by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
If the Green Party’s Jill Stein had been allowed in this week’s presidential debate, it would have transformed the discussion and altered the race. That’s why Democrats and Republicans kept it a duopoly-only affair. “The only circumstances in which either Trump or Clinton can muster a minimally compelling argument, is against each other.” Thanks to Democracy Now!, we got a glimpse at what a real debate might be like. Clinton and Trump would lose.
The Great Debate That Never Was
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“The contrast between the Clinton-Trump crap-fest and Stein’s lucid, programmatic responses, was striking.”
The U.S. ruling class, represented in human-like form by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, has absolutely nothing to offer the nation and the world except a deepening spiral of destruction and death. Monday’s televised head-butt, watched by a record-breaking 84 million Americans, was a grotesque display of the utter vacuity and political bankruptcy of both corporate parties -- proof that money talks only to itself, and that most of what it says is either lies, or incoherent, or both. The only circumstances in which either Trump or Clinton can muster a minimally compelling argument, is against each other -- which is why the “debates” are effectively restricted to Republicans and Democrats. Big Capital can only win under monopoly rules.
Apologists for this fundamentally rigged system slyly characterize those who support candidates outside the duopoly menu as “protest” voters, as if Green Party supporters are simply negatively motivated -- voting solely to register their anger at the established parties -- whereas Democrats and Republicans are positively motivated, civically responsible folks that are eager to tweek and improve the existing machinery. This defamation of alternative voters is made possible by keeping the Green Party’s actual positions on the issues hidden from view. If the Green’s platform is unknown, then any vote for them must be purely a “protest” and, therefore, an immature and unworthy gesture for serious citizens. Thus, Blacks are urged to swallow the Democratic “Satan’s sandwich” as the only alternative to Donald Trump’s overt white nationalism, unaware that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s “Power to the People Platform,” which addresses many issues central to the historical Black political consensus, even exists.
Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! did the public a service on Tuesday morning, with a two-part “Expanding the Debate” program that allowed Stein to respond to the same questions posed to Clinton and Trump. The contrast between the Clinton-Trump crap-fest and Stein’s lucid, programmatic responses, was striking -- and would have elevated and totally transformed the character of the debate had she been included.
“If the Green’s platform is unknown, then any vote for them must be purely a 'protest' and, therefore, an immature and unworthy gesture for serious citizens.”
On jobs, Clinton gushed about “new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes,” but offered nothing that remotely sounded like a program to create them, while Trump’s only economic plan is to cut corporate taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent. He continues to oppose TPP and other so-called “free trade” deals (“NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country”), but would rely on lower corporate taxes to bring back jobs that have already been outsourced to foreign countries. Clinton said she would also like “to see more companies do profit sharing,” but offered no plan to compel her rich benefactors to share their stock with their workers.
Jill Stein put forward her party’s Green New Deal, “an emergency jobs program that will create 20 million good-wage, living-wage jobs as part of solving the emergency of climate change.” These would be public-created jobs. The Stein plan would provide employment and services “for the workers and the communities that are dependent on the fossil fuel industry, on the nuclear industry and also on the weapons industry, so that we can transition to a new economy which is safe and sustainable, which creates far more jobs, many more jobs.”
“Half of Americans are basically in poverty, or near poverty and struggling to survive,” said Stein. Clinton and Trump did not utter the word “poverty,” much less offer a program to address it.
Stein reminded the audience that Clinton “supported the destruction of Aid to Families with Dependent Children and the replacement of this basic social safety net with a new program, so-called TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, that locked out a large proportion of the families that needed assistance, throwing an additional 1 million-plus children and their families into poverty.”
The Green Party candidate did not confine her critique of poverty to the United States. “Secretary Clinton also has a track record for suppressing the minimum wage,” said Stein. “This was in the African-American country of Haiti, where Secretary Clinton led the charge to push down the minimum wage from an abysmal 60 cents an hour down to a mere 40 cents an hour, in order to prop up the corporate profits of American corporations that were residing in Haiti. So, she certainly has a track record of her own that needs to be aired.”
“Clinton and Trump did not utter the word ‘poverty,’ much less offer a program to address it.”
The inheritance tax should be restored, said Stein, and she would put marginal income tax rates “back to where they were even under Ronald Reagan, and they would be at the 55, 60 percent tax level. And we should put a tax on Wall Street. Why,” she asked,” should the wealthiest sector of the economy be the one sector which is not contributing a sales tax to our general revenues?”
Clinton and Trump spent eons of times arguing about Trump’s personal tax returns.
In 90 minutes, neither Trump nor Clinton found any reason to speak of health care. Stein affirmed that “healthcare as a human right needs to be provided as a basic right for everyone through an improved Medicare-for-all system.”
Hillary Clinton attempted to fool voters about her position on college debt, claiming she has a plan for “debt-free” college education when, in fact, she offers refinancing of student loans at a lower rate. She conflated the two in a trick-sentence in the debate: “I think building the middle class, investing in the middle class, making college debt-free so more young people can get their education, helping people refinance their—their debt from college at a lower rate.”
Stein’s proposal is straightforward:
“We call for bailing out the students, as the Democrats and Republicans bailed out Wall Street. We can pay for ending student debt by creating a small tax on Wall Street, for example, or by increasing the income tax on the highest bracket of earners up to, say, 60 or 65 percent.”
Barack Obama is the champion of public school charterization. His Race to the Top program coerced states into allowing the establishment of a full-blown, alternative, privately-run, national charter school apparatus. Hillary Clinton is a strong proponent of school privatization, too, but the subject was raised only by Jill Stein on the Democracy Now! version of the debate:
“We need school systems that teach to the whole student for lifetime learning, that incorporate art, music and recreation and community engagement, not this high-stakes testing which is used as an excuse to shut down public schools, to abuse teachers, to fire them and to turn our public schools into a resource for the private charter industry.
“Both Trump and Clinton would deepen the police presence in Black America.”
Trump and Clinton argued on the constitutionality and merits of Stop-and-Frisk, with Clinton affirming that the police practice “was found to be unconstitutional, and in part because it was ineffective. It did not do what it needed to do.” As is the fashion in post-Ferguson America, she claims to “believe in community policing,” and says “we’ve got to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system.” Her prescription sounds near-identical to the generalities expressed by President Obama: “...we have to come forward with a plan that is going to divert people from the criminal justice system, deal with mandatory minimum sentences, which have put too many people away for too long for doing too little.”
Clinton’s views on gun control seem to focus on disarming Blacks. “We’ve got to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them,” she said. “The gun epidemic is the leading cause of death of young African-American men, more than the next nine causes put together.
Trump, the troglodyte, bragged that “We have endorsements from, I think, almost every police group, very—I mean, a large percentage of them in the United States.”
Both Trump and Clinton would deepen the police presence in Black America: Trump, by brute, unconstrained force; Clinton, through additional layers of police intelligence under the auspices of “community policing” schemes. Jill Stein, however, called for community control of police:
“We need to ensure that police do not have impunity to wreak havoc in communities of color. And that needs to start with police review boards, or so-called citizen review boards, where the community actually has the ability to control their police rather than having the police control the communities. And those review boards should have the power to hire and fire police chiefs. They should also have the power of subpoena.”
“We need to ensure that police do not have impunity to wreak havoc in communities of color.”
That’s in line with most organizations grouped under the heading, Black Lives Matter, as is Stein’s proposal to partially defund the police. “In Los Angeles, for example, where the police department has a particularly violent record, half of the city’s budget actually goes into policing,” she said. “Well, what the Black Lives Matter movement is suggesting there is that a substantial portion of that money needs to be spent on prevention.”
Stein called for mandatory investigations every time a person dies “due to police actions.” She proposed a “truth and reconciliation commission in order to truly have a conversation about race, so that we can transcend this history of division and violence and racism.”
The “Broken Windows” policing doctrine, which is designed to draw ever-widening numbers of young Blacks and Latinos into “the system,” is an example of the “inherent violence” of the U.S. criminal justice system, she said. Stein did not allow the audience to forget that “it was Bill Clinton’s omnibus crime bill of the 1990s, which Hillary supported, that opened the floodgates to mass incarceration and to this assault by police and the criminal injustice system on communities of color. So, indeed, that bill, that she herself promoted, saying how we needed to, quote, ‘bring them to heel,’ referring to African-American communities and youth, that indeed does need to be put behind us.”
Wall Street is also a crime scene, in Stein’s view. Real change demands people “watching Wall Street, so we can in fact catch the crooks before they crash the economy again.”
“Clinton tried to position herself as the more peaceful person on the stage.”
War -- Hillary Clinton’s obsession and specialty, and Donald Trump’s ego-extension – is the least-covered subject of the 2016 campaign, no doubt because both sides of the duopoly agree on the necessity of endless imperial warfare. Donald Trump, who panicked the Republican wing of the War Party with his calls for an end to regime change and “nation building,” still contends that the U.S. “wasted $6 trillion” in the Middle East wars. But he was full-bore colonialist on Monday, declaring the U.S. “should have taken the oil” in Syria and Iraq, so that “ISIS would not have been able to form...because the oil was their primary source of income.”
America is falling behind Russia, militarily, said Trump. “I was seeing B-52s. They’re old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not—we are not keeping up with other countries.”
Aware that her warmongering scares folks who tend to vote Democratic, Clinton tried to position herself as the more peaceful person on the stage. She easily positioned Trump as the candidate that would have provoked war with Iran. “He said, ‘You know, if they taunted our sailors, I’d blow them out of the water’—and start another war. That’s not good judgment.” Trump gave her his Mussolini look.
Arms Embargo, Not a “No Fly Zone”
If Stein had been in the debate, she would have put forward her peace plan for Syria, as she did on Amy Goodman’s program, the next day. “It begins with a weapons embargo” by the U.S., said Stein, “since we, the United States, are supplying the weapons directly or indirectly to all parties, all combatants on all sides, and we are the major supplier of weapons to the region, as well as around the world.” Washington’s co-conspirators in the proxy war must be reigned in. “We need to put a freeze on the bank accounts of those countries, largely our allies, who are continuing to fund terrorist enterprises.”
Stein would have put Clinton back in the warmonger’s chair, where she belongs:
“Hillary Clinton has said she would like to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, which basically means we are going to war with Russia, because that’s what you do when you impose a no-fly zone, is you shoot down people that are in that airspace. And remember, we have 2,000 nuclear weapons now, between us and the Russians, on hair-trigger alert. So, this is certainly a very dangerous territory, where Hillary Clinton has continued to beat the drums of war.”
The Green Party candidate would cancel President Obama’s plans for “a trillion dollars’ worth of spending over the next decade and a half, approximately, on new nuclear weapons, but let’s look at our whole war budget, which is half of our discretionary budget. Nearly half of your income taxes are going to pay for these absolutely catastrophic wars.”
It would have been a helluva debate – but it never happened, except as a cut-and-past re-creation on Democracy Now! The same capitalists that control the duopoly parties also own the communications media. They employ the script writers and narrators of a manufactured political discourse whose plot always ends with the rich still firmly in charge. Like the voice on the old sci-fi show The Outer Limits used to say: “Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission.”
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].