This is a transcript of Jill Stein's livestreamed speech at University of Massachusetts Boston on September 27, 2018.
Thank you. It’s really exciting to be here. I’m trying to remember back when the last time was that we had an active chapter here at the UMASS Boston Campus. I don’t actually remember - so this is very exciting, I think a sign of the times. Thank you, Jordan so much for making this happen, and thanks to all of you for coming out tonight.
Our theme tonight is demanding a Massachusetts that works for all of us: for working people, for immigrants, for kids, for elders, the disabled, for people of color, the LGBTQ community. We need a Massachusetts that works for all of us. And this is within our reach.
It is not rocket science to say that this is not working for all of us. And least of all for the younger generation, especially the younger generation of color or immigrants and students. Who have been basically in a free-for-all, victims of a free-for-all - an economy that is exploiting particularly young people. A whole economic and political system in which the vulnerable are exploited without restraint.
The burden that young people are bearing today is just quite staggering, so, to me there is nothing more important than helping young people be that force for change. I completely agree with Jordan that change does not happen without the leadership of the younger generation.
Right now the young generation is the victim of an economy that is not producing jobs, certainly not jobs that pay a living wage. Ninety-five percent of the jobs created since the so-called “recovery” following the 2008 recession, ninety-five percent of those jobs are low-wage, part-time, insecure, “gig-economy” jobs, temporary jobs, and not enough to support a family on.
And then the younger generation is dealing with the climate crisis and those consequences which are unravelling before our very eyes - with record heat, and storms, and floods, and fires, and sea-level rise, and all the rest. What is being done about that? Not very much.
The younger generation is increasingly of color, and immigrant. Yet doors are being slammed in their faces by these adversities that have really been caused by our current incompetent political system - which is working great if you are in the top 1%.
Massachusetts is kind of a poster child of how far we can get under the current political establishment. Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states in the nation. It is also one of the most so-called “progressive” under the Democratic Party, like California; we have much in common with California. Yet we have some of the most severe disparities in the nation.
Most people are really struggling to keep their heads above water. Incomes and wages have not increased for everyday people. If you are in the top 1%, you are making out like bandits here in this state. The wealth of the 1% has increased faster and bigger in Massachusetts than just about any other state. In fact, I think we are number one for income growth for the 1%. For the rest of Massachusetts it is really a struggle. Wages have not gone up, and the cost of education has skyrocketed, the cost of healthcare, and especially the cost of housing. This is not different from what is going on across America - we are really just the poster child. But it speaks volumes that this is as good as it gets, and yet it is something that people are barely surviving right now.
I want to point-out how readily fixable this is. Who has been holding us back in Massachusetts? There is no Republican Party to blame it on! This really is the Democratic Party unveiled. And for those who are hearing all the propaganda out there that all we have to do is get behind the Democratic Party again, it is really important to recognize that this is the outcome of the Democratic Party agenda, right here. This is fundamentally a corporate agenda, sponsored by the big banks, the fossil fuel giants, the war profiteers, the insurance companies, agribusiness, et cetera.
We are not doing so good under this political establishment. That is why it is so important that we stand up proud and strong in the face of this third-party bashing.
It is not just third parties - I call it independent parties, we are independent of corporate money, the corporate agenda, and corporate control.
Let me say a few things about Massachusetts, real quickly, before I run out of time. And then we will talk about the bigger situation, of which Massachusetts is really just one particular case in point. And remember that we are as good as it gets here in Massachusetts under this current corporate political paradigm: the policies that have cut to the bone education funding for higher education, that have refused to stand up, really, for immigrants - there is a bill that is sitting in the legislature, the Massachusetts Trust Bill, which hasn’t been passed. Yet it could interrupt the cooperation with ICE which should not be inflicted on our communities. Talk about criminal justice reform and police violence - there is so much we could be doing that we are not. Healthcare? We are spending almost half of the state budget right now - we have a 45 billion dollar budget, I think, and health care is about 17, 18 Billion, something like that… so it is like about 45% of the state budget goes into healthcare. Yet millions of people are not covered - people who actually have healthcare don’t have the money to actually go out and get health care, and even those who have it are sick. We are a sick society. I happened to be reviewing these numbers recently. I just gave a talk, for the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, and so I had occasion to just review our numbers - in 15 years, I had to take a look, and they are not getting better, even though we are spending more and more money, our numbers are only getting worse. In fact, more than 50% of people now have at least one chronic condition: that is, diabetes, or prediabetes, or heart disease, or high blood pressure, et cetera. We keep spending more and more, and putting more of that into bureaucracy instead of actually taking care of people.
We could have passed single-payer here in Massachusetts in the late 1990’s. We came very close to passing it. Guess what stopped it? There was a referendum, and the insurance companies threw lots of money into a scare campaign, and basically intimidated voters out of it. But we have a Democratic majority! A veto-proof majority in our legislature; it could have passed Medicare for All in a heartbeat - it never even came close! In California, they at least made a pretense of trying to pass it - and it was actually vetoed by the Democratic Speaker of their House, Speaker Rendon. It was a Democrat who vetoed it, because now they had a Democratic governor - prior to that they could afford to pass it, knowing that the Republican Governor would veto it. So the question to be asked is: Why do the Democrats always do the right thing until they have the power to make it happen, and then they don’t do it?
Well, in Massachusetts they have the power to make all of that happen - to ensure that we have health care as a human right, we could have education as a human right. We could have free public higher education. But to the contrary, what happened in Massachusetts in the early 2000’s was a big tax cut for the wealthy, in the income tax, actually - and three billion dollars every year was taken out of our budget. Three billion that would have paid for public higher education - we used to cover it, for the most part. And that got cut in a big way, starting in the early 2000’s. The cost of public higher education went up 4,000 dollars a year for annual tuition and fees.
There have been huge hikes, to where now something like 72% of undergrads are carrying debt. Can anyone guess what the average size of the debt is? For the undergraduate degree, not the graduate degree, which is much bigger. For those who are going through just the four years it turns out to be in the twenty thousands. That is new, and not nearly as big as it can get, and there are certainly graduate students out there with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, but for undergrads, tens of thousands of dollars when it used to be free. And people now are accumulating debt, even when they are paying, and they are working, and they are carrying a full course load. And, I might add, students are feeling the economic pinch: students are going homeless, and going food-insecure too. Something like one out of every two students enrolled in a community college in Massachusetts, now, that are food- or housing-insecure, with one out of three in college. What gives here? A society that devours its younger generation for the sake of the profits of the well-to-do is a society whose days are numbered. It is our younger generation that carries us forward. Let me just say: we can do this. We know from the GI Bill, in fact, that for every dollar put into higher education we get back seven dollars in return. So, what is the excuse for not funding this?
We know that Medicare for All, a single-payer system pays for itself. In fact, if we had it at the nationallevel we would be saving two trillion dollars a year. Don’t get me started on our military budget, which in fact costs us half of our income taxes. It’s half of our discretionary funding that congress spends - it’s all going to the military, and that is with the enthusiastic support of the Democrats as well, even while they are cursing Donald Trump and his reckless hands, and the trouble he can get us into. They are giving him more money than ever, enthusiastically, to carry out this endless war, which has only made us less secure, not more secure - which has cost us over five trillion dollars, and which has created failed states, mass refugee migrations, and worse terrorist threats.
So, when people say: “I don’t think it is practical to vote for a third party”, I want you to really think about that. Is it practical to be spending ourselves into this abyss of military chaos which is creating mass refugee migrations? Remember, people haven’t come here unless it has been a really desperate situation that they are fleeing, largely for their lives. It is very important that we stand up and protect not only the DACA Program, but also that we protect the TPS, the Temporary Protective Status. Our economy will suffer, big time: we know that there are hundreds of millions of dollars that are contributed to our economy here in Massachusetts. And the same thing applies nationally, but here in just our one state we have some six or seven thousand TPS recipients from Honduras and about four thousand from Hati - who we could lose to our economy - and they have been here for decades! Where does this idea come from that this is not an incredibly valuable resource, that the immigrants who come here are making our community better and stronger and safer, for that matter.
It’s really important that we address the causes of migration. And what are those causes? It’s war, the US war machine - it is the economies that we are assaulting overseas, the economic domination that we have carried out, and also the war on drugs which has produced so many refugees.
So these are problems that can be taken care of. The majority of Americans actually support extending DACA. They support giving the rights of citizenship to those people who have come here to create a better society for us all. There is support for that. There is support for a single-payer Medicare For All health care system, which pays for itself. There is support for education as a human right, which pays for itself. There is support for a public bank - and I think we are going to hear more about that tonight from our Treasurer candidate, Jamie [Guerin], in a few moments, because that is another one of these win-win solutions. Almost half of the money in public projects that we are paying for, as taxpayers, is going to just the interest to the banks. We are all being exploited by a predatory banking industry. We can do better: we can create a public bank. These are the kinds of things, you know, this is what is practical - it’s practical to stand up and reclaim our future - it’s practical to take the hands of government back from the banking predators, from the fossil fuel corporations, from the war profiteers - who are running our political parties.
Remember, the Democrats just recently welcomed back fossil fuel contributions, and as they did that, they reaffirmed the “all of the above” energy policy, which says “hey, we can have some coal, some natural gas, and yeah we can have some renewable energy too”. No. We need a Green New Deal, is what we need, we should be raising the bar. As Greens, we should be raising the bar. As Greens, we have been raising the bar - and it is really great to see that progressive Democrats now who are not sleepwalking are actually adopting our agenda. I was ridiculed on John Oliver for the better part of an episode that ridiculed our campaign for supporting a bail-out for students, a bail-out for college debt. Well, guess what? Now a number of progressive Democrats are beginning to echo that - and also echoing a call for a Green New Deal. But let me be clear: that you want a real Green New Deal.
Jeremy Corbyn recently in the UK just called for the biggest expansion of economic democracy in the history of the UK. That means clarifying that the right to health care and education should be human rights. But also that our basic public utilities should be brought into the public domain, so that they can be administered on behalf of the people. That means rail, that means the mail, that means transportation, that means energy, electricity, water, the internet, wireless, et cetera. These need to be administered on behalf of everyday people - we need to have people over profit.
Again, that’s part of our Green New Deal. Our Green New Deal says not “some point in the distant future” - our Green New Deal says “this is an emergency”. This is an emergency for our economy, for jobs, for the recovery economically, the younger generation, and it means an emergency for our climate. So we call for 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, not by 2050 or some later date: by 2030 - that’s what the science tells us is absolutely necessary. That means green energy, green transportation, and a green healthy food system, as well as meeting our social needs and doing that within the public domain.
We call for solutions which are not radical, these are solutions which are practical. Because there is nothing practical about driving ourselves over the cliff - which is what we have seen over and over again from the corporate political parties. If you are not convinced by what is happening now, just take a look at the deep history here. Ever since the end of the Second World War, and probably before that too, but that is as far back as I can give you details on, the Democrats have been holding out an illusion of a progressive revolution that has not happened - it only gets further away. It has been a fake-left, move-right agenda. You can go all the way back to the Second World War, when FDR was being nominated for the third time, and people knew that that was going to be it for FDR, and his running mate was going to be Henry Wallace - and Henry Wallace was a social democrat who made Bernie Sanders look like a centrist, really. So Henry Wallace was about to be nominated, and what did they do? They shut the microphone off on the convention, in order to prevent him from being nominated, they pulled a few strings over night - that is, the DNC- and by morning they had orchestrated the nomination of Harry Truman. Instead of a social democracy, we got Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the atom bomb - for which there was absolutely no justification; which was the biggest human rights crime perhaps ever committed - the cold-blooded murder in one fell swoop of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people. And we got the Cold War, which was also a creation of the political establishment - because a war machine needs an enemy, for God’s sake - we need a few enemies. And we are once again in that era of McCarthyism, right now. Very important for us to stand up against it. It will not hold up. It will not hold up to the scrutiny of time and wisdom, and examination and daylight of any sort.
The bottom line is, remember the words of Alice Walker: that the biggest way that people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. We have it. There is enormous public support - remember the biggest constituency of voters are the voters who refuse to go along and perpetuate a corrupt and brutal political system. One hundred million American voters who are refusing to vote for the two parties being stuffed down our throats. They are saying “No”. Sixty-one percent of Americans are calling for, or say that they want, in polls, a new political party that will serve everyday people, not just the economic elite. That party is here and waiting, and you are not going to hear about it on the evening news - for whom we are kind of “public enemy number one”. We can wear that badge with pride, and stand up. Because we are the future, we are the ones we have been waiting for - and we do have the power within our hands to create a Massachusetts, an America and a world that works for all of us. That power is in our hands, let’s make it so.