Green Party candidate Jill Stein is not the choice for Progressives

Green Party candidate Jill Stein recently sat down with the editors of the Washington Post, A transcript of Jill Stein’s meeting with The Washington Post editorial board, and let’s just say that the editors were most unimpressed, as explained in this editorial. Jill Stein’s fairy-tale candidacy:

Jill Stein

Jill Stein

GREEN PARTY presidential nominee Jill Stein argues that Americans should not vote for the lesser of two evils. Instead of voting out of fear, they should vote for the most deserving candidate. Unfortunately for Ms. Stein, even if you accepted the logic, it would not lead this year to a vote for her.

Ms. Stein sat down with our editorial board Thursday, as Republican Donald Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson have done previously. She stressed some important issues, especially climate change.

* * *

But Ms. Stein’s policy ideas are poorly formed and wildly impractical. Her “activist” approach, she said, involves building “broad coalitions,” but she criticized Hillary Clinton for reaching out to Republicans. She proposes to end all use of coal, oil, gasoline and nuclear power by 2030, guaranteeing a federal job to anyone who wants one along the way, and says she can accomplish this revolution for $500 billion — less than the cost of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus. Even this trifle would be recouped in health savings, she said, as her “Green New Deal” reduced the incidence of asthma, diabetes and other illnesses.

There would no doubt be health benefits. But Ms. Stein is nevertheless spinning up a fairy tale — an appealing fairy tale to some, but still a fairy tale. To support the feasibility of her plan, Ms. Stein cited experts whose models in fact envision an energy transition taking decades longer than she posits. To support her health prognostication, she improbably cited Cuba’s experience losing access to Russian oil after the fall of the Soviet Union, after which, she pointed out, Cubans became healthier. In fact, they became healthier because they could no longer afford to smoke or drink alcohol and because so many involuntarily lost weight. “Cubans survived drinking sugared water, and eating anything they could get their hands on, including domestic pets and the animals in the Havana Zoo,” Richard Schiffman recounted in The Atlantic. “They became virtual vegans overnight.

On foreign policy, Ms. Stein expressed general accord with her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, who has decried the “unimaginable atrocities fomented by a demented and dying U.S. empire . . . and the gangster states of NATO,” though she said she might choose different language. Ms. Stein would “take a good hard look at NATO” and radically reduce U.S. military activity, preferring diplomacy to respond, for example, to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. But when we asked what would make her diplomacy more successful than the Minsk process that has failed to end the fighting in Ukraine, there was not much of a response.

Ms. Stein did not exactly convey a sense of awe about how tough the presidency is. “I don’t believe that it is rocket science,” she said of administering the federal government. But that blitheness may not be surprising from a politician who cites climate change as a global emergency — and then argues the country would be no better off electing Ms. Clinton, who promises to continue Mr. Obama’s progress on warming, than Mr. Trump, who has said the whole thing is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

The WaPo editors appear to be in agreement with this detailed report from Jordan Weissman at Slate, who wrote during the DNC National Convention — where Jill Stein was trying to pick off the “Bernie or Bust” supporters — Jill Stein’s Ideas Are Terrible. She Is Not the Savior the Left Is Looking For.

[E]ven by the standards of protest candidates, Stein—whose press team did not respond to an interview request—is an absolutely awful torchbearer for the far left. She’s a Harvard-trained physician who panders to pseudoscience. She mangles pet policy issues. And her cynical retelling of the past eight years has nothing to do with the reality of recorded history.

Let’s begin with Stein’s platform. Some of the ideas, like a $15 minimum wage and free college tuition, are mainstream these days, thanks to the work of progressive activists and Sanders himself. Others, like moving to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 (while ditching nuclear), are deeply unrealistic, if admirable in spirit. And more than a few sound like they were hatched in an old Bay Area commune. Cut defense spending in half and close more than 700 foreign military bases? Sure, maybe after we get done levitating the Pentagon.

Tucked into this long, starry-eyed list of progressive causes are a few lines that remind you of the far left’s fraught relationship with biological science. There’s a call not just to label genetically modified foods but to “put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.” Never mind that scientists have studied GMOs extensively and found no signs of danger to human health—Stein would like medical researchers to prove a negative. She would also “Ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.” This is a nod to the discredited theory that some pesticides are driving the collapse of honeybee populations (which, by the way, are not actually collapsing). Again, this is somewhat standard stuff on the far left these days, but coming from a physician, it’s discouraging. It is also in keeping with the last official Green Party platform, from 2014, which supports the “teaching, funding, and practice” of “alternative therapies” such as naturopathy and homeopathy, i.e. funneling money into quack medicine.

Worse, though, was Stein’s response during a Reddit AMA when she was asked about her party’s stance on vaccines. Her answer was a 380-word evasion in which she allowed that childhood immunizations had “made a huge contribution to the public health” while simultaneously suggesting that Americans have good reason to be wary of the drug approval process and that there’s “a lot of snake-oil in this system.” She wrote:

In most countries, people trust their regulatory agencies and have very high rates of vaccination through voluntary programs. In the US, however, regulatory agencies are routinely packed with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. So the foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the US. So who wouldn’t be skeptical?

Despite clearly understanding that vaccines are safe, Stein is pandering to her audience by telling them their worries are justified and offering fuel for those fears by painting a dark picture of a corrupt regulatory apparatus.

* * *

Mercifully, dying pollinators, GMOs, and vaccines aren’t at the core of Stein’s campaign. But she doesn’t fare much better on other issues. During a June interview with Cenk Uygur, Stein explained her strategy for wooing voters more or less boiled down to promising them she would forgive their student loans. “There are 43 million young people, and going into middle age and beyond, who are trapped in predatory student loan debt,” she said. “They happen to be very well-networked. They’re really good at self-organizing on the internet. There’s only one place that they can put their votes in order to cancel their debt.”

This, it should be noted, is not a very progressive idea, despite its popularity among the collegiate left. A disproportionate amount of student debt is held by comfortably paid professionals who went to private colleges or graduate school. Forgiving their loans in a mass jubilee would not be the greatest use of limited resources if you’re interested in fighting inequality. But forget all that for the moment.

Instead, focus on the specifics of Stein’s plan, which are based on a shockingly poor understanding of recent economic history. “My campaign is the only one that will do for young people what our misleaders saw fit to do for Wall Street not that long ago,” she told Uygur, echoing one of Elizabeth Warren’s more misleading arguments. Then, she got into the utterly misguided details. Student loans, Stein explained, “should be canceled in the same way that the debt of Wall Street was canceled, essentially writing it off as a digital ‘hat trick,’ which is done in the form of quantitative easing.”

Wait, write off student loans through quantitative easing? What? Is that really what she’s saying? Yes, that is what she’s saying. Here is Stein describing her understanding of the Wall Street bailout and explaining how it relates to her student loan plan:

[The bailout involved] about $17 trillion if you include the free loans. And the free loans largely got paid back. … Forget about the free loans and just consider the debt that was canceled. That was $4 trillion in the form of quantitative easing. So that’s not money that was transferred to them. It’s simply a debt that was bought up by the U.S. government, and then essentially zeroed out, canceled. So it didn’t put money in their pockets so to speak. But it rid them of all that debt that they would otherwise have to pay. So that’s exactly what we are calling for here, a quantitative easing which is not money in their pocket. It’s essentially that the government has bought up that loan and it tears up the contract. It’s over.

This is wrong. Flat wrong. Quantitative easing was an unconventional monetary policy tool the Federal Reserve used to try and revive the economy after the financial crisis once it had emptied its normal bag of tricks. There have been vigorous debates about whether it was wise, or whether it worked. But it did not involve buying and canceling debt owed by the banks. Quite the opposite—it involved buying and holding onto debts owned by the banks (or other investors, for that matter), such as Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

This might sound like a small distinction if you’re not a monetary policy obsessive. But it’s absolutely essential to understanding what the Fed was doing, and the rationale behind it. (Among other things, holding onto the debts, rather than canceling them, was a key part of how the Fed planned to contain inflation down the line.) Stein’s description is so far off, it’s as if someone asked Stein how to play basketball, and she answered that teams scored points by kicking the ball off the backboard.

It’s possible Stein is being purposely misleading. The main point of quantitative easing was to drive down interest rates throughout the financial markets, making it cheaper for companies to borrow and invest, or for homeowners to take out mortgages. However, some people have argued that the first round of QE, the one that took place in 2009, was in fact a secret bailout, because it involved buying mass quantities of mortgage-backed securities from banks. These were the toxic assets at the heart of the financial crisis that collapsed in value as Americans defaulted on their home loans. While there may be a grain of truth in this theory, the problem with it is that the Fed was buying mortgage bonds backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were far less toxic than bonds that weren’t backed by the housing agencies. Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s stated explanation, that the central bank was trying to make it easier and cheaper to get a mortgage by reviving the market for mortgage-backed securities, makes plenty of sense on its own.

If Stein is trying to simplify the “secret bailout” story so she can say the government is going to do for students what the Fed did for the banks, then she’s lying about the details of a conspiracy theory. But Occam’s razor suggests Stein probably just has no idea what she’s talking about. That’s likewise disturbing, given that this is the single policy proposal she thinks is going to win her 43 million voters, the amount she claims she’ll need to win the presidency. Beyond that, Stein wants to move the various Federal Reserve banks into the Treasury Department, ending their independence while also putting an end to fractional reserve banking, which underpins our whole monetary system. I’m sure she has all the details of those grand plans straight, too.

Finally, I would be remiss not to note the plainly self-interested way in which Stein elides the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. This is, of course, standard third-party politicking. But in Stein’s case, it’s especially egregious. Her 2015 response to the State of the Union is replete with comments about how Barack Obama “led the charge for austerity” and “made the Bush tax cuts permanent.” Obama did, of course, team with John Boehner to push for a grand bargain to raise taxes and cut entitlements—a push that failed, by the way. He also made some, though not all, of Bush’s cuts permanent. But he did so in the face of a radicalized Republican opposition that has repeatedly threatened not to raise the debt ceiling (which, according to Stein’s On the Issues page, she also opposed raising, preferring a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts—the definition of austerity) and at one point followed through on its threat to shut down the government. To ignore that is to blind yourself to eight years of political history.

I could go on. This doesn’t even touch the sort of mundane conspiracies Stein likes to weave into her rhetoric, such as the Trumpian claim that the government’s “unemployment figures … are designed to essentially cover up unemployment.” The bottom line is that Jill Stein is not a figure anybody should trust. She’s not just an uncompromising progressive. She’s a panderer who raves about subjects about which she appears to lack the vaguest understanding. She is right about one thing: There is a lot of snake oil in the system. And she’s selling it.

I frequently write that facts do not matter on the far-right. But this is also true of the far-left. And cue our blog trolls in three, two, one …

29 responses to “Green Party candidate Jill Stein is not the choice for Progressives

  1. I think Bob Lord’s education has been wasted. Goes to show you, you can not always go by one’s education. I have disagreed with AZ Blue Meanie’s posts in the past but am totally in agreement now.

  2. Jill Stein is a loser. Thank God for Bernie and Warren.

  3. It’s clear that there is a Jill Stein contingent on this website. Rather than name calling and parsing the relative merits of liberal, progressive, radical, etc., the Stein proponents might offer to the rest of us the rationale for a Green Party USA vote. I’ve been marginally involved with the Green Party since the early 1990’s, helping a Green Party candidate win a city council race. But after over 20 years, I’m not sure that the Green Party means much here in the US. They actually have clout in countries like Germany, under a parliamentary system. But here they don’t seem to have much of a base, and are hardly ever involved in the big political debates at the city, state or federal level. In Tucson, I see one woman on the streets collecting signatures, but they hardly ever run even local candidates anymore.
    So, to the Stein folks, what do you think you achieve by voting Green? Do you think Democrats will change course if Jill Stein gets more votes than the 1% or so she got in 2012? How does voting Green move the ball forward in terms of American politics generally?

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Hey Jim, speaking only for myself, since Cheeto Benito will lose to Clinton in a landslide, there is no existential threat to my country and no reason for not voting my conscience.

      You are correct, a Green vote won’t make any difference this time around, but a Green vote is only one part of the picture.

      I assume the DNC will tally votes up and down the ballot and notice that some folks who voted Dem up and down, didn’t vote Clinton, or Sinema for that matter.

      I also assume that while it will surely be a rocky road, some folks from the Sanders campaign took notes on all those small donations. Next election should be interesting, Revolution or not.

      We have the sad luxury of being able to play the long game.

      • I wish I shared your optimism about the election outcome. I think that if Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic nomination, Jill Stein would still be saying pretty much the same thing.
        As for DNC folks tallying up votes, I kind of doubt that. If Clinton wins, the Democrats go forward with taking back the Supreme Court for the first time since 1973, continuing global warming efforts, fixing Obamacare, etc. If Trump wins, the DNC can kiss their ass goodbye.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          Oh, they examine every vote. And how/where you voted. What the weather was like that day.

          This is 2016, data is king.

          Even if you live 100% off the grid, there’s a “shadow profile” about you that’s 99.9% accurate. Data aggregation is a 50 Billion Dollar a year business and you are the product. From Google to your insurance company and grocery store, even your hair stylist/barber, your information is being sold.

          Campaigns buy this data, correlate with election results and polls, and make decisions on who to run where and when and how much money to spend on them, what time of day to run TV ads and during what shows.

          Of course, numbers still matter, if Stein gets less than 1% or so the DNC/RNC/Koch Brothers databases may just yawn.

          Or, that 1% may come from a demographic that is predictive, or a demographic that has more income, or tends to vote at a higher rate, so suddenly that 1% has meaning.

          We’ll see.

    • captain*arizona

      I will vote for jill stein so I don’t have to leave the top of the ballot blank. I do not vote for those who voted for iraq war for their personel gain and then gives a phony apology.again for personel gain. I will vote down ballot democrat except for eric meyer who supports photo radar to gain revenue and I don’t!

  4. captain*arizona

    because jill steins anwsers are not 100% perfection we are supposed to vote for a moral reprobate? I don’t think so! any of you clintonistas found enough dutch courage to defend clintons iraq war vote for personal gain and phony apology?

  5. For Sure Not Tom

    Breaking News Alert!
    Politician Jill Stein Talks Like a politician!

    Breaking News Alert!
    “Voting for Stein a Wasted Vote” – Says Hillary Supporter

    This Just In…
    Irony Lost, Climate Change to Blame?

    • Right, Mr. Meanie. YOU are the smartest guy in the room, and everyone else is a troll with the possible exception of those who comment just to agree with you.

      • Liza, this is apropos of nothing, but when I saw your message to “Mr. Meanie,” my thought was of “Mean Mr. Mustard” from the Beatles White Album.

      • AZ BlueMeanie

        I have expressly said that I do not consider you a troll previously. The fact that you assume I was talking about you speaks to your own insecurities and doubts. It is you who conveys anger in your comments with anyone who challenges your views. I am not going to waste my time posting qll of your previous comments to make my point. You are not John Huppenthal.

      • Sorry, Mr. Meanie. This, “I frequently write that facts do not matter on the far-right. But this is also true of the far-left. And cue our blog trolls in three, two, one …” seemed to be directed at everyone who disagrees with you. And you often refer to people as “trolls” and “tools”.

        Honestly, I don’t know why you do that. It would seem that you would be interested in what people have to say in response to your posts, even if they disagree. The real trolls should just be deleted. I have also noticed that other people take their cues from you, and do the same thing.

        Are you familiar with Ta-Nehisi Coates? Well, I read his blog long before he was at The Atlantic. He was barely 30 years old, if I’m not mistaken. He advanced very rapidly in the world of blogging largely because he did not tolerate rudeness let alone trolls. Of course, he’s also a great writer, as evidenced by his recent bestseller, but that alone would not have been enough to attract thousands of readers on a daily basis.

        You can do as you please, quite obviously. It’s your choice. But, if I were going through this immense effort to write blog posts, I would want as many readers as I could get. Otherwise, I’m talking to myself. And I don’t believe that much useful discussion is generated or new readers are obtained by telling people they are trolls.

        BTW, I am fully aware that I am not a troll. It would be absurd to think so.

    • Sorry. Comment is misplaced. I am not only a troll, I am a careless troll who does not even take the time to put my comments in the right spot.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Liza, you are not a troll, you are strident in your views at times, but you’re knowledgeable and lucid in your reasoning.

        Trolls post to disrupt, not engage in real discussion.

        Plus, if you’re a troll, I’ll have to take a long look in the mirror at myself. 🙂

  6. When I saw the title of this post, I remembered one from way back: https://blogforarizona.net/sorry-progressives-but-politics-is-about-math/.

    That post from two years ago makes clear that the writer, one AZ BlueMeanie, does not consider himself a progressive.

    Hard, then, to understand how he feels he is in a position to decide the choice for progressives. It’s along the lines of when Bill Maher whitesplains to black people what’s best for them.

    Just sayin.

    • captain*arizona

      bob the clinton slime machine is getting desperate. I am still waiting clintonistas for you to defend hillary clintons iraq war vote for personal gain and phony apology.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      As you know, Bob, I consider myself a classic liberal, the Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey school of liberalism, i.e., the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I was never one of those people who cowered when Rush Limbaugh started using liberal as a pejorative and lefties started calling themselves “progressives,” many of them not even knowing the meaning or history of the progressive movement, which ended in the 1920s. There is a good deal of socialist in this modern movement. So if your point is that I am not a socialists, your point is well taken. But do not imply that I am not a liberal Democrat. These are two separate things. So do not pretend to speak for me either.

      • My point was that whatever you yourself define as a “progressive” you do not consider yourself to be one, as evidenced by the post to which I included a link in my previous comment. Thus, you are not in a position to explain to them what should be their choice.

        Now, you point out that you are a “liberal” Democrat, but not a “socialist.” Okay, let’s explore that. Haven’t you just made my earlier point? After all, your post was not directed at your “liberal” Democrat peers as much as it was directed at those “socialists,” to whom you were lecturing a few months ago when they supported Sanders. After all, they are the Stein supporters. Your “liberal” friends are supporting Clinton. So, if you’re not a so-called socialist, how do you arrogate yourself to know what is a good choice for one?

        Moreover, using the term socialist in this way is a bit silly isn’t it? Any political economic system is going to fall somewhere on the continuum between pure socialism and pure, unfettered, unregulated capitalism. The folks you call “socialists” or “progressives” are not looking to move to the end of that continuum, they’re only looking to move in the direction of that end, with things like free state university education and medicare for all. And you seek to distinguish yourself from that? Well, note that Clinton has now moved in that direction. And those ideas are simply today’s “liberal” ideas, the same way Medicare and public K-12 education were the “liberal” ideas of their day.

        Really, “liberal” is a relative term as well. The more “liberal” one is, the less he clings to the status quo. In that regard, who are the more “liberal”: Those progressive “socialists” of whom you speak with such disdain, or you?

        Lastly, when you say you are a “classic liberal” and reference Kennedy, Roosevelt and Humphrey, are you saying that you share their bold vision, or simply that you embrace the programs they embraced in their day? There is a difference, you know?

        • AZ BlueMeanie

          Bob, you know that I respect you. You are a colleague and I consider you a friend. So I really don’t know what your problem is. I have been a member of the Progressive Caucus of the AZ Democratic Party for years. This is not a monolithic group as you appear to imply. They did not all support your sainted Bernie Sanders, even though the PDA organization endorsed him. There is a wide spectrum of views in the center-left as you acknowledge. But most are loyal Democrats who do not peddle support for a Green Party candidate because their candidate lost the Democratic primary. You had an opportunity to address the points in the articles I posted to defend Stein, but you have not addressed any of the substance of the post. Instead you chose to make it about the messenger. I find that odd and disappointing.

      • captain*arizona

        azbluenotmenie still waiting for you to defend hillary clinton’s war vote for personal gain and phony apology. bernie sanders ted kennedy and even republican lincoln chafee said no this iraq war and urged their fellow senators to look out for their country not cheep political advantage.

    • Your ad hominem comments about Blue and what he chooses to call himself are a distraction from the essence of his posting. The question is not about what he believes–he’s not running for president—it’s about whether Stein is qualified. Her answers in the WaPo’s interview indicate, at least to me, that she is not. Bernie’s positions were well thought out as were the means for their implementation. This is quite a contrast to her and her running mate.

      • The comments were not ad hominem. They were not intended as an attack on his character, but to raise the point that he was not in a position to tell progressives about their best choice, as he does not share their worldview or their priorities.

        It’s laughable that you would think that a Jill Stein voter, who shares her values, her priorities and her worldview, should reject her because her understanding of quantitative easing is less than perfect.

        George H.W. Bush was really, really qualified when he ran, both in 1988 and 1992. Did you vote for him for that reason?

        • Bob, I assumed that ad hominem was any response that directed the conversation away from the substance of an issue and redirected it against the person who brought forth the issue. This is what you seemed to do. Perhaps I am mistaken but I did not believe ad hominem referred only to attacks on character (abusive ad hominem) but included others such as circumstantial ad hominem. But little matter, I just wish you had rebutted the WaPo article. It gave numerous reasons why Stein was a weak candidate. Where did you get the idea I said you or any other Stein supporter should reject her because “her understanding of quantitative easing is less than perfect?” I said no such thing. I said “her answers in the WaPo’s interview indicate, at least to me, that she is not (qualified).” The article covered many issues. George H.W. Bush? My votes in 1988 and 1991?

          • Doug, yes, compared to other possible Green Party candidates, Stein might be a weak candidate. But weak or strong doesn’t matter unless you’re choosing between two candidates who stand for close to the same things. That’s why I made the point I made to BlueMeanie and why the comment was not ad hominem. And it’s why I raised the question about George HW. He was the most “qualified” when he ran, but it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t like what he stood for.

            This is why elections are decided by voters whose worldview is in between those of the candidates and doesn’t line up neatly with either of them. For those voters, things like qualifications and knowledge on a particular subject might be enough to move their votes.

  7. Susie Thornton

    Stein is not the answer, and those who vote for her are wasting their votes. As this article clearly illustrates, there are many issues about which she is just wrong. The one that irritates me most is the vaccine issue:

    “Despite clearly understanding that vaccines are safe, Stein is pandering to her audience by telling them their worries are justified and offering fuel for those fears by painting a dark picture of a corrupt regulatory apparatus.”

  8. captain*arizona

    this is what jill stein didn’t do. vote for the iraq war not because she believed in the war ;but for political gain so the republicans couldn’t use her vote against her when she ran for president. when anti war democrats would have nothing but contempt for her to stop them from voting for senator obama. I defy any real democrat to defend this moral degeneracy.

  9. I watched Jill Stein interview on PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff a couple of nights ago. Here’s a transcript:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/jill-stein-getting-money-politics-people-principle-back/

    She claims that many Bernie Sanders supporters are now supporting Trump, which I don’t think is correct. She also had a really hard time with the question of whether the US would act if Russia invaded Eastern Europe. She also seems to be pretty vague about how to pay for her ideas. I’m not sure that slowing premature deaths from fossil fuels will translate into huge revenues. She also has a really hard time with whether Hillary Clinton is a better choice than Donald Trump. It’s good that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are out on the campaign trail, because they do understand the difference.