The alternative candidate

An interview with Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein.

Jill Stein is no stranger to running for office. She has run twice for governor in her home state of Massachusetts as a Green (including finishing third in 2002 behind a guy named Romney), as well as running for state and local races there over the years.

But now she’s in the national spotlight as the Green Party’s candidate for president, and she’s loving it. Stein spoke with CL this past Saturday evening while traveling by train on the campaign trail. Here are some excerpts from our interview:

CL: President Obama wants to reduce the deficit in part by bringing back the Clinton tax rates of the ’90s, 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… So we want to keep the Bush cuts for 90 percent of the people. Obama would keep them for about 98 percent, it’s just the top 2 percent that 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 — we would let the tax rates revert to where they were before [the Bush tax cuts], so that means a more progressive tax structure…

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?

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 same as the first stimulus package in 2009. The problem with that package was that it was mostly tax breaks. Tax breaks do not create jobs… 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, startup funds, and also use it for public works, like a public transportation system, 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…

There are mass killings in this country all the time due to guns. Yet neither Congress nor the president has done anything to address this. Do you believe a specific piece of legislation should be introduced?

The NRA has Congress and it appears the president in its pocket. Gun owners actually are 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, and automatic weapons. So those are the big things that need to happen first, which is to get the automatic weapons whose only purpose is to kill people off the street. We also need to close the gun show loophole, and insure that there are proper background checks done as a matter of course, so all of that needs to be addressed in legislation.

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?

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 way in, or be a member of the Democratic or Republican Party, who control access to presidential debates, so... we’re calling for putting our dollars into locally controlled community-based media, so that we can have an effective counterweight…We also need to be enforcing anti-trust laws… and also we call for the FCC rules [to change] so that we are opening up the public airwaves for public purpose, and that includes for qualified political candidates. It’s absolutely outrageous that this piece of the public commons — that is, the public airwaves — have been used to censor the open and informative politics that we must have if we’re going to have a real democracy.

What’s it been like to be the Green Party presidential candidate this year, on a personal level?

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 people in polls are saying that they believe that we should have a third party, we should have more choices, and that they would seriously consider voting for a third party…You don’t need a poll to hear in the streets how incredibly disgusted people are by the absolute irrelevance of the debates, so people are 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.

Jill Stein is on the Florida presidential ballot. Her running mate is Philadelphia-based activist Cheri Honkala. Read more of this interview at