For liberal Democrats disappointed in Barack Obama’s presidency, the Green New Deal that is the heart of Dr. Jill Stein’s newly minted Green Party presidential campaign must feel like a dream come true. It’s all the things that they had hoped for from Obama but failed to get, despite Democratic control of the House and Senate in his first two years of office.
But for Democrats who remember Bush v. Gore v. Nader in 2000, the Stein candidacy could seem more like a nightmare. It could seriously undermine the re-election of a Democratic president facing 9 percent unemployment and a 40 percent approval rating, and who appears to share, at least rhetorically, some or most of the political views of the Green Party.
Stein, however, laughs off the comparisons.
“Just because Obama claims to be a liberal and to support Occupy Wall Street doesn’t mean he’s not pro Wall Street,” Stein told me in an interview this weekend. “Look at who he brought into his inner circle from the very beginning – Wall Street insiders like Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and William Daley.”
Stein calls for the re-enactment of the much-maligned (and feared)Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking between 1933 and 1999, and the prosecution of what she calls “Wall Street crooks.“ She believes that Obama failed to take strong action at the incipience of his term, choosing instead to “protect criminals” (in her words), and noting that the President opposed taking legal action against mendacious banking executives who cost Americans billions of dollars.
She also likes to remind voters that Obama has left the liberty-restricting Patriot Act in place and has been quick to pursue new military adventures in the Middle East. But Stein’s campaign goes beyond civil liberties, banking, and the traditional environmental focus of the Green Party. The foundation of her movement is the Green New Deal, which includes the following:
1. An end to unemployment through the development of green infrastructure jobs
2. Single payer health insurance for all
3. Free pre-k through college education
4. Forgiveness of all student debt
5. A moratorium on home foreclosures
6. Immediate return home of the troops – including private security contractors – from Iraq and Afghanistan
Stein believes the Green New Deal is the right solution for today’s mix of financial and morale problems the country is facing, and she claims she can do all of this and balance the federal budget. As an example, she cites healthcare costs, which have spiraled out of control because of our focus on treating rather than preventing illness.
“Both Obamacare and Romneycare are disasters,” she told me (she is a resident and practicing physician in Massachusetts). “Most healthcare systems are wasteful because they are not comprehensive in nature. You can’t treat half of the body as these programs do.”
On her web page, she describes her healthcare plan as a “Medicare for all system” and claims that it merely catches the United States up with the rest of the world. She also defends the existing Social Security system as sustainable, and calls climate change “the greatest threat confronting our generation.”
In addition to reducing healthcare and military costs, Stein would propose paying for her Green New Deal with additional, tiered taxes on wealthy Americans, a tax on Wall Street transactions, and a tax on corporate off-shore operations that are currently protected tax havens.
“Obama’s jobs plan and his proposed taxes to pay for it are just a drop in the bucket,” Stein said. “It’s not fiscally sound. I’m a deficit hawk. Under my plan we could run circles around these so-called fiscal hawks by doing the right things.”
In the big picture, getting elected as a third party candidate is undoubtedly a major challenge, but governing without a major party apparatus behind her could be an even greater trial.
“I plan to use the bully pulpit,” she told me. “My election will signal an earthquake. Then I can build on the good will that got me there.”
Also, it normally takes big money to make a significant political impact. Stein’s answer, though, is to get money out of politics.
“I want to change the rules, to return to the days of an unfettered press that is not controlled by big money interests and provides free and equal access for political candidates. We’ll have to work an end game around the Supreme Court’s rulings on Citizens United and other findings because passing a Constitutional Amendment takes too long. But it can be done,” Stein said. “The people want change.”
The groundswell that has already set her candidacy in motion is the Occupy Movement, which Stein speaks of enthusiastically on her website. It is also supported by President Obama and most Democrats, but Stein strongly rejects the President’s position as meaningless rhetoric.
“He has had the chance to take action against Wall Street and has embraced its tenets instead. We must not surrender to those who are mouthpieces for big money industries.”
Before Stein can attempt to implement her Green New Deal, she faces the daunting task of winning the Presidency, which requires gaining ballot access in most or all of the 50 states, and defeating the powerful Republican and Democratic party machines arrayed against her. The odds are staggering, but this does seem to be a season for seismic change in American politics.
Stein, her husband and their two children reside in Lexington, Massachusetts, where she has previously been a gubernatorial candidate. She is originally from Chicago.