Dr. Jill Stein’s Keynote Address
New Jersey Student Power Conference
August 15, 16, 2015
Thank you to everyone at the New Jersey Student Power Conference, for being here today in this historic moment, as a movement for democracy and justice is sweeping the planet. And thank you for leading the charge for an America and a world that works for all of us, as people are rising up like we haven’t seen for generations: in the fight for $15, the Black Lives Matter movement, the fight to cancel student debt and make college free, the resistance to immigrant deportations and detentions, and the struggle for climate justice through divestment, boycotts and blockades - like the kayactivists and protesters suspended from the Portland bridge that delayed the Arctic-bound Shell Oil rig…. And so much more.
This movement marks the coming of age of a new generation. So it’s time for a generational shift in our national vision. We’ve had enough of rule by the 1%, with their cult of cut throat competition and their religion of greed. We’ve had enough of corporate capitalism that puts profits ahead of people, planet and peace. These deranged values have dominated media, politics and the economy for decades. It’s now clear for all to see where they lead - to extreme inequality, to economic despair, to racism, endless war and climate catastrophe.
So it’s time for an uprising, a peaceful one, from the streets to the campus, to the workplace and the voting booth. Because we’re told we are in a recovery, when in fact we are in an emergency. And the political parties that got us into this mess are utterly incapable of getting us out.
As a result we face a crisis of historic proportions.
1 in 2 American families are in or near poverty. Twenty million people need full time work, yet 75% the jobs being created are part time and temporary. 40 million students are in debt with little prospect of getting out. Economic injustice is compounded by systemic racism, with average African American family having 5 cents of wealth for every dollar that a white family has. And 1 in 3 young African American men are held hostage by the prison state. Meanwhile corporate profits have tripled, CEO compensation has surged, and a mere 80 billionaires have the wealth equivalent to half of the world’s population of 3.5 billion. This is unconscionable.
The ecological crisis is beyond an emergency. 2014 was the hottest year yet and we’re on track to beat that now. The foremost US climate scientist, James Hansen and 16 leading experts have just predicted a devastating sea level rise of 10 feet or more as soon as 2065. California, which produces half the fruit and vegetable supply for the country, has one year of water left in its reservoirs. India has just had one of its worst heat waves in recorded history, with a heat-humidity impact equivalent to 149 degrees F, causing roads to melt and killing nearly 2000 people. Climate stress is causing species to disappear at a rate that more than 1000 times normal, contributing to the 6th great extinction, with half of the world’s species expected to die off by 2100, putting the survival of humans into the next century at grave risk.
It’s time for a new way forward. The old politics is collapsing, and the political vacuum is begging to be filled. That vacuum was plainly seen in the 2014 midterm election, which was not a victory for Republicans but a defeat for Democrats. 2014’s record low turnout reflected profound disillusionment with both parties. 2016 provides an incredible opportunity to fill that political vacuum and surge forward.
The voices of resistance and transformation deserve to be heard loud and clear. We deserve a voice in this election and a choice at the polls that not bought and paid for by Wall Street. Because voting for either Wall Street party gives them a mandate for four more years of Wall Street rule. And that is the definition of throwing away your vote. That’s why I am running, to ensure we have a choice that is of, by and for the people. We can be sure this choice will be here in November, 2016. We won’t be fought by a party apparatus that opposes our vision. And we’ll be here long after that, as we continue to build a political voice for the movement for decades to come.
We will lift up the bold solutions the American people are calling for.
Let me start by focusing on student debt. As you know, current and former students are now carrying $1.3 trillion dollars in oppressive, unforgiving college loans. But the jobs are simply not available with which to repay those loans. In fact, 75% of the new jobs being created in today’s economy are low wage, part time and temporary. So students are effectively indentured servants with no way out.
But in fact, there is a way out. We provided a $16 trillion dollar bail out to the bankers whose waste, fraud and abuse crashed the economy, creating the meltdown that lingers today, including a 35% collapse in average household wealth. If we bailed out the bankers who caused the economic crisis, it’s time to bail out the students who are victims of the ongoing crisis.
Student debt is not just a disaster for a generation. It’s a disaster for society in general. It’s a massive drain on the economy because it prevents young people from using the creativity and ingenuity of their youth – society’s greatest resource – to re-imagine our economy and society, as each generation must do. Instead, graduates are chained to the drudgery of the low wage, corporate jobs that are available. As their wages are siphoned off to repay debt, even their earnings are unavailable to recharge the economy.
Because student debt is a major drag on our precarious economy, the Federal Reserve should use its emergency authority to apply quantitative easing to student loan debt. This is especially warranted given the high rate of none payment, and the bundling of risky loans into investment instruments. This creates the potential for a student loan crisis comparable to the mortgage melt down of 2008.
Using quantitative easing to repay student debt would unleash enormous productivity and creative power. So it would deliver a real boost to the economy, unlike the quantitative easing used to repay bank and corporate debt which allowed “too big to fail” banks to continue racking up huge profits in an unproductive financial sector.”
It is unconscionable to launch our young people into their economic lives by inflicting tens of thousands of dollars of debt at the outset, especially when the jobs to repay that debt are unavailable.
No society has ever survived by devouring its young. We must not allow our youth to be the latest cash cow for a predatory economy.
In addition to abolishing student debt, we can make public higher education free – from technical schools, to colleges, to universities. In the 20th Century, we provided free high school education to our youth, because a high school education was essential for economic security. In the 21st Century, a college education has become essential for economic security. So by analogy, we should provide it as a secure start in life to today’s younger generation.
In addition, we know that higher education pays for itself. After the 2nd World War, when returning soldiers were offered free college education as part of the GI Bill, every tax payer dollar invested in higher education was returned 7 times over in increased tax revenue and other public benefits.
Abolishing student debt and making college free are part of a broader “Power to the People Plan” that I am calling for. This plan creates deep system change, moving from the greed and exploitation of corporate capitalism to a human-centered economy that puts people, planet and peace over profit.
This plan provides a way to end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of everyone in our society and our world.
- 20 million living-wage jobs, in an emergency Green New Deal to enrich communities not corporations, end climate change and make wars for oil obsolete;
- Health care as a human right, not a means tested entitlement like Medicare, not a subsidized profit center for predatory insurance like Obamacare, but a Medicare for All system to provide quality care for all while saving trillions by streamlining the massive health insurance bureaucracy;
- Quality free public education as a human right, and an end to runaway school privatizations and closings, to high stakes testing, and student loan debt.
- An emergency transition to a green economy powered by 100% wind, water and sun by 2030;
- A welcoming path to citizenship for immigrant residents, and an end to predatory trade deals and political interventions that created the surge of immigration to start with;
- An end to the racist war on drugs and school to prison pipeline. And a rollback of the militarized police, surveillance and carceral state, and radical reduction of America’s prison population;
- An end to Wall Street bail outs and “too big to fail’ banks ;
- And foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law and human rights, rather than global military and economic domination;
In closing, i invite you to visit jill2016.com. This is the time to come together. Solutions are in our hands. Justice is in our hands. Democracy is in our hands. Together we can create a world that works for all of us, and ensure that People, Planet and Peace will prevail. It’s in our hands!