Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, recently announced her bid for the White House in 2012, drawing attention to her outside-the-beltway views, equal and consistent criticism of both major political parties, and her "Green New Deal" plan to boost the economy and create jobs while taking action to protect the environment.
I had a chance to speak with her by phone this weekend and was greeted by a voice that emanated intelligence, enthusiasm, and compassion. Though she's a Green Party candidate, over the course of our brief interview, I wanted to learn what Jill Stein might have in common with Tea Party supporters and Ron Paul Republicans. Her scathing critique of corruption and tyranny in government-- especially the machinations of the banking sector-- seem like they would resonate with many libertarian-minded individuals. It might not be a stretch to describe Jill Stein by the portmanteau "liberaltarian." Here's Jill Stein in her own words:
CAIVN: You have shown a lot of sympathy for the grievances of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. In 2009 a lot of the Tea Party protesters were extremely opposed to the Wall Street bailouts. How central of an issue are you going to make corporate welfare in your campaign, and what would you say to Tea Party supporters to get them to consider supporting your candidacy?
Jill Stein: It’s a central issue of my campaign and it’s not just something that happened in the past. It’s still going on now. First there was TARP– and it wasn’t only the Tea Party who opposed it. Most Americans were strongly opposed to it. There were so many people calling in to Congress, and there were reports that the calls were opposed to the bailouts by a ratio of 10 to 1. But the lobbying effort got it passed anyway. And I’m sure you’ve heard about this, but the Fed has doled out $16 trillion since then in essentially zero interest loans, so this is still happening right now.
As for the Tea Party, unfortunately it has been manipulated and hijacked and misdirected by the very corporate interests that it was opposed to, and some racism got folded into it as well. But I think a lot of Americans, including some who support the Tea Party are just frustrated by what's going on in the economy, what the banks are doing. At the end of the day, I do think we can get beyond ideology, and do what's best for the community.
CAIVN: You mentioned the Federal Reserve Bank. What are your thoughts on the Federal Reserve, and would you support legislation for a full, top-to-bottom, annual, public audit of the Federal Reserve?
Jill Stein: Yes. I say that guardedly, because I don’t typically like to endorse legislation on the fly, but that sounds like a no brainer. Disclosure is important. Transparency is important. And it needs to go further. After what our economy’s been through, after they were able to just loan out trillions of dollars to big banks, we need to completely revisit the role of the Fed and how it works.
CAIVN: Polling indicates that very few of Ron Paul's followers will support another GOP nominee in the general election; do you think some of them might support your candidacy if Ron Paul does not secure his party's nomination?
Jill Stein: We do have a lot in common with our opposition to the wars, our support for civil liberties, and our opposition to the bank bailouts.
CAIVN: How would you overcome differences on health care, education, green jobs, and the role of government with a group that has such a strong libertarian streak?
Jill Stein: What we share in common most of all is the idea that government is very corrupt. We're on the same page there. But my perspective is that the answer is not no government. We need to reform government. Govenrment really is ripping us off, I would definitely agree so in some ways we're on the same track: Let's bring our troops home and stop being the policeman of the world. We also share a disapproval of "ObamaCare." I think it's a disaster myself.
CAIVN: You say that "ObamaCare" is a disaster. In a recent presidential debate, Mitt Romney said that "RomneyCare," which formed the model for "ObamaCare", is extremely popular in Massachusetts. As a Massachusetts resident and political activist, do you get that same feeling from the people you know and talk to?
Jill Stein: When people get sick, they don't like the system. It's easy to like it when you're well, but when people get sick, they find that the insurance policy doesn't protect them or their financial security very well. And you have just as many bankruptcies under "RomneyCare" as before. It's a mixed bag. It did some good, but health care can't just be half good. You can't take care of half of your body.
CAIVN: Going back to the issue of government and its role in society. You agree that the federal government is extremely corrupt, but argue that it should be reformed instead of severely curtailed. What specific checks do you have in mind to prevent corporate interests from continuing to hijack government, especially with something like the Green New Deal. How do you prevent corporate America from lining its own coffers with that tax money?
Jill Stein: We need transparency reform: an open meetings and public records law so we know what's going on. The American people also just need to keep their own legislators accountable and refuse to reelect legislators who pander to special interests. We also need campaign finance reform: equal, free airtime for qualified candidates on the public airways. By putting a price tag on democratic discourse, the corporations keep control of the system and they jack up the prices to keep control of the system. But we can solve that problem and it shouldn't be hard to break that stranglehold. The free airtime on public airways for qualified candidates is the end run around the system.
CAIVN: There are a lot of fiscal hawks on both sides of the partisan divide (usually when their side isn't the one in charge of spending all the money). Do you believe that the federal budget should be balanced and do you think the current level of spending in Washington is sustainable?
Jill Stein: I'm a fiscal hawk myself. But I come at it not from the side of cutting the costs of community infrastructure, but from cutting the massive costs of waste in government and bank bailouts, which are what's really robbing the American people. Also the budget of this military / security / industrial complex that isn't actually making us more safe, not to mention reforming the health care bureaucracy where costs are rising, and focusing on preventative medicine.
CAIVN: With President Bush and then Obama, there seems to be more unchecked executive power in many ways than at any other time in history. Would a Stein presidency commit our military to conflicts that do not present an imminent threat without Congressional authorization, as Mr. Obama has done in Uganda and Libya? And what are your general thoughts on the office of the presidency, the role of the executive, and whether or not it has upset the checks and balances in our Constitution?
Jill Stein: I agree completely. I think this is very dangerous and costly. It flys in the face of our checks and balances ingovernment. We have drone wars springing up all over the place, and these undeclared wars. Another problem is signing statements, which Obama said he wouldn't use, where the president attaches statements to legislation saying which provisions he will enforce.
Then there is the abuse of our civil liberties. Obama has been at least as bad as Bush if not worse, for extending the Patriot Act, and extending it into cyberspace, spying on American citizens, and they have no idea whether they're being listened to or not. We've also recently heard of some assassinations the president has been committing, including the teenage son of someone who is suspected of terrorism, and these were American citizens.
These are the beginnings of a proto-fascist state, and we need to nip this in the bud now. Obama has been taking us in this direction and we need to make a real change. The Occupy movement reflects a breaking point in the entire country, and we can turn that into a tipping point to reform our country for the better.
You can read more about Dr. Jill Stein's views at JillStein.org.