Over the past decade, the federal government squandered trillions on unnecessary wars that killed hundreds of thousands, Wall Street bailouts and tax breaks for the wealthy. Military spending almost doubled. Draconian laws such as the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) eroded civil liberties. Union-busting efforts in states like Wisconsin stripped away worker rights. The top one percent of our population amassed 42 percent of the nation’s financial wealth in the process, while wages for average workers stagnated, the middle class shrank, and the number of people on food stamps rose to an unprecedented level.
Advised and backed by Wall Street insiders who intentionally block progressive change for financial gain, the two major presidential candidates are unlikely to devote the resources necessary to alter unsustainable trends. In fact, proposed austerity measures for federally funded social programs and a continued dependence on dirty energy sources will only exacerbate the most urgent problems facing America today.
America has another choice this Election Day and the opportunity to set a new course for the nation: Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, and her running mate Cheri Honkala. Stein is a physician, teacher and pioneering environmental-health advocate. Honkala has been a leading advocate for the poor and homeless in America for the past 25 years.
Stein stresses social justice, human rights, nonviolence, peace and economic and ecological sustainability. She believes we must fundamentally transform our current economic system, a system which has been designed to control, subjugate and exploit both people and nature and benefit mainly those at the very top.
The response Dr. Stein offers involves working for climate security and green economic revitalization through a "Green New Deal" for America, an emergency program which would address the problems of the unemployment crisis and climate crisis simultaneously. This program would provide federal funding to local communities and would create 25 million jobs in sustainable energy, agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and infrastructure, as well as in social services and public education. This plan would help lift many of the nation’s 46 million poor out of poverty and re-establish a strong middle class.
Much of the funding needed to finance this program would come from bringing war dollars home and from restructuring the tax code to get corporations and the super-rich to pay their fair share.
Some of the other policies Dr. Stein pledges to adopt if elected include: a national Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system; cutting the bloated Pentagon budget by 50 percent; breaking up the "too big to fail" banks; ending subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; tuition-free education; forgiving existing student debt; marriage equality; women’s reproductive rights; publicly funded elections; extending whistleblower protections; making the minimum wage a living wage; a voter’s bill of rights; fair taxation; and reinstating Glass-Steagall, a primary 1933 reform of the banking industry that kept speculating out of banking for almost 60 years.
There are a number of existing policy decisions and laws that Stein vows to work to eliminate if elected. They include: the use of lethal drones; the Keystone XL Pipeline; wars of aggression and occupation; the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and other extrajudicial prisons; cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; nuclear power and fracking; the Patriot Act and the NDAA; the war on immigrants; the War on Drugs; existing NAFTA and other "free trade’’ agreements; the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and the doctrine of corporate personhood; and housing foreclosures and evictions resulting from predatory lending practices.
With the Green ticket appearing on approximately 85 percent of the ballots on Nov. 6, the American people have a third choice. We can remain operating under the status quo and watch our wealth and income gap continue to widen, social and economic inequality continue to grow, and climate change continue to accelerate and intensify, or we can choose to take the path toward a more peaceful, just, prosperous and sustainable future with Jill Stein as our president.
Brian J. Trautman, Albany, N.Y., is a military veteran and an instructor of peace studies at Berkshire Community College.