But now she’s in the national spotlight, and she’s loving it. Stein spoke with CL this past Saturday evening while traveling by train on the campaign trail.
CL: President Obama wants to reduce the deficit in part by bringing back the Clinton tax rates of the 90’s, eliminating most of the Bush tax cuts. However, he’ll still keep the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000. Why not remove all of them?
Jill Stein: We would make reforms that would make the tax system fairer, because right now working people, everyday people, are kind of being thrown under the bus, in all kinds of ways, and the wealthy few are making out like bandits, paying a small fraction of what they used to pay to keep the economy going, and right now it’s not exactly going, and so there needs to be kind of a more equitable tax system.
So we want to keep the Bush tax cuts for 90 percent of the people. Obama would keep them for about 98 percent, it’s just the top 2 percent [who] would lose their current tax cuts, but we say 90 percent would be more like it, and at that income level — which is around $110,000, something like that — at that income level, we would let the tax rates revert to where they were before, so that means a more progressive tax structure. In fact, we would call at very high income levels instead of having everybody paying the same level, say 39 percent, but that once you get up to the $1 million level and the $2 million and $4 million [level], there should be a higher contribution.
In fact the economy was at its best during during the post-war years when the very, very wealthy were pitching in their fair share, and it insured that we had an economy that works for everybody. Right now we have an economy that’s not really working for anybody. So we would increase the income tax rates at very high levels of income, and we would also call for taxing capital gains as income. And the reason for that is that the very wealthy ought to be paying at the same rate as their secretaries and janitors are paying, who are really struggling to make ends meet right now. And it’s predominantly at the very high income levels that people have substantial capital gains income. It’s only fair for that income to be taxed like everyday working people, and the final thing that we would do to insure that we can keep taxes low for 90 percent of people and not go over the fiscal cliff, and not fail to fund education and the things that we need — the roads and bridges that are in terrible disrepair and the public transportation system. We are calling for extending the sales tax to Wall Street, because right now Wall Street is the only sector of the economy that doesn’t pay a sales tax. Everyday people are spending anywhere between 4-8 percent in sales tax, and it’s only fair that Wall Street would pay something as well. This would be a transaction tax, so it would only be felt by speculators who buy and sell a lot, it would discourage speculation, and that would be a good thing, in and of itself, and it would be a very tiny tax, just .5 percent. That would generate around $350 billion a year. That would ensure that we would have the money we need for the investments we need to make right now, and that includes making public higher education free, and investing in the green economy, because we do have a climate crisis as well as an economic crises and we can solve them both at once thru the Green New Deal.
CL: Back in the ‘90s unemployment was around 5-6 percent. Some economists say we’ll never get that low again, that some of those jobs that are gone overseas will never come back. Do you agree?
JS: We can start creating jobs right now. We did that during the New Deal that markedly helped us get out of the Great Depression in the 1930s, and it would cost about the cost of the first stimulus package in 2009. The problem with that package was that it was mostly tax breaks. Tax breaks do not create jobs. You can keep your fingers crossed that they might, but by themselves they don’t create jobs. So that program didn’t create jobs. It created some, 2-3 million to put a dent in the crisis, but what we would do is use that money and put it in the hands of local communities who could decide what kind of jobs they need to become sustainable, and to use that money to create grants and zero interest loans, start-up funds, and also use it for public works, like public transportation systems, or updating their grids. So it would be nationally funded, but locally controlled, and it would create a whole spectrum of jobs, particularly in the Green Economy.
That means things like clean, renewable energy conservation and insulation projects which can put probably millions of people to work almost overnight, because it doesn’t take a college degree, you need a high school degree and ...you could put a lot of people to work in communities to people who need it. We can do that, as well as create jobs in renewable, solar, geothermal. Also jobs in a sustainable local food economy, and this has many benefits: It greatly reduces greenhouse gases, for which industrial food is a major contributor, but it also creates a healthy food system, because it’s those fresh fruits and vegetables that actually make us healthy, the lack of which is why we have these incredible public health epidemics right now that a $2 trillion sick care system won’t fix. So, investing in the food economy creates a lot of jobs as well as a healthy food system. We’re also calling for the public transportation system that can move us over to clean, renewable energy to give people a really good choice for inexpensive and convenient public transportation that includes safe sidewalks and bike paths as well, so people can walk and bike to school, work and get your exercise that way instead of having to join a health club, pay a big fee and drive for an hour to get there ...
In this way it makes the Green New Deal a four-way solution. It not only creates millions of new jobs, and we’re calling for 25 million new jobs. At the same time it puts a halt to the climate crisis, it makes more offshore oil obsolete, which means we can cut our military budget and that means bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, and our troops back home, to do the things we need right here, and in addition, it can greatly decompress our sick care expenses, because we have a sick care system that is making us bankrupt without delivering health because we’re not doing the right things up front. So this allows us to get healthy and stay healthy because it provides solution prevention, it provides for activity as part of your daily life, how you get places, and get your exercise on the way, so it’s a win-win-win all the way.
CL: There are mass killings in this country all the time due to guns. We’ve had the tragedy in the Aurora (Colorado) movie theater, and nearly two years ago there was an assassination attempt against Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Yet neither Congress nor the president has done anything to address this. Do you believe a specific piece of legislation should be introduced?
JS: The NRA has Congress and, it appears, the president in its pocket. Gun owners are actually far more thoughtful in their positions. Polls of gun owners also show their concern about guns getting in the hands of criminals and people who are mentally ill..... So those are the big things that need to happen first, which is to get the automatic weapons off the street whose only purpose is to kill people, as well as bring back the automatic weapons ban. We also need to close the gun show loophole, and ensure that there are proper background checks done as a matter of course, so all of that needs to be addressed in legislation.
In addition, there are other drivers of this gun epidemic. It’s something like 260 people every day who are the victims, who are killed or wounded by gunshot wounds, so this really is a critical problem, and it’s really important that we deal with the mental health problem that are part of the drivers here. We saw that in several of the recent cases of mass shootings, Gabby Giffords, and also the movie theater shooting in Colorado. These are people who badly needed mental health care, and so much of mental health has been severely cut right now and it’s not readily available. So much of health care right now is just pharmaceutical instead of providing broader community-based treatment, and providing sort of a social basis as well as for helping people get re-integrated and connected into your community.
CL: On your website you call to “expand federal support for locally owned broadcast media and local print media.” How do you propose to do that?
JS: We need a community-based system of media. Right now as you know our media has been terribly consolidated and corporatized, and this is a terrible problem. We’ve seen what it means for our elections when candidates cannot be covered unless they are supported by the Commission on Presidential Debates. I mean look who has a lockdown on our media right now. You’ve gotta be able to buy your away in, or be a member of the Democratic or Republican Party, who control access to presidential debates, so...
We must have a free media in order to be an informed electorate, in order to have a real democracy, and so it’s very important that we push back against this consolidation of media, where a single corporation can own very large media conglomerates, that control radio, that control print, that control television and cable. This is a set-up for censorship and for corporate control of our airwaves, which is where we’re at right now. So we’re calling for actually supporting putting our dollars into locally controlled community based media, so that we can have an effective counterweight to corporate consolidation. We also need to be enforcing anti-trust laws, and use that as a tool also to oppose a very dangerous trend. In addition we call for opening up the public airwaves for use for public purpose, and that includes for qualified political candidates who also have access. ..it’s absolutely outrageous that this piece of the public commons — that is, the public airwaves — has been privatized and corporatized and used to censor the debates and censor the open and informative politics that we must have if we’re going to have a real democracy.
CL: What’s it been like to be the Green Party presidential candidate this year, on a personal level?
JS: It’s been wonderful, it’s been exhilarating. I had thought this would be the most difficult, bitter election that I have ever been a part of, but actually it’s been exactly opposite, it’s been like giving out candy at Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, all combined. And it’s not so surprising, because one out of every two in polls are saying that they believe that we should have a third party, we should have more choices, and that that they would seriously consider voting for a third party. One out of every two voters right now is predicted to be staying home in this election, and that’s certainly a reflection of the fact that people are very unhappy. You don’t need a poll to hear in the streets how incredibly disgusted people are by the non-debate, the absolutely irrelevance of the discussion. The debates as sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, so people are not hearing about how we’re going to create jobs, they’re not hearing about how not only Mitt Romney sent jobs overseas to Bain Capital, it’s Barack Obama passing the free trade agreements that allow the Bain Capital jobs overseas. There’s lots of things that the American people aren’t hearing.