Q&A: Jill Stein, presidential nominee for the Green Party, wants to cancel student debt

Erik Petrovich

Dr. Jill Stein, the presidential nominee for the green party, is facing a very hopeful year for the Green Party.

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When she ran for the presidency in 2012, Stein barely broke .3 percent of the national vote. In 2016, Stein and the Green Party have consistently polled at 3 percent or higher, marking 2016 as what some call a momentous year for third parties.

The Green Party is a leftist party whose platform calls for social justice, expansion of human rights, non-violence, and, as the party name might suggest, a renewed focus on sustainable energy practices. The party consistently places fourth in presidential contests, behind the Libertarian Party and the Democratic and Republican parties. At the last count in 2014, 737 voters were registered with the Green Party in Larimer County.

Before she attended a Green Party rally at Avogadro’s Number on August 27, Stein stopped by the KCSU studio for an interview with editor-in-chief Erik Petrovich, reporter Gabriel Go, and KCSU assistant news director Oscar Lorandi.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity and briefness, however, the full interview can be watched above.

OSCAR LORANDI: Dr. Stein, welcome to Colorado State University.

DR. JILL STEIN: Thank you so much! It’s really great to be here.

LORANDI: You graduated magna-cum-laude from Harvard, graduated from Harvard Medical School, you’re a physician, an activist and now you’re a presidential candidate. What influenced you to want to be Commander-in-Chief of the United States?

STEIN: I am really a mother on fire, and I have been active for a couple of decades, ever since I kind of discovered, as a medical doctor, that we are going drastically in the wrong direction. It’s not only our health at risk, it is our planet, our survival, our climate and I think we have a generation, a younger generation, that’s really been thrown under the bus on the cost of higher education, the lack of jobs, the need for canceling student debt. On so many issues as a mother, I feel what is going on is unacceptable.

You could say I got tricked into running for office a couple decades ago, and what I discovered is that our democracy is really hurting for more openness, for a political party that is not bought and paid for by the usual suspects, by wall street, by the fossil fuel corporations, by the war profiteers.

Once those doors were open to me, I served in local office, but then I became involved in working to organize to actually change the bigger system.

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ERIK PETROVICH: So then I guess I’ll ask the question, going back to student debt and education, you said you want to cancel student debt. Could you go a little bit into how you would do that?

STEIN: We bailed out Wall Street, and people were very surprised to learn that it was about $17 trillion worth of money that was mobilized to bail out Wall Street. Now we have a generation of young people who are basically locked into student loan debt through no fault of their own – really the victims of this Wall Street crash and the victims of a loan system that made false promises.

The promise was: “you work hard, you borrow the money, you get the degree and there will be a good job on the other end.” We are saying that contract has been torn up, so it’s time to end the obligation of our young people.

It’s about $1.5 trillion worth of debt that we need to appropriate, but it is the right thing to do. It’s small compared to the bailout we gave Wall Street, it’s time to bail out a generation, because It’s not just your lives that depend on it, all of our lives depend on having a younger generation that can lead the way forward to reinvent our economy for the 21st century – and it’s not just the economy, it’s the social struggles.

PETROVICH: Do you think this could be done through reduction or outright removal of the obligation to pay back these debts?

STEIN: In my view, public higher education should be free, because it is essential to survive in today’s economy. Throughout the 20th century, we provided a high school degree for free, because it was essential for economic security back then. Now, it’s not adequate for economy security.

In my view, the younger generation is not there to be a cash cow to be exploited by either government loans, of private loans. Security should be provided through free public higher education, that applies going forward and, in my view, that applies going backward.

GABRIEL GO: You ran as president in 2012, yet it appears that your only elected position is that of the representative of the town of Lexington in Massachusetts. How do you feel this prepares you for the U.S. presidency?

STEIN: We are in a crisis situation right now. We’ve had some very well prepared candidates, and prepared past presidents, but coming up through our conventional system of politics, that preparation involves taking a lot of campaign contributions and it involved being schooled in a system where big money rules the day.

In my view… we need to move away, as fast as we can, from this conventional system that creates very well prepared candidates, but what they are prepared to do is sell us down the creek towards war, towards offshoring of our jobs, towards our climate that is in all-out collapse right now. We have seen all that the Democratic Party can do – they are held up as the lesser of the two evils.

We need people who have the freedom to represent every day Americans, who do not represent not just the fossil fuel industries, the Wall Street banks, the war industry. My history of advocacy is what we’re about. This is what the American people are actually clamoring for – they have had it with this rigged economy, with this rigged energy system, which his actually destroying us, and with this rigged political system that keeps us in. People are ready for a voter revolt.

PETROVICH: You have also called for a temporary halt to foreclosures and evictions. How would you plan on going about this, and what kind of economic effects would you expect?

STEIN: We would like to see people stay in their homes. The banks have been extremely unreasonable and uncompromising about throwing people out, and then selling those mortgages at current market value. So what we’re saying is sell those mortgages right now at current market value and allow the homeowners to stay in their homes.

There is a green former mayor of Richmond, California who actually began using this policy of using eminent domain to seize homes that were under water if the banks weren’t willing to negotiate with their homeowners. This is being litigated in the courts now, but this is one way to ensure that predatory foreclosures don’t go forward.

PETROVICH: If elected president, and if this policy goes into effect, would you expect during this period of foreclosures being banned that people would simply not pay mortgages or not pay rents, expecting to not be kicked out?

STEIN: Well, let me tell you this. We’re focused right now on what we call the Green New Deal, which is not so much looking at mortgages, it’s actually looking at jobs. We want to ensure that people have the jobs they need so that they have the income, which only pays for things like mortgages, but also enables them to pay for the food that they need, the clothing that they need and stimulates the economy by priming the pump from below. This is how we want to heal the whole economy.

You’re right – just letting people keep their homes in a predatory housing system will not heal what ails us. We are primarily focused on ending the economic crisis at the same time that we end the climate crisis.

GO: Colorado State University is regarded as one of the most sustainable universities in the United States. How would you encourage other universities to adopt the same sustainable practices?

STEIN: You’re right, and kudos to you for leading the way. What we’re calling for in the Green New Deal is shifting our subsidies from fossil fuel energy, from industrial agriculture into sustainable practices at all levels of our economy, including at our colleges and universities.

We’re also calling for research, and a really broad research agenda into sustainable practices, so there would be not only the proper sense of priorities and having a president in the white house that actually believes in sustainability, that lives according to sustainable energy and food system and public transportation practices, we would have in the white house not simply a Commander-in-Chief, but an organizer-in-chief who would prioritize the kinds of things that are going on here at this university, as well as ensuring that our funding shifts from the unsustainable energy, food, transportation, into those sustainable ways of doing things.

We’d be doing everything from calling you to the white house, maybe creating a system of rewards and recognition for the campuses that are actually leading the way. We would be patting you on the back in a very public way and encouraging others to follow in your footsteps.

This article was produced as a collaboration between Collegian TV, KCSU-FM 90.5, and the Rocky Mountain Collegian.