In a recent episode of the Twink Revolution podcast, we had the opportunity to chat with Howie Hawkins, Green Party Presidential Candidate, about his candidacy and what he thinks are the most pressing issues facing the country. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. The full interview is available in audio form on the Twink Revolution podcast.
Gian: We are here with an incredibly special guest, Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for President of these United States. Howie, welcome! Thank you so much for being here.
Howie: Well thank you. It’s good to be here.
Gian: So, many of you have probably heard of Howie, but if you haven’t, if you’re not familiar with him, he’s just clinched the nomination for the Green Party. He’s a Bay Area native, longtime political activist and radical in many different interesting causes, which we’re gonna talk about. He’s running with Angela Walker, who’s a Milwaukee born socialist and labor organizer, and Howie was a teamster and worked for UPS, right before becoming a Presidential candidate. And so yeah, he’s been a lifelong activist really involved in a lot of radical causes since the 1960s and the early formation of the Green Party, has run for Governor in New York more than once, and was sort of the originator of the the Green New Deal in the sense he was probably the first major candidate to run with a Green New Deal as part of his platform.
Howie: Yeah that was in 2010. I was the first US candidate to do that. It became the theme of our slate, we had six candidates, two for US Senate Special Election that year, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General Comptroller. And that was in… we got nominated, we couldn’t start petitioning until July because we never battle line back then, so we came out with it in July and Greens around the country took notice and some people in California said, “Let’s do a Federal Green New Deal and came up with some things that we weren’t talking about because we’re running for state office, for example, cutting the military budget. And so by August we had a statement by 62 Green candidates across the country, calling for a Green New Deal, and that became our signature issue in the 2010s. Jill Stein, our Presidential candidate, her theme was a Green New Deal for America. And it’s both a climate recovery program but also an economic recovery program.
Howie: When I first ran in 2010, we were coming out of the Great Recession. And back then the climate issue was still like, not everybody believed it, not like today. But we ran saying, “We’re going to build an economic recovery by investing with major public investments in clean renewable energy,” and the idea caught on. I mean, mainstream media liked the concept. Made sense back when Obama got elected they thought he was gonna do a new New Deal. And he’s on the cover of Time magazine looking like FDR, that’s what they thought he’d do. He didn’t. So when we came up with it, a lot of people in the media took notice, so it’s a good theme. The problem that’s happened since late 2018, when the Sunrise movement and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sat in Pelosi’s office saying we want a select committee for a Green New Deal, is that they took our brand and diluted the content. Pelosi sliced and diced the idea of a select committee where they could actually put legislation on the floor.
So AOC and Ed Markey came back with a Green New Deal that left out really important elements, they took the brand and diluted the content. They dropped the ban on fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure. They dropped that we cut the military spending so that we could invest those savings in the Green New Deal. And they extended the deadline for zero emissions from 2030 to 2050. So Pelosi never let them vote on it. It’s just sitting there in the House, never voted on it. In the Senate, McConnell said “Oh, half you Democrats are running for President, let’s get you on a record.” And Schumer and Markey said, oh that’s a trick. We want hearings before we vote.” And McConnell said, “No you’re just going to vote.” So they said to their Senate caucus or conference, vote present, because this is a trick. And all the senators did, except four of them voted with the Republicans. Four Democrats! So we’re not gonna get a Green New Deal from the Democratic Party, Joe Biden’s made it clear so, that’s a good reason to vote for the Green Ticket this year.
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Gian: So that’s, I guess, exactly kind of what I want to ask a little bit about is, it’s been said—I think it might have be Christopher Hitchens that said it—“The problem with talking about voting third party is it presupposes the idea that we have two parties in this country.” So obviously there’s many barriers to ballot access and things like that, but what does success look like for your campaign?
Howie: Well, we’ve got two basic goals. One is to get green solutions into the national debate. And that’s the Green New Deal for the climate meltdown. It’s the economic Bill of Rights for poverty and economic despair. Inequality has been growing for 50 years and now we have what they call, deaths of despair, working-class life expectancies are in decline, in a developed rich country like the United States. So we’re talking about a job guarantee, an income guarantee, Medicare for All, expanding of public housing until everybody has the opportunity for affordable housing, tuition free public education from preschool through college and trade school, and doubling Social Security benefits so everybody can have a secure retirement. And then we got this new nuclear arms race, the bullets in the Atomic Scientists has the Doomsday Clock the closest it’s ever been to midnight, and the last treaty between the US and Russia on nuclear arms expires next February 5th, and the negotiations they just started and they’re already stuck because the US says China has to be involved, and Russia says no they don’t, and China says no we don’t. And we’re in the middle of a new nuclear arms race, they’re modernizing nuclear forces and we’re calling for peace initiatives, cut the military budget 75%, bring the troops home from these endless wars, pledge no first use of nuclear weapons, disarm to a minimum credible deterrent.
And then go to the other eight nuclear powers and say, “We’re ready for complete and mutual nuclear disarmament,” and go there with 122 non-nuclear nations that agreed to the text of the treaty on a prohibition of nuclear weapons three years ago. And hardly anybody in this country knows about it, none of the Major Party Presidential candidates have talked about it, and it should be a top campaign issue. So those are the kinds of things we’re bringing to the fore. And then when we have those the three life or death issues I started campaigning on, climate, inequality, arms race. And now we got two more, the coronavirus, I mean, the two governing parties are presiding over a failed state. We’re on pace that have a quarter of a million coronavirus deaths. Trump is a loser. COVID-19 won, he gave up and now he’s having like Typhoid Mary infecting his own supporters at these super spreader rallies. The guy is a maniac. But where is Biden? When you think of Joe Biden, what issue is he the champion of? He’s within commuter distance of the White House Press Corps. He could go down there and have press briefings and beat Trump up over the fact that we don’t have a test trace and quarantine program to suppress the virus, like every other organized society in the world is doing.
He could be beating up over the fact that, if we don’t get the funding for mail-in ballots, a lot of people are not gonna be able to vote in this pandemic election in November. They don’t even know poll workers are willing to go out and risk their lives, tend to be old people, and they’re all in a fiscal crisis given this coronavirus depression. So we also need relief for the people. And then last month, we had this uprising against police brutality and racism. That’s the pandemic we’ve had that’s centuries long. And people of color know that but now that it’s on living color on TV, a lot of white people are coming out because they think that’s wrong too, And so we’re in a moment where we can make some real changes. But Trump wants to send in the military to suppress the demonstrations, and in general slap them down on that, good for them.
But what does Biden do? The first thing he says, he goes to a black church and says, “Police should shoot people in the leg instead of the heart.” I mean, that’s so tone-deaf and then when the defunding the police comes up, he says, “No, we’re gonna add money to police departments.” I mean, he’s not representing them. I would just say to the movement, “Yeah let’s defund the police, let’s re-allocate a lot of those resources to homes for the homeless, drug treatment for the addicted instead of jail, psychologists instead of clueless cops for people having mental health crises. But that’s just a drop in the bucket of what’s needed for racially oppressed communities that have suffered generations of segregation, discrimination, and exploitation. So let’s defund the military and put that money into a Marshall Plan for the cities to uplift these communities. So I forgot what your original question was, but those are the five life-and-death issues I’m campaigning on.
Gian: Yep, that makes sense.
Howie: There are more issues we can talk about, too, but those are life or death.
Sam: So a huge part of your campaign is the Green New Deal and I’m just curious, we’ve seen in places like France that introduced environmental legislation, the burden often fell on working people, resulting in the yellow vest movement. How do we ensure the Green New Deal distributes the burden fairly and doesn’t result in working-class resentment towards the government and your candidacy?
Howie: Well, a number of things. One is, we’re doing a lot of this through the public sector, public enterprise, and planning. In the energy sector, not just utilities, but the fuel corporations, the Exxons, the Chevrons, the Koch Brothers, because we don’t want them to reinvest their profits from the fossil fuels that were used in the transition in the more oil and gas, we want it into renewables. So we take them over, and use those sales to build renewables. The transportation sector, we got to rebuild our rails, electrify them, rebuild the light rails, the trolleys that every city and town had in this country between 1890 to the 1930s. Build high-speed bullet trains, like other developed countries. We’re a failed state, we can’t get that done. And then we got to put a lot of the freight on the freight rails, electrified freight rails, dedicated lines. Right now, Amtrak has to wait for freight trains with coal and bakken oil and so forth, so they’re always late, it’s ridiculous. So we got to rebuild the rail system and it needs to be done through the public sector.
The airlines should be incorporated into that so we can coordinate bullet trains that can deal with short intermediate-range intercity travel instead of airlines, which is a difficult sector to reduce carbon. And then we got to do manufacturing. Like during World War II, the Federal Government in that emergency took over a quarter of the manufacturing capacity of the country in a plan that managed, just told Ford and GM, get out of the way, give us your engineers but the management and the shareholders just take a hike, a vacation. And they turned industry on a dime into the arsenal of democracy, that allows allies to defeat the fascist powers. We need to do nothing less to defeat climate change and we need to rebuild our manufacturing because every manufacturing process has to be redone, instead of coke ovens for steel, we need electric arc furnaces to reduce the carbon emissions. We need to get rid of Portland cement, which relies on calcium carbonate, calcium to harden cement, it’s heated up to calcium, the carbonate evaporates in the carbon in the atmosphere.
That’s a quarter of the world’s carbon footprint, there are other ways to make cement, so we got to change those production processes. And we can go right through all the manufacturing and agricultural sectors and talk about that. That’s what a Green New Deal’s got to do, and to do it on a time frame, we got to do it to avoid the worst impacts of climate change in a decade, that’s our goal. We got to do it through the public sector, we can’t rely on a carbon tax here, and a federal mandate there, and a regulation there, which the vested industries, if we don’t socialize them, will go to Congress and the regulatory agencies and gum the whole works up and it’ll never get done.So that is how we got to implement his Green New Deal.
Gian: So your platform in general is very impressively radical. It has a lot of stuff which I think everybody who listens to this thinks we should have. But I’m curious in terms of your sense of the, our political consensus machine tends to produce a kind of negotiation from the middle, or starting halfway to your opponent’s position and then negotiating from there. It’s led to us a lot of cynicism around electoralism in general on the Left. What do you say to people who think electoralism is just a dead end and that we shouldn’t even bother?
Howie: Well to have a mass base party of the left, it’s got to be driven forward by social movements. But on the other hand, if the social movements don’t support a vote for that party, they’re gonna be taken for granted. Because in the end, street demonstrations are a more militant form of lobbying Democrats. And if you’re not threatening their votes, they’re gonna take you for granted. We saw that during the Iraq War. We were called the world’s second superpower by the New York Times, massive demonstrations. But then the leadership of the peace movement said, in 2004, our slogans were gonna be against the Bush Agenda, which meant to vote for Kerry, who at the Democratic convention said I’m reporting for duty. I’m a veteran I could fight the war better than Bush. He wasn’t anti-war, he just said I’m a better warrior. And that really undermined the peace movement. So we got to vote for what we want and make the politicians come to us.
And if you vote for Biden and you’re a progressive, say you supported Bernie Sanders, you wanted Medicare for All, a full-strength Green New deal, College for All, tax the rich, all those things, and you vote for Biden, you get lost in the sauce. You don’t know you’re a progressive, you voted for Biden, you just silenced yourself. You vote for the Greens, we’re for those things and more. Everybody knows what we stand for , and that’s your voice, and you can make it heard and the more votes we get the more leverage we’ll have going forward. When I got 5% of the vote running against Andrew Cuomo for Governor in 2014, he had wanted to run up the vote to get ready to run for President. He wanted to get more votes than his father Mario Cuomo ever got. He wanted to get more votes than he got when he was first elected in 2010, and he got less. He couldn’t take us for granted, he’s looking at our five percent. He had asked, “What were they saying?” Before that he was a fiscal hawk, now he rebranded himself as the pragmatic progresses that gets things done, and he started adopting some of our planks.
A ban on fracking, a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave. He even made gestures toward tuition free college in public institutions. He didn’t do that, but to compete he had to act like he was. So that’s where our leverage is. If you vote what you don’t want, I mean what’s the point? You just silenced yourself and you have no leverage. You vote for what you want, we may not win the White House, hey if we get 5%, whoever’s in there is gonna like, particularly if it’s a Democrat, they’re going to say, that could have been the margin of difference, what are they talking about that I got a deal with? And that’s you know our leverage in the process going forward.
Gian: Democrats particularly have always used this argument, at least going back to Ralph Nader’s campaign in 2000, of: “Well, the other guy’s worse and you’re just you’re just throwing away your vote,” and the threat of Trump is being used in this way, right? We know Biden’s not a good candidate, we don’t want to vote for that guy, but it’s always: “If you don’t vote for him, you’re just voting for Trump.” You don’t buy this, I assume?
Howie: Yeah, look, they call us the spoilers, but I say the Democrats are the spoilers. Since that Ralph Nader election, we’ve been giving them the proven nonpartisan solution to the spoiler problem. Replace the Electoral College with the rank-choice national popular vote for President, problem solved. If I ever get on the debate stage with Biden, I’m going to say, “Joe, will you support us? Will you embrace this reform, a rank-choice national popular vote for President, and then we don’t have to spoil the problem? What do you say Joe?” I’m afraid Joe is gonna look at me like, “What’s that?” I’m not even sure he knows. But that’s why we got to be in the race to raise issues like that. Now in this race, Trump is sinking like an anchor. Trump is toast. I don’t see how he can recover. I mean, even his own people don’t show up in his super spreader rallies because they don’t want to get sick. And they may even think this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing. What did we actually vote for here? I mean, it’s one thing if you’re a racist and it feeds your stupid emotions, but hey now this is getting to be life or death matter for them too. So I think you know they’d rather see some competence than somebody that has got the same bad attitudes they do, so even his base is starting to leave him.
And then the coronavirus depression. Republicans—it’s like they’re trying to throw the election. Democrats came up with a modest relief package, the Heroes Act, it’s the fourth or fifth, depending on how you count, and the Republicans are saying, “We’ll take it up after the July 4th recess.” That’s two weeks after the 4th of July, that’s the end of July. I mean it’s like they want us to go in deeper in this depression so they can lose the election, I mean the Republicans, I don’t know where their brains are at. Or maybe they just decided it’s too late, let’s just get as much right-wing stuff done as we can before we’re out of here.
It’s amazing, the incompetence of you know the Republicans and the Democrats, I mean what’s the clear message from the Democrats toward Trump? All they got is, “We’re not Trump.” Which is something, but it’s not much.
Sam: So you have a long, expansive history in the labor movement, I mean both you and your VP are actual working-class people which is a big change. It’s nice to see it. But in your platform, when I was reading through, I didn’t really see any points talking about unionization or the federal laws against unions, so I was curious what are your stances on Taft–Hartley and the right-to-work laws. What will you do to improve unionization in this country?
Howie: Yeah, we got a bullet point platform summary and I was just thinking the other day, the labor section is missing, there’s just so much to do. I did write a labor day statement, that you can find on our campaign website, that goes through a lot of those things. We gotta get rid of Taft–Hartley or at least the repressive sections that undermine labor’s organizing tools, the strike, boycotts, solidarity strikes, we need to get card check passed which Obama promised twice and then as soon as he got elected somehow they couldn’t do it, they told the labor movement, particularly the second time, we’re not going to deal with it. And card check is where, when a majority of people at a shop sign up to be recognized by the company, they’re a bargaining unit. So what else, we should have a just cause for termination law, like Montana has, and most countries in Europe has. So you can’t be terminated because the boss wants to give your job to his nephew. There’s got to be a just cause, like you’re not doing a job or for economic reasons, they gotta lay people off.
We need a workers Bill of Rights so that their Fourth Amendment privacy and First Amendment speech and assembly rights don’t just disappear when you cross the threshold of the workplace. You get to have the right to bodily autonomy, the right to know what materials you’re working with, the right to have workers deputized to inspect safety and health issues in a shutdown production when there’s a problem. What else do we need on labor law reform? Well we can get into the trade, the trade deals, labor’s left out of the trade tribunals, as is the public. It’s only the corporations and the states, and in some of these deals, you don’t even see the written decision, you only get the one-line decision and they use those tribunals to knock down what they call non-tariff trade barriers, which are our regulations in our country or our state.
So for example, the ban on fracking we got in New York, could be challenged as a non-tariff trade barrier by the oil and gas industry under NAFTA. And we’re afraid that’s going to happen, so we got to have trade agreements that are transparent and designed not to deregulate and pit workers in one country against another, but are designed to uplift Labor standards and environmental standards and safety standards.So there’s a whole list of things we got to do.
And I would just add that within the labor movement, we got to start organizing our members to act for themselves. The labor movement raises ten billion dollars a year in dues. And when they spend it on fights with companies, it tends to be PR campaigns, the corporate campaigns, instead of organizing the members for strikes or job actions, so they can act and speak for themselves, and in the process of doing, become better educated and more in solidarity with each other, so they can’t be pitted against each other by the bosses and supervisors, and the foremen and so forth. And then on the political side, that money should not just be given to the Democrats who take us for granted. Look at the card check, Obama made the promise and then after the election, later for labor. And that’s been the story of labor for the last 50 years. They’ve got to have options. The AFL-CIO did pass a resolution a couple years ago saying, we’re gonna look at all our options, so we got two workers for the White House on my ticket, we’re an option. And we’re actually… We’ve been talking with some labor organizations and we’ll see what happens.
Gian: Nice. So you’ve been involved in many radical causes and political movements since the ’60s, including many that might be rightly called sort of “big tent” or “multi-tendency” movements. What advice do you have for avoiding the traps of the co-opting of that energy—the radical energy—into liberal causes, or that tendency for things to become diffuse and for that energy to be dissipated back into the machinations of capitalism?
Howie: Well I come out of the New Left, which was critical of the Old Left, because they were slow to the environmental question. They didn’t know how to deal with the peace issue. They try to reduce everything to class, they were not always in tune on racial issues and certainly not on feminism and gay liberation. So the New Left, they were dealing with these issues that transcend class or intersect with class. That was a good thing, but the New Left threw the baby out with the bathwater. The Old Left knew how to organize, they knew how to build organizations. So I think the New left was over impressed by their successes in a civil rights and anti-war movement, with just mobilization in the streets. Now those, if it’s kind of informal or ad-hoc committees through the mobilization, it’s very top-down and people show up to the demo and then go home. And then that’s evolved, it’s become institutionalized, where you have billionaire liberals funding nonprofits. The staff gets hired, they stand around a table and they decide what we’re gonna do, and you learn about it on your email or your Facebook.
And we’re not talking to each other at the grassroots, which is vital to having a dynamic movement, where people are getting smarter and educated, better speakers, better writers, better thinkers, and we ought to be smart to change the system. So we need to build organizations, and to me that’s a mass party, among other things. I was [inaudible 00:26:31] how we need to reform the unions, but the thing that’s missing, what a party does that a single issue doesn’t do. We have a lot of single issue movements and they compete for energy, time, attention, money, people. And so when they ought to be allies, they compete. In a party you developed a platform, and it’s multi issue, it’s multi constituency, it’s the place where we can find our common ground and we can build that into grassroots and then go into the communities that ought to be more involved.
A hundred million people didn’t vote in 2016, disproportionately working-class, disproportionately people of color, disproportionately young. So as organizers and building organization, instead of going out and preaching and mobilizing with your leaflet and we got the answer, join us, people in those communities saying, “Who the hell are you? We don’t know you.” We hear lots of talk from politicians but nothing happens. What you gotta do is go out as an organizer knows, and listen, and learn, and help, and build relationships, and friendships and then when the trust is developed, you need to talk about your politics. And when you got the organization in the community, they know when the establishment tries to smear you they say, “No, we know these people, we know so-and-so, we know they’re with us, we trust them, they’re for the people,” and then you’ve got something that can’t be taken away.
So I think that’s something that’s been missing in our movements politics. And like I said, I think I’ve been on podcasts all day, I’m sorry if I repeat myself but…
Sam: No worries.
Howie: Demonstrations in the end are militant lobbying on the Democrats. Yeah, I think I’ve said they’re, right? We talked about Iraq.
Gian: Yeah, but it’s a good line and I think it’s not said enough perhaps that people miss the relationship between single issue movements and how that really does structurally differ from an apparatus with an actual like theory of change behind it, right? Shouting in the streets does not get anything done, but it’s a great way to meet the people who you might get something done with, right?
Howie: Well, it gets some things done. I mean, take the current uprising. Congress, the House, just passed the Justice and Policing Act. And I think everything in it is good, the problem is it is not nearly enough. Because you could have a law against choke holds, we’ve had one in New York since 1993. Eric Garner was still killed. There’s another young man rendered unconscious in Brooklyn last week by a choke hold. And the police get away with crimes and murder because they are police themselves. We need community control of the police, and I’m not talking about citizen review boards, I’m talking about elected police commissioners or even randomly selected juries, and they hire and fire to police chief, they review to force and get the racists and the sadists out, they deal with the practices and policies, they deal with the budgets, and they investigate misconduct, and hand out discipline. So the police are working for us instead of for themselves, which is how now they’re able to get away with these crimes and murders.
Sam: Yeah, going on to another point of your platform, you have the point, “open borders like the EU.” I’m just curious what countries would be involved in this and how do you ensure it doesn’t result in economic hardship for American labor, a brain drain in the global south, or an open market for exploitation from the global south as we see in industries like farm workers or maids or stuff like that?
Howie: Well the border, and the lack of status for immigrants enables them to be exploited, and the lower wages on the Mexican side and Latin American side of the border is used as a cudgel against workers in this country. So the border is actually dividing the working class and what I’m talking about the whole Western Hemisphere should be like a European Union. There are already zones like that, there’s an Andean Zone, there’s another zone I think includes, I was looking on a map the other day, there’s a Central American Zone, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua. So we’d just be expanding it to include the United States, Canada, Mexico, and those Central American countries right on down to South America. And freedom of movement is a basic human right. The UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 talked about that in terms of internal movement, they were looking at South Africa, China, Russia, they had internal passports.
But we have a globalized economy now. Now, the brain drain problem. Look, we got trade agreements like NAFTA, or now USMCA, that destroyed the farm economy of small farmers in Mexico, though they destroyed the Ejido system which was publicly accessible for farmers. And so that got bought up by agribusiness and these former farmers either moved to the shanty towns around Mexico City and other places or to the United States. The other people say, “Well all the Latin Americans will come up here because we’ve got better jobs,” I don’t think so. Those feel they have ties to their communities, they have families, they have ties to the land, to nature. Now, people that do come up, a lot of them come up to make money and send remittances back to their families back home. Look at the European Union, Greece is flat on its back economically. But all the Greeks didn’t move to Germany, some migrated up there and they sent money back to their families, but the Greeks are staying in Greece. Most people are going to stay, and as the border opens up and you have freedom of… people should be able to move across the borders.
I don’t have a problem with you know, checking in when you cross the Mexican-American border, see there’s a warrant for your arrest, if not, welcome. Shop, get work, reside, vacation, whatever it is, going both ways. But it worked well within the European Union and I think it would work better here.
Gian: Do you think that that’s some of the… so for example, undocumented people in California, which has a relatively rich set of social services—nowhere near perfect, but better than nothing—access to those services for undocumented people is often used as a political football to say: “Well we can’t have Medicare for All, because then undocumented people would use it,” or something like… what’s your sort of take on that in the context of more open borders or more freedom of movement?
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Howie: Immigrants wonder why the hell we don’t have paid family leave, why we don’t have Medicare for all. Most of those countries down there, much poorer than us, they got better medical and family support systems. So Americans are worried about these… they’re not immigrating here to get health care and paid family leave, they’re immigrating here to get a higher wage. And some of them have aspirations of small business people of the American Dream, that’s fine, but they’re not coming here to get social services. I mean, people that say that are just ignorant. Either, they need to talk to some immigrants. They were really astounded. A mother’s having a child in their home country, she’d have a year to raise that baby for a year. Here she is going to go back to work in two weeks. It’s crazy. We got the worst family paid, family leave system, we’re the only country without that kind of system, except Afghanistan joins us. It’s the only other one.
Gian: So I mean, in terms of the wage issue, though, this is a slightly sticky point because there’s a version of open borders which is the Koch program, Koch funded, very much allowing labor to move across borders so the capital doesn’t even have to bother moving across borders. But you’re talking about something subtly different here, right?
Howie: Yeah if labor’s free to move, it’s free to organize across borders, like capital does because it is free to move under these trade treaties. And open borders won’t remove the class struggle but it would be a better terrain for us to fight on it.
Gian: One of the sorts of things you’ve talked about is nationalization of a lot of industries and how that’s necessary to achieving a lot of these sorts of gains in areas like the Green New Deal. I’m sure it would help a bunch of labor struggles and things like that, I mean, it helps in a bunch of ways to do some nationalization. I feel like one of the areas of skepticism you run into though from say, people not part of the left, is their experience of a government operated services like the DMV or something, some hellish bureaucracy. So what’s your sort of case you make for why these industries would actually be better under state control?
Howie: Well I don’t talk about nationalization as much as socialization and democratization. So take Medicare for All. The proposals before Congress or just to have the Medicare bureaucracy pay for all the medical services, and it’s very top-down Senator Washington I’m on Medicare now I got a billing issue with them we’re having a hell of a time finding anybody to help me straighten it out. Well, what we’re talking about in our Medicare for All system it’s going to be built into a community controlled National Health Service. So you have a locally elected health board that holds the health resources and providers in that district accountable to it. And then those boards elect a state board and a national board, so it’s a federated system that’s democratically controlled for the bottom-up. And what’s the private option? Edna, Blue Cross, I mean you get a phone tree there too. You nationalize it, you get a phone tree in Medicare, you democratize it and the people who control the policy based on who they elect, you could actually have real-life people answering the phone call, if that’s what you want in your local healthcare district.
And then the communities, like I live in a neighborhood here, no doctors, no clinics. It’s a two mile walk to the community health center where the Medicaid patients go. Half the people in the neighborhood don’t have cars, the bus service is terrible, mass transit here in Syracuse, New York is as much. And if they get some kind of insurance and go up to the hospitals on University Hill, it’s also two miles up the hill. And there the hospitals are competing for customers. So they advertise, we got this fancy machine and this fancy treatment and they got excess of that. We don’t even have a damn doctor down here in the neighborhood. And the one doctor we have was a woman who grew up in the neighborhood, a black woman. We ran her for Mayor of Syracuse, Green Party candidate back in 2001. But because she was a doctor that believed for example in, you’ve got type 2 diabetes let’s see if diet will work? People could go on insulin, she gives it to him, but if you want to try a diet, she’s going to do that and it works for a lot of people.
But the medical establishment didn’t like her out here having her own independent practice in the neighborhood and I guess taking customers from them and making them look bad. So the state medical board went after her after one of her patients went on a cruise, who’d been on a diet and drank everything and ate everything in sight and had an insulin shock. That was not her prescription, that was his fault. She won that case in any way they said, “Okay you win this round but we’re coming after you again.” She now lives in Panama selling nutritional supplements. She was run out of town. That’s the system we got, and so with a community control system you know we’d make sure that Dr. Daniels, she’s our doctor here in the neighborhood and this socialized system that’s under democratic control makes sure she’s got the resources she needs and of course we’ll put the doctors on salary. One of the problems we have now is they get paid by the fees, fees for service.
And then in these hospital organizations that say, “Run the patients too fast to get more fees. Give them tests maybe they don’t need, give them treatments maybe they don’t need. More fees. Whereas if they’re on salary then all they have to focus on is the health care and take the time they need and give the proper treatment. So it’s a cost control issue as well as an accountability issue, and an efficiency issue. Where they’ve done cost studies of the mandate system like we got with Obamacare, it goes back to Nixon, mandating employers and individuals. The National Health Insurance Model, which is what we call Medicare for All now, and the fully socialized National Health Service. There was a study in California that looked at those three models and a couple versions of the mandate and the public insurance. It was the health service that was the most cost effective, so that’s where we gotta go.
Now, I could describe a similar system and socializing the energy sector, or what we want to do in manufacturing, in the Green New Deal, we want to have public ownership of new manufacturing that builds the new technologies we need, coke ovens replaced by electric arc furnaces for steel. And cement that doesn’t emit carbon like Portland cement does, that’s 5% of the world’s carbon footprint, and so forth. Have them publicly owned but at least some of the worker cooperatives so the workers can control their labor process, and the net income is shared or you call it the profit is shared equitably among the workers according to how much labor they contribute. So we’re talking about democratic socialism not just state ownership. I mean Saudi Arabia nationalized the oil industry but there’s no model for us.
Sam: So you were quite active in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the US and you’ve outlined your anti-war, you want to end the wars. I was curious what will you do to ensure that veterans and current soldiers get treated for past wrong-doings by the government, for example: exposure to Agent Orange, Gulf War syndrome, and the rising suicide rates of PTSD for veterans.
Howie: Yeah it’s been a real battle in and once you’re in the VA system, they do now acknowledge those are you know war-related industries and you actually get a higher level of support from the VA, if you’re at the minimum level, you got to pay co-pays and so forth, it’s not completely free like it ought to be. But on the other hand, getting into the VA system is difficult and sometimes you have to prove that you were in a place where you might have got exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam or depleted uranium in the Middle East. So that’s something we gotta keep fighting on. And then the other thing for veterans if we’re gonna cut back on military spending, we’re gonna demobilize a lot of people. We talk about a just transition now in the transition to clean energy for oil and gas workers for example. We need to just transition for military industrial workers, not just soldiers and Marines and sailors and so forth, but also people that work in these arms industries ,we need to help them make the transition to alternative production, civilian production .
So the just transition should cover up to five years of your existing salary and benefits. Now in the Green New Deal we’re talking about, we’ve got a budget on my website for our ecosocialist Green New Deal, and it will create 38 million jobs, so there should be plenty of work. It shouldn’t be hard for somebody to get a salary, they won’t need five years to find a new job. So I think that’s another angle to that that we need to keep in mind, the just transition should be for people demobilized by piece conversion, as well as by clean energy conversion.
Gian: So, our last question for you, I mean we really appreciate your time and we know you have a lot of other things to be doing, is kind of how can people help? I mean you’ve got your website howiehawkins.us. Are there urgent ballot access issues or anything people should be looking out for in their local communities to make sure they can vote for you?
Howie: Yeah it varies state-by-state, but go to howiehawkins.us, and from there you can get all our policy statements, you can sign up to get regular updates on the campaign, you can sign up and volunteer and say the kinds of things you’d like to do. You can donate. And in terms of what’s needed in a particular state, can tell you right now we’re closing in on federal primary matching funds. We’ve raised about $200,000. When we get that we’re gonna get about $200,000 more which we’re gonna plow right back into ballot access. In the states where we particularly need money right now to reach that goal are Minnesota, Connecticut, and Virginia. So if anybody is listening there, see if you can help us out because you’re the last states. We need to get 20 states where we have at least $5,000 of contributions of $250 or less. So we have three left and want to get that done quick.
And then ballot access. We got 25 states we’re in. We got 26 more jurisdictions to go. Those are 51, counting DC. And we’re gonna get on Guam’s advisory vote too, but that’s in the bag, that’s not hard. So it depends on your state. In some states, we’ve got a team of lawyers that’s been helping our state parties write to the government saying we need relief in this coronavirus environment because it’s against public health guidelines if you go out there and ask people for signatures. You’ve got to social distance. When we do have people do it in some states where we did get relief, they’re wearing shields and masks and carrying hand sanitizer, and sanitizing the pen every time it’s used and all that. But in some states they just put us on because we’ve been on for many election cycles. Vermont did that, Illinois said, No, we’re not going to do that,” So we sued the bastards and we won. And then they appealed and last Sunday we won again, so we’re on a ballot in Illinois. New Jersey and Maryland agreed to let us do electronic signatures instead of physical signatures.
So it’s different in every state, but if you go to the website, there’s a ballot access page. There’s also a matching funds page where you can see in bar graphs how close your state is to reaching 100%. So that’s where to go—howiehawkins.us, and then from there you can find out what’s needed in your particular state and we have staff organizers, we got a national organizer and we’re filling out the state-by-state regional organizing, so they can put you in touch in your state, in your community with what we need they’re.
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Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. The full interview is available in audio form on the Twink Revolution podcast.