I worked at the national level with a broad coalition of public health groups to clean up certain pesticides and to get them off the shelf, toxic pesticides that are poisonous for child development, Dursban in particular. At that point I realized, one down, hundreds more to go, and became very aware that we needed to change the system. Anyhow, that’s when I got recruited into electoral activism, but I come to this with a history of building coalitions to advance the public health, to promote good jobs. We actually worked on a referendum, I should mention as well, to promote jobs in clean renewable energy at the state level, at least to go on record that there was enormous public support for moving in that direction and shifting public subsidies from fossil fuels and other harmful large interests into sustainable development at the local level.
So that’s the kind of experience I come with, building broad coalitions across many public interest groups in order to advance the public interest, and we’ve discovered in the process of this that our biggest obstacle is entrenched political power for advancing the public interest. The first election that I was “tricked” into running for office — this was against Mitt Romney in the 2002 election for governor — we fought our way into a televised debate, just with large demonstrations that were demanding that the debates be opened up and made real and relevant and actually insert real discussion into those debates. So I was admitted along with other independent candidates into a single televised debate which took place in a studio without a live audience, and the lessons of that debate really spoke volumes. For one thing the agenda which you’ve heard me articulate before went over like a lead balloon inside that TV studio which was just candidates and the moderator, but when we walked out I was mobbed by the press — for the first time and the last time that I was mobbed by the press — and what they told me was I had won the debate on the instant online viewer poll. Who knew there was an instant online viewer poll going on? Certainly I didn’t know. I don’t believe anyone in the room knew; that was the last time than an instant online viewer poll was done in a televised political debate that I’m aware of, and I was promptly yanked out of the debate. We went to court but to no avail, unfortunately, you know, and I think it was just really clear that we had tapped a nerve and that what I had to say — what the Green Party and our candidates generally have to say, with the unique liberty of being unconstrained by large lobbying and corporate interests, what we can say about jobs, about climate, about a strong public school system, about these wars for oil that are making us less safe not more safe and which are bankrupting us, costing us half of our discretionary budget and almost half of our income taxes to support this military budget which arguably has not advanced our interests or our security since the 9/11 World Trade towers came down — so at any rate I think those issues are very much of interest to people and they resonate even more now than they did back in 2002.
HIATT: We are going to talk a lot about issues, I hope, but just to be clear, your view is that experience, in terms of managing a large operation, dealing with Congress, having three million employees — experience would be a disadvantage coming to this job.
STEIN: No, certainly not a disadvantage, but I don’t believe that it is rocket science, and, shall I say, I think the most important critical skill to bring to public office now is the freedom to actually respond to the public interest and to work aggressively and creatively to find common ground among diverse interests and to move forward on an agenda that benefits us all, at a time when not only is public confidence at a record low in our institutions of government but arguably at a time when we are probably more imperiled than we have ever been in human history, particularly from the point of view of climate change which we see massively escalating around us–
HIATT: Just to be clear – when you say “it is not rocket science”, the “it” refers to what?
STEIN: You know, I think somehow our presidents have managed, even many who are certainly not very qualified in the scheme of things, have managed to run the administration with the support that a president can mobilize, and that includes, you know, the members of the administration.
HIATT: So “it” is being president.
STEIN: Yes – well, the administration of being president, which is a part of it, but I think the real missing link in our democracy is not so much a good administrator, it’s not so much a businessman with a sense of how to run a business, I really think what’s missing from the picture nowadays is a sense of democracy and how to actually engage the public in being the engine of our democracy that actually serves our future. I think this is the elephant in the room—or I should say, the elephant that’s not in the room that needs to be in the room—in how we put together a government that can actually represent the interests of everyday people who are being thrown under the bus, and that’s not just economically, you know, I, as a mother, am especially concerned about a younger generation who’s held hostage in debt, who does not have the jobs they need in order to repay that debt in order to get a home of their own, our birthrate is plummeting in this country, it’s a real sign of a human rights disaster which is generational, and the climate is unraveling on their watch. I don’t think we are going to be able to fix these problems which is only digging us in deeper.
And I think it’s not just me that thinks this, I think this is what the American public is demanding right now and what we see in poll after poll is the majority of Americans essentially saying they are very unhappy: They do not like and they not trust the two candidates that these two parties have produced as well as the parties themselves, and we see that with the largest plurality of voters now being independent. I think we are at a very powerful moment in an election that represents a political realignment, with Republicans having fallen apart, the Democrats moving substantially to the right and showing signs of continuing to do so. We are producing one combined Demo-Republican corporate party right now, which is serving well its large funders, and Hillary Clinton, I think, shows a number of indications continuing to – continuing along that pathway. But everyday people I think are not happy with this process and would like to see it fundamentally changed.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: What are the specific things that you would point to — you mention Hillary Clinton — what are the specific indicia you would point to continuing along this pathway?
STEIN: In particular I would point to the appointment of Ken Salazar [as the head of Clinton’s transition team], who has certainly been, number one, he’s a partner in [a] colossal law and lobbying corporation, and that he has been a good friend and faithful servant and proponent of the fossil fuel industry of fracking, which he denies has ever caused a single problem of any sort, a proponent of the Keystone pipeline, a proponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And then you have the Democratic Party’s platform process, which could not find a way even to adopt on a voluntary basis many of these issues including opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So in my view we are likely to see a continuation. You can also look at Hillary’s new organization for reaching out to Republicans. The massive influx of Republicans into her campaign —
MARCUS: That’s a bad thing?
STEIN: In my view – well, put it this way, it reflects what her agenda is. And I think it reflects this political realignment which is taking place right now: that you have Trump sort of going off the deep end with a remnant of the Republican Party, but you have you know, you have 50 officials, regulators, security administrators, etc. who’ve all kind of landed in Hillary’s camp and the group just grows as the consensus grows that she is the vehicle for the shared Republican and Democratic agenda. Not that there aren’t differences between them, but those differences aren’t enough to save your job, to save your life or to save the planet, and I think this is of concern for those people outside of the inner circle of those parties.
HIATT: An issue between them has been NATO and the NATO Alliance. What’s your view?
STEIN: I think we need to take a good hard look at NATO. In my view NATO needs to be part of a re-examination of a foreign policy that has been based on economic and military domination and we need to look at what the consequences of this kind of foreign policy are. And, you know we spent 6 trillion dollars –
HIATT: What’s the domination, where NATO comes into it?
STEIN: Well, NATO for example is how we can do an end run around our own internal process when we want to create regime change somewhere.
HIATT: So your running mate [Ajamu Baraka] referred to the “gangster states” of NATO. Do you share that view?
STEIN: Well he uses language I would not use. But, shall we say, I don’t think it represents American democracy to do an end run around our process or determining when we will go to war.
HIATT: Well he uses language, but what does he mean? Do you agree?
STEIN: I think he means the same thing I’m saying.
HIATT: ‘Gangster’ means criminal.
STEIN: Ah, that’s not what I’m saying. Well, criminal? Does it violate international law? Yes. I think it does violate international law.
MARCUS: What violates international law?
STEIN: For example, sending in the troops to Libya. Sending in the troops to Iraq for that matter. I think the criteria for invading other countries is that we need to be under imminent threat. And I think it would be hard to establish that we were under imminent threat, say, in Libya. Or in Syria for that matter. I would argue that this is not consistent with international law or human rights, and that that should be the basis of our foreign policy going forward. And you know, why? According to a recent study, it will cost us 6 trillion dollars including our ongoing healthcare expenditures, for the wounded soldiers, just from Iraq and Afghanistan alone. 6 trillion dollars and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers that have been wounded or killed and a million people killed in Iraq alone, which is not winning us the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East. And what do we have to show for it? Failed states, mass refugee migrations which are tearing apart Europe and the Middle East, and worse terrorist threats, in fact. It’s widely acknowledged that ISIS grew out of the catastrophe in Iraq. Al Qaeda itself grew out of the chaos in Afghanistan and the efforts of the U.S. and the Saudis to create an international jihadi movement in order to disrupt the efforts of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. So with one hand we fight terrorism, we and our allies, but with the other hand, we and our allies have also supported terrorist movements and terrorist organizations. And this is not working. We call for actually a weapons embargo to the Middle East. Since we are supplying a majority of weapons to the region, we can go a long way to initiate this weapons embargo. We also call for a very serious discussion with our allies — and Hillary Clinton herself identified the Saudis as still the leading source of funding for Sunni jihad around the world in a leaked State Department memo as secretary of state. So we need to have a frank discussion with our allies that we are turning over a new leaf, that we will stop our funding for such enterprises and that we expect our allies to do the same. So we’re proposing essentially a weapons embargo, a freeze on the bank accounts of countries who continue to fund terrorist enterprises and also we call on allies like Turkey to close their borders to the movement of jihadi groups.
HIATT: So you shifted to the Middle East, of course NATO has been involved, but to come back to core NATO, Vice president Biden was in Latvia a day or two ago, and said that he believes the alliance is important he help preserve the independence of those Baltic states against possible aggression from Russia and that they should ignore Trump’s criticisms. What do you think about NATO’s role there?
STEIN: At this point, I’m not prepared to speak to that in detail, but I will say that coming out of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the expansion of NATO and the unification of Germany that we made a very clear commitment that NATO would not move one inch to the East, yet we certainly have. I would only note that there’s provocation going on here on both sides and that it’s very important for us to have a diplomatic approach to this. Uh, where was this published? Just yesterday there was discussion about how much the weapons industry is salivating over the expansion of military funding, not only for our own budget but for NATO countries looking to expand the profits of the U.S. weapons industry through the – um – what they call the opportunity of conflict.
HIATT: What do you think Putin’s goals are?
STEIN: Not good. Not good. I would have no faith and trust in Putin, but on the other hand I think to be needlessly militarizing this conflict is not in the interest of the American people. It’s certainly – and take the Middle East as a case in point, a case study of where we’ve had incredible chaos – who has benefitted from this? I don’t think the American people, I don’t think the people of the Middle East. You know, again, failed states, worse terrorist threats, mass migrations. If the weapons industry is exerting inordinate influence in Washington and their lobbyists are moving through the revolving door as they have historically, this is not a good thing for us. And a foreign policy that fails to safeguard against what President Eisenhower warned as the inordinate power of the military industrial complex, we are living his warnings right now. We could easily see Russia, Ukraine, Crimea explode into nuclear war, as we could with the approach that Hillary Clinton is advocating in Syria.
LEE HOCKSTADER, EDITORIAL WRITER: You referred to provocations on both sides, which suggests a moral equivalence. What are the eastward provocations from NATO or from Ukraine toward Russia that you think are – you seem to think are just as bad?
STEIN: I don’t want to say “just as”. I don’t want to imply a moral equivalence. What I want to do here is clarify that there are opportunities for diplomacy before we have this rush into wars that could spin out of control in the blink of an eye. And, you know, it wasn’t a secret that –
HIATT: Wasn’t the Minsk process – hasn’t diplomacy been tried?
STEIN: It’s a complicated story, and I won’t pretend to be able to summarize it for you here and now. But I will say that it was clear, you know, that [Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs] Victoria Nuland, you know, was right there on YouTube discussing the coup before it occurred and the role of the U.S. in choosing who the next leaders would be. So this is just to say that it’s clear that there’s been some interventions on both sides.
HIATT: She was discussing the coup? What’s the evidence of that?
STEIN: Victoria Nuland was on record – phone calls from Victoria Nuland discussing who would take over when – shall I send you the YouTube link?
HIATT: Yeah. And if I can just do one more foreign policy question — In the same article where your running mate talked about gangster states, he said that the – in Syria there had been “three years of unimaginable atrocities fomented by a demented and dying U.S. empire.” What does that mean?
STEIN: I don’t know how that, you know, I have talked to him about that question and he has said it’s a complication situation in which there’s blame to go around on all sides. So I don’t know if that was taken out of context, but I know that he certainly does not consider other parties to be held harmless – that there has been regrettable moves on all sides.
HIATT: But do you agree that there’s a “demented and dying U.S. empire”?
STEIN: Well, I think our empire is extremely — I mean, how many bases do we have exactly? You know, we don’t even know. Is it 700? 800? 900? How many do all other countries have added together? I understand it’s about 30. I think there’s something wrong with this picture. It’s hard to say that is not an empire. I mean, arguably that’s more empire than there has been in the history of the world. I think there’s a — shall we say – we have an extremely unbalanced situation right now where we have been leading the charge on regime change. I think there’s not much question about what led to regime change in Iraq, what led to regime change in Libya. And these have been an absolutely catastrophic and — although they’ve led to greater quagmires in the Middle East. So I’m not by any means, you know, I would never say that this is U.S. policy alone. We are part of a very complex dynamic, but I think militarizing this dynamic and having 700 bases and a war budget that occupies more than 50 percent of our discretionary budget is very problematic. And this badly needs to be discussed now because we are about to plunge headlong into several new conflicts, each of which could go nuclear in the blink of an eye. And I do want to acknowledge that Hillary’s proposal to establish a no-fly zone over Syria is extremely troubling when this is sort of the first line of approach to another nuclear-armed power where we could see things get very bad very quickly.
MARCUS: And you think the U.S. approach to Syria should be what?
STEIN: I think number one, we need a weapons embargo. Number two, we need to freeze the funds that are supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups. We need to stop the flow of jihadi terrorist groups and then we need to push very hard to have a peace process and to call a cease fire and to expand on the efforts that have been begun, which Barack Obama himself has put his weight behind. I think we need to put additional weight behind that and be working with a principled collaboration with everyone we can towards that immediate end of a weapons embargo, a freeze on the funding and a cease fire.
HOCKSTADER: What funding specifically has not been frozen?
STEIN: Well, for example, weapons are flowing to the Saudis, you know, to the tune of $110 billion worth over the last—
HOCKSTADER: You said freeze all funding to ISIS, I think?
STEIN: Well the Saudis unfortunately are, you know, have a hand in supporting jihadi terrorist groups, like al-Nusra for example, and other terrorist groups. I mean, I’d be happy to send you a number of references—
HOCKSTADER: So that would achieve the defeat of ISIS?
STEIN: —on the efforts of Saudis and the other Gulf states, which are supporting terrorist groups. So, you know, it’s not like you’re a card-carrying member of ISIS and you will never have anything to do with al-Nusra or other terrorist groups. And I think it’s a mistake to think that one terrorist group is not malleable into another terrorist group. I think we take grave risks by funding terrorist groups like al-Nusra front, which until recently was an off-shoot of al-Qaeda. It’s widely understood that we’ve been funding and supporting and arming such groups — not as much as our partners in the Arabian Peninsula — but we and our allies have been a party to enabling these groups. Yes, and that’s what needs to be stopped.
KAREN ATTIAH, GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR: What’s your view on – speaking of Syria – what’s your view on refugee resettlement in the U.S.? Do you believe the U.S. should be taking more than the 10,000 that President Obama has pledged to—
STEIN: Yes. I do believe we do. We have very careful screening processes in place, but I think they need to be expanded, you know, as the country that has had a lot to do with the — creating wars in the Middle East, from Iraq through Libya. And Libya had an awful lot to do with what then fell apart in Syria. I think we do have a responsibility, yes.
ATTIAH: What number do you think—
STEIN: I don’t have a number for you offhand, but, you know, far more than what we’re doing now.
STEPHEN STROMBERG, EDITORIAL WRITER: You’ve said that you would move the country to 100 percent renewables by 2030, which would be great. But even the most ambitious and controversial national climate plans, like Germany’s Energiewende, do not claim that they could approach that goal until at least mid-century. You’ve also said that nuclear power plants, which provide about 20 percent of the country’s power, must be closed down. Which would make the transition off carbon even harder because nuclear power produces few carbon emissions. So how exactly would you accomplish your goal, and how much would it cost?
STEIN: Great. So, there are a variety of climate scientists and energy experts who have gone on record that 2030 is doable — it is a political problem. It cannot be done unless we have essentially declared a climate emergency. And I would cite, for example, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, where it took us all of six months to convert our economy from essentially zero percent of GDP focused on wartime production to 25 percent of GDP within the course of six months. So it was a massive national mobilization predicated on the understanding that this was a national emergency.
STROMBERG: So are you saying that we should be spending 25 percent of GDP on this energy transition?
STEIN: No, what I’m saying is that we have done remarkable things when we understand that we have a true national emergency. And I think Pearl Harbor and the Second World War was a national emergency. I think what we’re facing right now is an equivalent national emergency. We’re risking all harbors, all population centers along the coast.
In fact, it’s estimated that about 600 million global refugees will be created by a 9-foot sea-level rise, which is what the cutting edge of climate science is now predicting, that we could see as soon as 2050. And this is from Jim Hansen’s recent study that predicted at least yards worth or meters worth of sea-level rise as soon as 50 years, so technically in the 2060s, and then a new report soon to be released by NOAA — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — based on what they call an “oh my God” report that they just received from the Antarctic predicting 9 feet of sea-level rise as soon as 2050.
And you don’t want to err on the unsafe side when those kinds of predictions are coming in from the best science that’s out there. So if we are to prevent a 9-foot sea-level rise and by the mid- to later part of the century, we need to mobilize now, that’s absolutely clear. Because that much sea-level rise is not only losing all of our coastal cities — the state of Florida, Manhattan, etc., the nation of Bangladesh — and similar catastrophic consequences around the world, it also means we in this country have something like 16, 18 nuclear power plants located at sea level, which will go Fukushima if they flood with 9 feet of sea-level rise.
It’s not easy to decommission and move a nuclear power plant in the anticipation of that. It’s not easy to move population centers. I think the science is very clear and has been actually for years that we need an emergency wartime-scale mobilization to create 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030, which is predicted to keep temperature rise to one-and-a-half degrees centigrade, which is hopefully enough to prevent the worst consequences of climate change, but there is no time to lose on this.
So yes, I do believe we can create 20 million jobs. Now the cost, let me speak to the cost, there are good studies coming out of Stanford, and I can refer you to Mark Jacobson and other environmental engineering studies that look at this in detail. And what they show is the surprising finding that we get so much healthier as we begin to zero out fossil fuels, which drive, you know, 200,000 premature deaths every years — and that’s asthma, cancer, heart attacks, strokes, emphysema and so on — we are so sick from fossil fuel pollution that the benefits to our economy and the savings in our health-care system are so massive that they are able to actually pay the costs — alone — of this transition in what’s estimated to be about a decade and a half, something like that.
So it means making an investment, but investment which begins to pay back very quickly. This is even before you go to, say, a transaction tax on Wall Street, which would be another way to contribute to this. But even before–
HIATT: How much of an investment?
STEIN: It’s estimated, and there are a number of studies I can direct you to on this as well, but it’s estimated that to create 20 million jobs — and the rule of thumb there is that for every two jobs that you have directly created, another one job is created indirectly — so to have a net production of 20 million jobs would cost somewhere around $500 billion, so half a trillion dollars, to get that jump-started. But that savings — put it this way — by moving to 100 percent clean renewable energy, we begin to recoup so much from our health-care system.
And I can tell you, this isn’t just an engineering study, this was actually what happened in the country of Cuba when their oil pipeline went down and their pollution disappeared, essentially, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Within a couple of years, their death rates from diabetes had gone down 50 percent, their obesity rates went down 50 percent, their death rates from heart attacks and strokes went down about 30 percent. And that was within five years.
So you do begin to see enormous savings, and, as you’re probably aware, we spend arguably a trillion dollars a year on the military — that includes not just the Department of Defense budget, it also includes nuclear weapons and the Veterans Administration and other costs outside of the Defense Department — one trillion on the military budget, but we spend three trillion a year on what’s not a health-care system, it’s really a safety-net system. We can certainly expect to see reductions in that $3 trillion worth of health-care expenditures begin to kick in. So we say the common knowledge about the health-care costs: They’re estimated to be about 75 percent of this $3 trillion related to preventable chronic diseases, like heart attacks and strokes and diabetes and things like that. Seventy-five percent largely preventable if we were eating in a healthy food system, if we had physical activity built into our day, which is part of what we propose through the Green New Deal, creating a transportation system that provides recreation as transportation as well. If you begin to address those things — cleaning up pollution, healthy food and exercise — we could begin to see these incredible health costs begin to come down rather quickly in a way that would also begin to recoup those costs.
STROMBERG: You connected Cuba getting off of fossil fuels with the reduction in obesity and diabetes. Just, how does that connection–?
STEIN: Sure. So, overnight, they had the move to a healthy food system, and their pollution went away. Right? Because they didn’t have any more fossil fuels to burn. So suddenly they are biking, walking and taking buses–
HIATT: And quite a bit poorer, weren’t they?
STEIN: They were, so you would have expected their health to have taken a nose dive, which makes this all the more remarkable. That in spite of their economy crashing and the incredible insecurity that people are experiencing, because they did not have a planned transition, suddenly their oil pipeline went down. Yes, it was devastating to Cuba. Yet, counterintuitively, their health actually underwent a miraculous improvement, and how much did it cost them? It cost them zero. We’re spending $3 trillion a year and we’re getting sicker.
STROMBERG: But is that the model you propose the United States should follow?
STEIN: I don’t think so. What I said was 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. That’s 15 years from now and that’s by getting to 100 percent renewable, it’s not by suddenly shutting off fossil fuel.
STROMBERG: And just to be clear, when you say 100 percent renewable?
STEIN: Clean renewable, that’s clean water and sun.
STROMBERG: But you’re also talking about the transportation sector, not just–
STEIN: That’s right. It’s transportation, food and energy.
STROMBERG: So by 2030 the goal is to transition the entire electricity sector onto–
STEIN: Not just electricity.
STROMBERG: Right. But also to essentially phase out the internal combustion engine.
STEIN: That’s why we call this a massive wartime mobilization predicated on the understanding that the consequences we are looking at make World War II look like small potatoes, I’m sorry to say. And I hate to be the one to break that news to you if you haven’t heard, but it’s not looking good for the climate if you actually pay attention to the science.
STROMBERG: So you wouldn’t be the first politician to promise that a major policy shift would be costless either by reprogramming money or finding ways to–
STEIN: Well, what we say is half a trillion dollars
STROMBERG: Excuse me, half a trillion dollars. But you are unique in the presidential field in calling for the government of last resort with the government directly employing so many people, how big a share of the economy would the government end up representing relative to now?
STEIN: Right, yes, again, we say last resort, and the Green New Deal actually calls for grants and funding provided at the community level to small businesses, to nonprofits, to cooperatives in order to meet these guidelines of becoming sustainable economically, socially, ecologically; that is promoting a resilient local economy founded on clean renewable energy, a healthy food system and all sorts of derivative goods and services. And we do not– we avoid a cookie-cutter program from Washington D.C. but rather provide guidelines and funding at the local level for communities to determine themselves through a process to be firewalled against lobbying interests, developers, etc., the usual suspects, so that we can help develop small businesses and a truly resilient local economy as part of this transition to a just and sustainable economy of the 21st century. And we look at the government as the employer of last resort.
HOCKSTADER: Can I just ask you something in your capacity as a doctor? I spent quite a bit of time in Cuba at that time when they lost their Soviet oil subsidies, and people were extremely miserable — they couldn’t have soap, they didn’t have basic things. And one of the things they couldn’t afford is cigarettes — it was an extremely heavy smoking society before that — and also rum. There were a lot of things they couldn’t afford. Couldn’t the lack of smoking, the decline in smoking have accounted for a lot of those health improvements?
STEIN: That would certainly help. That’s for sure. But in my view we are not neutral in public health either. That we would be providing a vigorous public-health program as well so that our demographics as well can have the kind of health miracle that Cuba was able to experience with essentially zero investments because we have a crisis in our health at this time as well.
HIATT: With the government as the employer of last resort, how would that work — if somebody came to you and said I can’t find a job, they would get a job?
STEIN: So, I can give you at this point very broad brushstroke but we’ll be putting out a more detailed position paper on this in the next couple of weeks but in general we’ve called for turning unemployment centers into employment centers so that if people don’t have work, they actually go to the employment center and they get in line for a job and an effort is made to match their skills to the jobs that are available.
HIATT: But that didn’t really answer my question.
STEIN: As I said, we’ll have a paper for you.
HIATT: And how much would that cost to be the employer of last resort?
STEIN: Well, this is that estimate of $500 billion.
HIATT: All included in that?
STEIN: Yes, all included, right, whether the funding is going to new nonprofits, small businesses, entrepreneurs–
HIATT: So $500 million is all you need–
STEIN: $500 billion.
HIATT: So $500 billion is all you need to get rid of oil, the internal combustion engine and to give jobs to any American who wants a job.
STEIN: Because these are one and the same, yes, exactly. And our feeling is that you cannot do this–
HIATT: And how did you come up with that estimate?
STEIN: I can refer you to a paper by Philip Harvey out of Rutgers School of Law whose particular lifelong area of research is on this creation of jobs programs to essentially — we call it a Green New Deal. This isn’t invented out of whole cloth. This comes out of a tradition that was actually put into effect that did create millions of jobs, that did help relieve unemployment in a time of crisis.
HIATT: And the guaranteed housing, is that also included in the $500 billion?
STEIN: No. No, it’s not.
HIATT: How much would that be?
STEIN: The guarantee of housing is not part of the Green New Deal.
HIATT: No, I know, but it’s also part of your platform — housing is a right.
STEIN: Well, yes, but that is an aspirational goal at this point. We do not have a specific program. However it is in the purview of a community, if they decide that in order to be sustainable they need affordable housing, they can use their funds in order to create that housing.
STROMBERG: You said, in your platform it says, that you’d lead on a global treaty to halt climate change. Don’t we already have a global agreement, the Paris accord?
STEIN: A nonbinding agreement. Which would land us somewhere around 3 or 3-and-a-half degrees Centigrade of temperature rise. So, it’s not an effective agreement, it’s not an adequate agreement. And as that agreement was being negotiated, you actually had Congress and the Obama administration passing, I should say lifting, the export ban on oil, essentially taking the roof off of fossil fuel production. So with one hand we were working on climate change, with the other hand we were exacerbating it.
STEIN: So, with one hand we were working on climate change, with the other we were exacerbating climate change.
STROMBERG: So, would you revoke it? Or, how would you – what would you do with the Paris Accord?
STEIN: We would move to work with the international community to basically override that accord, and create a much more effective document that could actually stop climate change because it won’t do that now.
STROMBERG: As you know, it took us two decades to get to the Paris Accord alone. What makes you confident that we could write a perfect new agreement so quickly?
STEIN: Unfortunately, one of the big impediments to that accord was the behavior of the U.S. administration, in helping to undermine that accord. And if you need references to that, I’d be glad to send them to you.
STROMBERG: So do you detect any differences between the two major candidates on climate change?
STEIN: There’s certainly a difference in what they say. You know, it’s funny: Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change in this country, but in Ireland? Scotland? Somewhere in the UK he does believe in climate change, because he’s trying to get a wall built to protect one of his luxury golf courses, and he understands that rising sea levels are going to obliterate his luxury course. So, you know, so much for Donald Trump. He’s promoting a return to coal. Hillary Clinton has been promoting fracking, you know, established an office within the Secretary of State’s Department in order to promote fracking around the world. And, you know, the improved science on fracking shows that it’s extremely dangerous, perhaps as dangerous as coal. So, in my view, investing in a whole new generation of fossil fuel infrastructure based on fracking is an extremely dangerous and deadly thing to do. So whether it’s Donald Trump’s return to coal, which I think is not likely to happen, because coal is not economically feasible anymore. So I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe this is how he appeals to the coal workers. And by the way, I should mention that we call for a just transition that ensures that no one will be out of a job and support and security in the same way that the state of New York ensured that their coal workers would have comparable wages and benefits for a period of years during their transition. We would provide similar assurances. But whether you look at Trump’s coal plan or Hillary’s fracking plan, these are deadly for the climate and for the younger generation, and need to be called out and if I’m not in the debates there will be no one to tell the truth about what’s happening. We’ll have two fossil fuel-funded candidates who are continuing to fan the flames of the burning planet.
HIATT: And just to get back to the treaty question that Steve asked: So you said part of the problem was the U.S. was undermining the process and wasn’t committed to a really binding treaty. If, under your administration, the U.S. was committed to a binding treaty, you think the Chinese and the Indians would also?
STEIN: This is where the whole issue of diplomacy comes in – you know, you don’t know until you try. But they are being massively impacted by climate change right now – massively. And it behooves us all, in fact, to demilitarize our conflict over fossil fuels and instead go to the heart of that conflict and transition those fossil fuels. You know, I would certainly push to see other countries divesting from their militaries and putting their dollars into our true area of conflict, which is generally about fossil fuels and their routes of transportation.
You know, we can make that conflict obsolete by intensifying our efforts to transition to one hundred percent clean renewable energy, all of us, and we could do a much better job of challenging them to do that. But, you know, they’re being devastated. What was it, 300 people wiped out in the last week in India by flooding. What’s hitting us is hitting them, arguably far worse. China has had absolute devastation from their fossil fuels as well as from their – from the impacts of climate change, and they’re having trouble in their economy, it’s not easy highrolling for the Chinese economy anymore and all of us would benefit from redirecting our resources from this needless militarization of conflict over fossil fuels into actually addressing all of our independence from fossil fuels.
JO-ANN ARMAO, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: When comments of your vice-president came up, you seemed to suggest “that’s him, this is me.” You seemed to be making a distinction. If you were elected president and God forbid something happened, are you comfortable with him assuming the office and does he have the qualifications to do the job?
STEIN: So, when I say “that’s him”, I refer to the provocative language that he uses, but his ideas, and his vision are not different from mine. He is unapologetically a member of an oppressed group, and he speaks in the language of his culture. And I think he speaks to a demographic that feels pretty locked out of the American power structure. And I think it’s extremely valuable for us to be able to have a conversation in more than one dialect, speaking to more than one demographic here, finding our common ground, and having a very frank discussion about race, for one thing, which is where he is most hard-hitting, race, and the issues of human rights. Peace? Martin Luther King would have called it militarism, extreme materialism, and racism – that’s the language Martin Luther King used.
HOCKSTADER: So what demographic does he speak for when he calls the president an Uncle Tom?
STEIN: Well you know – you know, I won’t venture—He’ll have to speak for himself about that language, but I can say that in general, he speaks to a very disenfranchised demographic that does not feel like they’re being served by the power structure, and they’re angry about it. I mean, I think he is disappointed in Barack Obama, and that’s – if you listen to why he used that language, and he discussed this at the CNN town hall forum, you can hear his explanation for – for why he was disappointed, why he had higher expectations, and why he thinks we can do better, and that’s what our conversation is about.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Is that an appropriate way to talk about the president of the United States, to call him an Uncle Tom?
STEIN: I would never do that.
HOCKSTADER: If I can come back –
ARMAO: That goes to judgment, doesn’t that partly go to judgment? So to come back to my original question, are you comfortable with him assuming the office of president? Can you assure the American people that this would be a good person, and what does that say about your candidacy?
STEIN: Yes, I can assure you that he is a man of, uh, of peace, of human rights, of great passion as an advocate on the board of Amnesty International, having served to work against the death penalty, and he served on the international commissions promoting human rights. I can assure people that his vision is essentially my vision, and that he agrees with the details of our policy proposals period. I have worked with him for many years and have never heard him use language like that, and so, it’s news to me that sometimes he does speak in that very blunt and inflammatory language. But to look at his actions, and his track record, he is definitely in the tradition of a Martin Luther King. And he can speak to that in better detail than I can, but I am entirely comfortable with him as a person who supports my vision and my agenda. His very blunt and inflammatory language on occasion speaks to a very large demographic that feels like they have been thrown under the bus and they have been locked out.
CAPEHART: So how is that different–
ARMAO: Donald Trump says the same thing.
CAPEHART: Exactly. That was exactly what I was going to ask.
ARMAO: Donald Trump says the same thing, and what has that done to our political process?
STEIN: Well, you know, with Donald Trump, it’s non-stop and it’s 24-7. With my running mate, you’re mostly going to hear about human rights, about how we get rid of the legacy of racism, how we end war. So he may have used a term that some find offensive, and that’s unfortunate, but on the balance you’re going to find what he is talking about exactly in the tradition of Martin Luther King.
FRED RYAN, WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER: Should he apologize for that? Should he apologize to the president for saying that?
STEIN: I’m going to leave that up to him.
RYAN: Would you ask him to apologize?
STEIN: No, I would not.
JAMES DOWNIE, DIGITAL OPINIONS EDITOR: If I can come back to a word that is mentioned rarely in your platform, which is “Congress”, you have a long list of very ambitious programs and policies – how would you get these through Congress? Because, my understanding is that there are not enough Green Party candidates running [for] the House, to take over the House. How would you get that through Congress, and in cases where Congress blocked your programs, what do you think is appropriate – what powers do you think the president has through executive order to enact these programs?
STEIN: There are a couple of things, you know there are a couple of very important things the president can do under executive orders that are not part of the discussion that we’ve just had. For example: Breaking up the big banks. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Bill Black, who wrote the book “The Best Way to Rob A Bank Is to Own One”. You can take a look at his ten-point platform for how the president right now could actually break up the big banks and return the rule of law to Wall Street by essentially restoring the “cops on the beat” who have been laid off from Wall Street – the FBI agents, the SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission agents, etc., Department of Justice appointees, who should be regulating Wall Street. And he makes the point that Wall Street does not regulate itself and that through the agencies the president could essentially ensure that regulatory requirements are put in place that would make the so-called “cash on hand” requirements commensurate with the level of risk undertaken by the banks, and that that would enable the banks to downsize, which would profoundly change the way of things.
So that’s one area, breaking up the big banks. Another area would be to instruct the Drug Enforcement Agency, the DEA, to do a really radical thing and to use science in determining which substances will be regulated and which won’t. And science would argue that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco and should not be on the list of scheduled substances, so we could move away from this catastrophic war on drugs and the mass incarceration that has surrounded it. So those are two very important things where arguably there is presidential authority to take important steps.
DOWNIE: But in terms of the Green New Deal, it sounds like that’s not something—
STEIN: So let me speak to that. Yes, and there’s another major policy program that you may want to talk about here, and that is the proposal that we bail out a generation of young people who are held hostage by student debt. This is $1.3 trillion and the broad brushstroke there is that we managed to come up with a whole lot of money for Wall Street, which Congress learned, when the audit was actually done and the reporting by the Fed, that “Oh my God, you managed to come up with $17 trillion or $16 trillion of near-zero interest or free money in order to bail out Wall Street.” Wall Street has the unique ability to turn around and quickly lend that low interest money for seven percent and recoup it, so Wall Street was able to pay much of that back, we know, but the point remains that if we can bail out the crooks who crashed the economy through waste, fraud and abuse and predatory lending and unethical bundling of extremely insecure financial packages – if we can find a way to bail them out to the tune of a whole lot of trillions, we can find a way to bail out a whole generation that has basically been thrown under the bus and does not have a future, that arguably doesn’t have a way out.
HIATT: And why do you include upper-income people in there?
STEIN: Well, for one thing, we know that higher education pays for itself. It’s a very important thing to do. We would do it going forward. We argue for free higher public education going forward. And by analogy, it should be done going backward. In my age, growing up, many state schools were free or just about free, and not just for undergraduate but also for graduate. I think education is not a, you know, it’s not a gift; it’s a right, and it’s a necessity. In the 21st century – in the 20th century, a high-school education was an utter necessity if one was to survive in the economy of the 20th century. In the 21st century, you must have post-secondary education in order to survive in this economy. And once you start getting into eligibility and programs, then you begin compounding costs simply for the administrative apparatus of determining eligibility. You know, my feeling’s that the stuff pays for itself, education should be a right, countries with far less resources than us find a way to do it, we have done it in the past when we had far fewer resources ourselves and that this is something that we do because we encourage people to actually take on education and acquire the skills that we need for the complicated economy of the 21st century.
HIATT: So just to come back to Jim’s question, the centerpiece of your shift to a green economy and job creation does depend on Congress?
STEIN: Yes, as we currently conceive of it, it does. However, our hope is that as a first order of business, that we can liberate a generation of young people without whom we do not make progress. Social movements always depend on a millennial generation. Whether the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the women’s movement, or the Black Lives Matter movement, or immigrant rights, it’s a vanguard of young people who are out there really pushing the envelope. And we need them. It’s not just they need a bailout; we need them.
Because we need them back in action if we are to have a prayer of addressing the critical issues that are before us right now. And so my hope is by reengaging a generation that is missing in action because they are too busy working two or three part-time, low-wage jobs just trying to keep a roof over their head, let alone trying to pay back their debt. If they’re actually liberated to try to use their skills and their training, for one thing, that is the economic stimulus package of our dreams to actually put a generation to work doing the things they love and their passion. This is probably the best stimulus package ever imagined to liberate them. But we also need them to then drive forward the rest of the agenda. So, that means –
HIATT: Do you believe in this White House report that recently showed most young graduates are not suffocating under very heavy burdens of debt? Do you think that was a miscalculation?
STEIN: Well, what I’ve seen are the figures that show that 70 percent of graduates of the class of 2016, 70 percent are carrying an average of $37,000 in debt.
HIATT: Of undergraduates?
STEIN: Of graduates, yes, that’s right, graduates of the class of 2016.
HIATT: I mean you’re not counting dental, medical – you just mean college?
STEIN: That’s a good question. You say class of 2016. I would have assumed that was undergraduates. Maybe it’s graduates as well. I don’t know, frankly, to tell you the truth. But in my view this is something we could afford. What is more important than the integrity of our younger generation? And what is more effective at actually driving our economy forward? And it’s not just our economy. It’s our entire – you know, it’s the climate, whether we’re actually going to get out of here alive on the climate. It’s the question of whether we are ever going to get off of these wars for oil that are only digging us in deeper. It’s the question of are we going to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will sent more of our jobs overseas and undermine our national sovereignty. Social movements really depend on a younger generation and they always have. Whether we will address the crisis of police violence and racist violence that’s before us. We need a younger generation to be liberated to lead the way forward. And that’s the point here, that if they are liberated, you know, there’s no end to what we can do. We have never had a president in the White House who is first and foremost an organizer-in-chief. There were hopes that Barack Obama was going to be that, but he put his ground troops on the shelf when he came into office and he appointed Larry Summers, the architect of the Wall St. meltdown, to be the guy in charge of the Wall St. cleanup, you know, and the rest is history. So the ground troops kind of were retired. Our campaign would only get into the White House not because we have Wall St. donations or from the war contractors. We would only get into the White House because it turns out 43 million young people locked into predatory student debt, that’s enough actually to win the election. If the word gets out, that is a winning plurality.
HIATT: So why are you at 3 percent?
STEIN: Well, it might have something to with the fact that Donald Trump got $2 billion worth of free primetime media. Hillary Clinton got about 1 billion. And this was New York Times analysis that was still, now, three or four months ago, so you can bet it’s a whole lot more than that. And Bernie Sanders got about half as much as Hillary Clinton. We until last week have had essentially zero, maybe a few dollars’ worth now. When we did a town-hall forum on CNN, we were trending number one on Twitter, and we were, I think, number two or three on TV ratings – I’m not sure which ones. But there was enormous interest out there, and, you know, how about we do a few more town-hall forums? And the other thing I would say is that as Americans we not only have a right to vote – an imperiled right to vote; nonetheless, we have a right to vote – we also have the right to know who we can vote for. That doesn’t mean 20 people getting up there on the stage. It means there would be four people who are actually supported enough, who have an infrastructure, who have a political movement behind them – there are four people, not just two – who would be on the ballot for just about every voter in the country. Voters have a right to vote, and I think they believe they have a right to know, as well, who their choices are. So in my view this commission on presidential debates, which is a private corporation run by the Democratic and Republican parties, called by the League of Women Voters a fraud being perpetrated on the American voter because they essentially rig the system to silence political opposition – that is not what democracy looks like – I think we have a right to an inclusive debate, especially at a time when the majority of Americans reject the two mainstream candidates and are clamoring for something else. Let’s let them know.
ARMAO: If they’re clamoring for something else, then why don’t they normally come to you? I mean, I guess I sort of don’t understand that disconnect. If your analysis is right – that they’re clamoring for something else – why not you?
STEIN: Well, how do they even know that we exist? The majority of voters don’t even know that there are other candidates out there. How would they know to even go looking for us on the Internet? How would they know? In prior elections, candidates in my position have bounced around below 1 percent in the polls. In the most recent ABC poll, which is the largest and the most inclusive poll, we’re 5 percent, essentially without any airtime, without any promotion or publicity. Doesn’t that suggest that there’s some interest out there? Don’t people deserve to be informed? What is it that our institutions of the press and media are supposed to do? They’re supposed to inform the public about their choices at time when people are saying they detest, they dislike and they distrust at unprecedented levels the choices that they’ve been given. Wouldn’t it be a logical thing then to expose them to the two other choices that they have?
RYAN: The commission on presidential debates, though, in order to avoid the scenario you described of a dozen or more people up on the stage, uses a percentage, and –
STEIN: Well, actually, there would only be two other people up on the stage.
RYAN: Well, what – they use a percentage to try to solve that problem, what –
STEIN: Well, is it to solve the problem, or is it to silence political opposition? This is, after all, it’s the Democratic and Republican parties who’ve been put in charge not only of deciding who gets into the debate, but who the moderator will be and therefore what kinds of questions will be acceptable to the Democratic and Republican parties, and also who gets in to be the audience, creating the illusion that there’s public support behind this dog and pony show?
RYAN: But you said you have this poll you refer to as 5 percent. Do you think 5 percent should be the threshold for being in a debate?
STEIN: I don’t think it should be a percent. I think that we not only have a right to vote; we have a right to know who our choices are. And if people are systematically and pervasively denied exposure to their other candidates, they won’t know. I think part of being a democracy, part of having a free press, isn’t part of its purpose to inform voters, to help educate voters what their choices are?
ARMAO: How would you feel the day after election if your votes, the votes you get, make a difference between Donald Trump getting into the Oval Office and he gets elected? How would you feel?
STEIN: I will not sleep well if Donald Trump gets elected, and I will not sleep well if Hillary Clinton gets elected.
ARMAO: That doesn’t really answer my question.
STEIN: Well, it tells you how I’m going to be feeling on that day. I will be continuing to build our power base, because, as Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will. Asking nicely from the sidelines without a power base isn’t doing it for us. You know, the American worker is barely making poverty wages right now, our jobs have gone overseas, we see both parties fanning the flames for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is NAFTA on steroids, which will send more jobs overseas, undermine our right to defend ourselves, to create legislation and regulation, which is then at risk for being judged harmful to the profits, the future profits, of the multinational corporations who should not be meddling in our internal sovereign affairs. We have a climate which is accelerating. Remember this: Even under Obama’s “all of the above” program, what’s happened to our CO2 emissions? They’re not just increasing. They’re increasing at a faster rate, and the same is true for methane, which is far more powerful, so-called natural gas. This is not getting better. It’s important to really take a good, hard look at what’s going on here. It’s not who’s better among the compromise candidates, because those compromise candidates are all plunging us headlong over a cliff right now on climate change, on the expanding wars. Are these wars actually working? I don’t think they are by any standard, and the American people are not happy about them. So we need to build an alternative going forward, and, you know, as far as I’m concerned we have already seen – you know, as Woody Allen says, half of life is showing up. You want to be there as the house of cards falls down. The house of cards is falling down in a very big way. Republicans are falling apart, Democrats have split in two, the Republicans are coming in. We’re developing one happy corporate family, a joint Demo-Republican party, and the Sanders supporters have been locked out. We’ve seen what just happened last night, you know, with the efforts to keep the Sanders campaign inside the Democratic Party. Their staff quit, you know, because they’re not settling for the rules of the road and inside the Democratic party.
So we need another power base. I think this is the lesson of the Sanders campaign, that you cannot have a revolutionary campaign inside a counter-revolutionary party where the Sanders campaign was effectively, you know, sidelined by the internal designs of the DNC working with Hillary’s campaign as we saw in the emails. So we need a power base, and what we’ve seen happen, we’ve seen thousands of people flood into our campaign, we now have a whole new donor base, we have parties which are now established where they weren’t before, all sorts of state and local-level chapters, our petition drive began to go off the charts, our fundraising went off the charts. So we are an entirely different party than we were at the outset of this campaign, and these are very impassioned activists in the Sanders campaign who aren’t just looking for a place to vote; they’re looking for a place to actually grow revolutionary political change.