. I don’t think you should have to prove that there is some profiteer who might have an ulterior motive in order to protect public health. I think public health is kind of in a very sad state of affairs here in this country. And I should mention there are many European countries right now that already protect children from Wi-Fi, so it’s not like this is some preposterous idea. This is already embraced by many countries all around the world. I don’t think it is preposterous to suggest that public health needs greater protection in this country, especially that of children, among whom there is a rising tide of brain cancer right now.
Nicholas Goldberg: So one other comment that was in the news was your running mate’s comment of calling President Obama an “Uncle Tom.” I saw in a recent interview that said you wouldn’t have used that same language. I just wanted to get a quick clarification on what you mean by that. Does that mean you disagree with what he said? Do you feel he said something more harshly than he should have?
Jill Stein: I don’t want to stand in judgment of the language he uses. He really represents a much more oppressed demographic than I do. I don’t use those terms, and I would never speak in that kind of language. If I were to say that, that would be pretty outrageous. For him to say that is a totally different story, and he expresses…
Scott Martelle: But what about the sentiment behind it?
Jill Stein: As I was about to say, he expresses his incredible disappointment with Barack Obama’s term, and he speaks for himself about this very well. And in that interview on CNN, actually, he spoke to this at great length, so I would refer you to that.
Am I disappointed in Barack Obama? Yes, I’m very disappointed in Barack Obama and I’m disappointed in the Democratic administration and in the two Democratic houses of Congress for two years that bailed out Wall Street when they should have bailed out Main Street. African Americans, in particular, saw their cumulative wealth crash. They used to have 10 cents on the dollar of the average white family. That 10 cents on the dollar that the African American family used to have crashed down to 5 cents on the dollar, given the focus of predatory lending on the African American community and the degree to which they were really devastated by the foreclosure crisis. So yeah, I think there is a lot of disappointment out there.
Nicholas Goldberg: You call someone an Uncle Tom, you’re not saying you’re disappointed in them, you’re saying that a black man is a toady or a servant or a yes man to the white power structure, right?
Jill Stein: I’m not going to put works in his mouth. You know, I feel like we have a very important conversation here about race, and there needs to be both sides of that conversation present. I think, as a white person, I do not want to speak for a black person. I am honored to have Ajamu Baraka as a running mate. I think he brings enormous credibility in the disenfranchised communities, not just African American but Latino, Asian American and Native American. He is a recognized advocate for racial justice, economic justice and human rights, and I think this conversation is only just begun. It is very important.
Carla Hall: At the moment you have about no chance of getting into the presidential debates, right?
Jill Stein: I feel like that is saying to young people, “You have no chance of ever getting out of debt in your life, right?” Personally, I think that the role of the press is to ensure that the American public understands who their choices are. I think the press is here to inform and empower people. Remember Donald Trump had about $4 billion worth of free media, and Hillary Clinton has had about $2 billion, and we’ve had zero. I think it remarkable that we are standing where we are.
I think it’s really awesome that the L.A. Times actually put out an editorial advocating for open debates. I think you’re the model for what I think the press should be doing right now, in saying that this is what the American people… We not only have a right to vote; to make that vote have meaning, we have a right to know who we can vote for. I wouldn’t say it’s a done deal yet, by any means. I think there are a lot of people who feel like their lives depend on decisions that are going to be made in this election. That this is not just about what kind of a world we are going to have, but whether we’re going to have a world or not going forward. I think there are a lot of people who feel very passionate about needing to have an open debate. And I think it’s a real sign of leadership that the press needs to be actually standing up for that.
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