Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers - Fighting the Good Fight
November 15, 2013
Have you ever dreamed of quitting your day job to work on something you really believed in? That’s exactly what this week’s guests, Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers, did when they left their careers behind as medical doctors.
Both saw that holding political office largely depended on how much money you have, which in turn enabled injustices to be fashioned into law and public policy. Outraged and angry, they decided to stand up and take action.
“When people ask me ‘what kind of medicine are you practicing?’ I usually say, ‘I’m practicing political medicine because it’s the mother of all illnesses,’” Stein tells Bill. Flowers adds: “Once you start speaking truth to power and standing up for the right things, it’s very empowering.”
Stein and Flowers serve as the president and secretary of health, respectively, for the Green Shadow Cabinet, an organization offering alternative policies to the “dysfunctional government in Washington, DC.”
BILL MOYERS: Welcome. I once heard a longtime grassroots organizer say, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." For Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers that idea has become the guiding star of their life's journey. Through one experience after another, each saw that holding political office largely depends on having huge amounts of capital at hand, and that this perversity of democracy has enabled injustice to be fashioned into law and public policy, written by the anonymous hand of lobbyists on behalf of organized money. So rather than look the other way and stick to practicing medicine -- both are doctors -- they chose to resist. At first they took separate paths. Margaret Flowers had been a pediatrician in rural Maryland whose work with everyday people, including the poor, compelled her to join the fight for single payer health insurance. She is on the board of advisors of the organization Physicians for a National Health Program and is a contributor to PopularResistance.org, a website advocating nonviolent direct action for justice. Jill Stein graduated from Harvard Medical School, practiced as an internist in Massachusetts, and became so outraged by how politics adversely affected her patients that she became the Green Party candidate for president in 2012. Inevitably, the paths of these two crossed.
And in the proud tradition of American civil disobedience, they have joined hands to take on the system together, fighting against political corruption and a host of grievances that have led many others to cynicism and despair. Each is a member of the Green Shadow Cabinet, a group that offers policy alternatives to our dysfunctional government, and just days ago, they joined with the group NukeFree.org to present a petition to the UN -- 150,000 signatures -- asking the world to intercede at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. The meltdown of reactors there after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 still threatens much of the world with radiation. Japanese officials now say that residents of the area will never be able to return to their homes. Radiation from the disaster has reached Alaska and the Canadian scientist David Suzuki recently called attention to research saying that another quake hitting Fukushima could mean, “Bye bye Japan, and everybody on the west coast of North America should evacuate.” That United Nations action brought together Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers here in New York and back to our studio. Glad to have both of you back.
MARGARET FLOWERS: Thank you for having us here.
JILL STEIN: Thank you so much.
BILL MOYERS: You have so much to do here at home on the political issues that concern you, why did you take on the Fukushima Nuclear Plant?
JILL STEIN: Well, you know, the truth is what's going on in Fukushima really should be in the headlines of newspapers all over the world. This is, regrettably, an issue that puts all of us at risk. I mean, this is sort of writ very large what the dangers of nuclear power are.
MARGARET FLOWERS: And particularly that TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company, is getting ready to remove 1,500 spent fuel rods, which are in a very delicate position.
And this has really never been tried, what they're attempting to do. So we came to town to deliver a letter that was signed by organizations and people from 16 different countries and petitions, over 150,000 petitions, to the United Nations calling for independent oversight and access to accurate information about what's going on there.
JILL STEIN: And if this removal of the fuel rods that are teetering in an unstable building 100 feet up in the air, some 1,500 of these fuel rods, they hold the radioactive fallout equivalent of some 14,000 Hiroshima bombs and it's under the watch of a private nuclear power company that has been very much behind the eight ball on this whole crisis, that has not disclosed what's been going on, really, until long after the fact. And which has proven incapable of handling the crisis even up to this point.
MARGARET FLOWERS: There's a group of 16 international experts that have put together a plan for how this should be approached. And yet, it's not getting any attention. So we really wanted to bring attention to that plan and bring the global attention to this problem.
BILL MOYERS: But if you hold a demonstration here in New York and the media pay no attention, what have you accomplished?
JILL STEIN: Well, I mean, there are a lot of people that are concerned about this all around the world. And we need to be heard. And by coming together across the many issues and the many international borders, you know, we're going to make this heard. You know, and I think in many ways this is sort of an illustration of this challenge of our times.
There are so many potential Fukushima’s. And I don't mean just nuclear power plants, I mean our food system, I mean, you know, climate change. I mean, the expanding wars, the attack on our civil liberties. You know, we are up against the wall on so many issues where, as Margaret points out, there are perfectly good solutions, if we could just do the right thing. So, you know, this is one of many issues around which we are mobilizing. And I personally am very heartened and encouraged to see how ready people are right now in this moment that we're in, this very historic moment. To see how ready people are to overcome traditional barriers to come together and unify and push against the system, against this big money, Wall Street dominated political and economic system to push for the real change that our survival actually depends on. And Fukushima is just an incredible, timely illustration of this.
MARGARET FLOWERS: We've seen now that, you know, the increased attention more and more that's being written about it in the media, so we're starting to see some movement. And we have to just keep building that attention, focusing that attention on it so that they feel like they have to do something
We need to be asking our own government agencies to be testing our food, testing our water, testing the west coast for radiation. We need to be pressing for accurate information about what's going on in Japan. These are the things that people can be doing right now.
JILL STEIN: The model here, at least in my mind, is how we've very quickly mobilized to stop the imminent bombing of Syria. We mobilized very quickly and we stopped it.
And it was not only public opinion, but I think it was public opinion that was very empowered and was not going to take no for an answer. And I think that's the lesson that we need to learn. It's not, you know, lobbying on bended knee. It's lobbying with a power fist. You know, it's with the understanding that our survival depends on doing the right thing.
These are not choices here. We can no longer afford to be pushed down the path of nuclear power, down the path of ignoring the Fukushima’s, down the path of an expanding war economy. These are things that I think the American public is no longer taking lightly. And we're seeing, I think, a whole new era of empowerment.
BILL MOYERS: Personally, why do you keep doing this? Why do you keep putting yourself on the line? How many times have you been arrested?
MARGARET FLOWERS: Like, six or seven I guess now. And risked arrest numerous other times. But, I think, what keeps me going is it's, like, a journey that I've been on, where you keep learning more and more about what are the roots of the problem. And you see things that are in crisis, like Fukushima. And you expect that people in power would do something about it.
And you see that they're not. And that, you know, the Obama administration has been heavily supported by Exelon corporation, which is one of the largest nuclear operators in the United States. And so, you imagine that's why he's not talking about what's going on in Fukushima. So we have to do it ourselves.
BILL MOYERS: And you've been arrested how many times? I don't--
JILL STEIN: Three times.
BILL MOYERS: Three times. When you both were arrested, what happened to your medical licenses? Did you lose them?
MARGARET FLOWERS: I'm very fortunate that in the state of Maryland when I reapplied for my license and put on my application that I had been arrested they actually didn't question it. But I was completely prepared for that. I actually wanted to have that conversation with our state, you know, Board of Physicians because I think that more physicians should be standing up.
If you look at the crisis of our situation in this country when it comes to health, and it's more than health care. It's the other social factors that are going on as well, I don't understand how physicians can stand by and allow this to happen without standing up for what's going on. How can be complicit with what's going on in this country?
BILL MOYERS: You've been arrested three times?
JILL STEIN: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Did you lose your medical license?
JILL STEIN: I was challenged when it came to renewing my license and I checked off the box that, yes, I had been arrested since the last license renewal two years before. And then it, you know, gave me 100 words or so to explain why I had these three arrests. You know, it actually renewed my license, but then I got the letter that I needed to explain exactly what was going on there.
MARGARET FLOWERS: It's just part of what you have to do if you're actually going to create change in this country. I mean, the first time that I was arrested, and I was terrified, but it, you know, got through it. It went okay. After that, I was invited to testify before the Senate HELP Committee about the health bill. And we went into it thinking that typically nobody would even hear about it, you know, because most--
BILL MOYERS: Typically.
MARGARET FLOWERS: --actions, they don't hear about. So that was really a tremendous experience. And it's very empowering. Once you start speaking truth to power, and standing up for the right things, it's very empowering.
BILL MOYERS: Of course, you know, I mean, anybody who gets arrested in a protest knows they're not likely to spend a lot of time in prison. They're going to go through the process and be released.
MARGARET FLOWERS: I've actually been ready to go to jail and to stay in and, and have been, a couple of times have been surprised that I didn't. Just this past summer we had a case in New York City we stood up for our First Amendment right, freedom of speech. And we took the case to trial because we were trying to expand the definition of the First Amendment rights in this country because that definition is getting more and more narrowed.
MARGARET FLOWERS: But there is an international covenant on civil and political rights that our Senate ratified in 1992 that expands that definition of our First Amendment rights. And it's never been used in court.
And we were hoping that this judge would use that. And he chose not to use it. But we had decided as a group, there were 14 of us that went through that process, that if we were given a fine or community service or anything like that, we were going to refuse. We would go to jail. And so we were ready that afternoon to go to jail. And he found us guilty and then immediately turned around and dismissed the charges in the interest of justice.
BILL MOYERS: What do your friends say about this? What do they think when Jill Stein gets arrested?
JILL STEIN: Well, I guess you could say I have a whole new set of friends. There are those--
MARGARET FLOWERS: The ones who are really your friends.
JILL STEIN: That's right. I think it was a learning experience for my family because--
JILL STEIN: --they got to hear the other side. And I have to say, I think, you know, civil disobedience and arrest should be a requirement for anyone who runs for public office. I think it's really important for our office holders to know, number one, what our jail system is like, where one out of every three African American men basically is held hostage by this prison industrial complex where, you know, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are basically processed through this system. It's really important because it's such a major part of our economy and our culture. People should know what it's like to be inside of America's jails.
In my first arrested, which was to help two families, two women and their families who were being evicted unjustly who were the victims of predatory lending and a very predatory process that really did not give them a fair hearing, were losing their homes in Philadelphia. And I was part of a demonstration, at Fannie Mae, because they had promised that they would give these women a hearing, which they did not.
BILL MOYERS: But were you aware that time that you would be, you would be released pretty--
JILL STEIN: Well, I thought I would be processed quickly and released, but we weren't. We were held--
BILL MOYERS: You weren't?
JILL STEIN: --there for quite some time under very difficult circumstances. And then finally we were released about 24 hours later. And, you know, in the and in the second setting, where Cheri Honkala and I were arrested for attempting to enter the grounds of a debate, just to enter the grounds of a debate from--
BILL MOYERS: When you were running as the Green Party candidate, she was your vice presidential candidate.
JILL STEIN: That's right. And we were arrested, taken to a secret detention facility, and handcuffed to metal chairs for eight or nine hours until the debate was long over.
BILL MOYERS: Just because you wanted into one of the presidential debates.
JILL STEIN: Yeah. Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Were these police or security guards for the two parties conducting the debate?
JILL STEIN: They seemed to be everything from the Secret Service to Homeland Security to local police. And there were 16 of them, two of us. And they, you know, they sort of had to treat us--
BILL MOYERS: How did you deal with that?
JILL STEIN: --like we were murderers.
BILL MOYERS: What were you thinking about?
JILL STEIN: I had to keep from laughing, to tell you the truth, because it seemed so pathetic and absurd and just really sad that our system has come to this. But I was not afraid, only because Democracy NOW! had caught us on camera.
POLICE OFFICER #1 on Tape: Ladies and gentlemen, you are obstructing the vehicle of pedestrians and traffic. If you refuse to move you are subject to arrest.
POLICE OFFICER #2 on Tape: Remove them, bring them back.
POLICE OFFICER #3 on Tape: Come on ma’am.
POLICE OFFICER #4 on Tape: We’ll help you up.
POLICE OFFICER #3 on Tape: Would you step up please? Thank you ladies. Watch the flag.
JILL STEIN: So I felt there was a record here. And that allowed me to, you know, just sort of relax and learn what I could from the experience. And, you know, again, I think it's, these are abuses of our civil liberties that could be inflicted on anyone.
Any one of us could be not only not charged, but just hauled away and detained indefinitely under the, you know, under the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows these kind of detentions without trial, without charge. This is, unfortunately the new normal in the state of American democracy.
MARGARET FLOWERS: I think, you know, there comes a point, because the first point I was arrested, I was so frightened. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into and it seemed really scary. And then there comes a point where it's just part of what is in your job as an advocate.
And you let go of that fear. And you know that you don't have any control. Once they have you, they have you. And you just go with it and get through the experience. And now I actually look forward to the opportunity to meet people in jail to find out about what's going on in there and talk with them and hear their stories because their stories aren't heard.
BILL MOYERS: Well, with all due respect, people listening, some people listening are going to say you do more good for people as physicians than you do as political activists.
JILL STEIN: Yes, this issue is raised often and when people ask me, what kind of medicine are you practicing now, I usually say, I'm practicing political medicine because it's the mother of all illnesses. Meaning politics is the mother of all illnesses. And we don't fix what's really killing us unless we also fix that political system, which is holding us hostage within these threats to our wellbeing.
BILL MOYERS: What have you learned about how our political system works?
MARGARET FLOWERS: That it's completely incapable of functioning in our interests. And that it's the tools, the traditional tools that people think of that they can use for political change don't work any longer. And so, we are in a situation where we have to not look to any kind of leader to solve our problems.
We have to start solving our problems ourselves. And people are doing that all over the world and all over the country, are coming together, and not just resisting, but a very important piece of this is creating alternative systems that replace what we have now.
JILL STEIN: Right. It works for the economic elite and it works on behalf of the very small political elite. The major parties are bought and paid for by corporations and that's who they serve. In health care, in the food system, in the military industrial, the prison industrial complex, you name it. It's a very, it's a powerfully reinforced firewalled system that serves its corporate sponsors.
So it's very hard to move it. It's very hard to move the political system. It's a very tilted playing field. But when those fights come together, the social movement and the political movement, when they come together they really empower each other in a way that's very exciting.
BILL MOYERS: Do you take the position that voting no longer matters?
JILL STEIN: Not at all. No. Voting very much matters. But, you know, really important to vote for what's going to help us. And not to make these sort of lesser evil compromises. I think it's really important to change the language here because what we call lesser evil, you know, we need to think of it in terms of what it really is. It is a system of suicide, homicide, genocide, biocide, ecocide. It's not okay for us, our families, our children, the people close to you and you yourself. There is a timeline that's been pretty well established now by the science around climate change. Civilization, as currently constituted, will not exist as we know it in 2050.
So we have a decade maybe to get this together. It's a real motivating factor now I think for people to walk away, to get up and walk away from this very abusive political system. It's like breaking up with an abusive relationship, recognizing that this partner you've had an incredible attachment to and hopes for and dreams for your whole lifetime, that it doesn't work. You know, they're not okay. They're going to drive you to the grave. It's time to stand up and walk away.
BILL MOYERS: But in meantime, let's take a particular, the choice that many people face every two years, every four years. Let's take what just happened in the state of Virginia. Very close race. Jon Stewart said it was a choice between a heart attack and cancer.
There was a Republican running, very conservative, ultra conservative. Very opposed to the rights of women. You had a Democrat, very flawed. A multimillionaire fundraiser. Now it does matter, doesn’t it, if a candidate says I will make sure that women protect their reproductive rights, and the other one says I’m for the state enforcing what we think reproductive rights should be. How would you vote if you were there and that was your choice, what do you do?
MARGARET FLOWERS: Well, rhetorically that doesn't tell you anything about what's going to happen after he's elected. But I think that we don't live in a democracy in this country. We live in a mirage democracy. Sheldon Wolin talks about this, where people have the illusion that we're participating in a process by voting.
But the two candidates have already been chosen for us by Wall Street. And so neither one is actually going to represent our interests. So personally, I can't vote for either of the major corporate parties. And I would vote in other positions on that ballot, you know, other elections that there were. But I would not have chosen one of those candidates.
JILL STEIN: I think single issues really does a disservice to the totality of the choice that we make when we're voting.
BILL MOYERS: True, true, true. But those are the choices. But we don't have ideal choices in front.
JILL STEIN: Well, I think that is the bigger point, is that we need to create those better choices, which is, you know, very much a part of what I do and where I came to, you know, in my struggle as a medical doctor and a mother. You know, trying to give our kids a fighting chance, you know, for a future and for health and so on.
You know, I realized I kept backing up the food chain of how we got here, you know? Who's throwing our kids into the water? And, you know, it eventually came to this political system. But it's not so hard to get involved. You can find out, you know, what are the independent, non-corporate third parties in your state.
And you should get involved long before the election to find out who the candidates are and to promote them because if all the fed up people who are walking in and holding their noses and holding their breath and, you know, crossing their fingers and their toes that this isn't going to be a terrible thing to go into the voting booth.
If all those people, you know, who are so struggling with their consciences when they when they cast a vote, if they just, you know, put a little bit of time and effort into creating independent politics, we would have a completely transformed political system right now.
BILL MOYERS: But there was a Libertarian candidate in Virginia. And got I think over 10 percent of the vote. The Green Party wasn't there.
JILL STEIN: And it takes a lot of push to get on the ballot in many of these states. There's a real effort to silence us.
BILL MOYERS: Just like in the debates. You were excluded from the debates by the decision of both parties.
JILL STEIN: Exactly. We're often at a disadvantage in trying to overcome these obstacles to political participation. So, you know, people, with a little bit of work on the web, you can find out where the Green Party is near you.
Even if it's not on the ballot, you can write in a vote. I mean, there're all kinds of ways to begin transforming the political process right now. And for people to know that we actually do have the political will, we have the muscle, we have the, you know, critical mass to actually make these transitions right now. You know, I think it helps people, you know, go to the bother of making those changes happen.
MARGARET FLOWERS: That's a big part of why we formed the Green Shadow Cabinet as an alternative government project. It's because right around the last election time, people kept saying, well, I know the Democrats stink. I know they're doing the things I don't want them to do, but I don't see a real alternative. And we felt like we needed to create something concrete to show people that there are people in this country who have the expertise and the will to act in the interests of the public.
It has about 90 or so members right now. It's still growing. And Jill is the president. I serve as the secretary of health. And it's basically to create that alternative political dialogue because our political dialogue, it's very restricted.
We hear the Republican and the Democrat, and they're both way over here, when what the people want is really over here. And it's not even allowed in the conversation.
BILL MOYERS: So what do you do when you write a statement that the press ignores, or you organize rallies and events where maybe, five or six or ten people turn out and the press, again, totally ignores you? What, how do you feel about that?
MARGARET FLOWERS: Well, the mass media press is not going to cover this movement. They're not covering it. I mean, there's a very vibrant movement going on in this country right now. And that's why we created PopularResistance.org. It's a daily movement news site where we cover those protests.
BILL MOYERS: And what do I find if I go there?
MARGARET FLOWERS: You'll find news stories about protests that are going on in the United States and around the world, as well as informational articles about current events that you're not going to hear in kind of, the mass media. And you can go there and find articles about what's going on. If you want to start learning about strategy or how to organize in your community, there are tools for that.
If you want to connect with resistance groups, and we try to uplift the groups that are in the frontlines of struggle, that are actually taking on these challenges very effectively. You can plug into those or the alternative is create, creating alternative systems. We have information about that too.
BILL MOYERS: But everyday people listening are going to say, wow, that's wonderful. But I've got a job. I've got two jobs, both my spouse and I work. We've got three kids coming home after school. I don't have the time to do what Margaret Flowers is saying, I just have too much else--
MARGARET FLOWERS: Not everybody has to. I mean, if we, the research is now showing, and that's the beauty of this, is that over the past few years, we've really been working to figure out, okay, how do we change the political system in this country? How does social transformation occur? And there's a lot of history and a lot of information and research about that. And so, what the latest data shows is that any nation where 3.5 percent of the population has gotten engaged, no government has been able to stand up to that. 3.5 percent is all we need.
BILL MOYERS: And by being engaged, what do you mean?
MARGARET FLOWERS: Actively engaged in fighting back against--
BILL MOYERS: Civil disobedience?
MARGARET FLOWERS: No, it doesn't have to be civil disobedience. People use the court system. You know, we work with people around the country that have been stopping foreclosures by challenging the banks and actually requiring them to show that they own those houses. And when they can't do it, the people get to stay in their homes. People are getting involved with their local schools and fighting back against school closings.
And you don't have to, you know, you can go to your city council, your school board meetings and speak out there. Just informing yourself so that you're aware of what's actually going on. And that hopefully you can be supportive. If you see other people that are taking action, share it on your social media networks, talk about it. You know, just, there are many ways that people can show support.
BILL MOYERS: In a Gallup poll just last month, 60 percent of respondents felt that the Democratic and Republican parties do such a poor job or representing them, that a third party is needed. That question has been asked by Gallup every year for a decade, and this is the highest number, 60 percent, that's ever been reported. What do you make of that?
JILL STEIN: It's common sense. This government doesn't pass the laugh test. For our government to be, both parties, to be looking to cut some Medicare and Medicaid at a time when people want to be strengthening those programs and actually taxing the rich and cutting back on the military, this is absolutely preposterous.
So it's wonderful that people are waking up to this and are ready. People have been ready for a long time. As we went into the last election, polls were showing that about half of eligible voters were not happy with either candidate. This is why the political system works so hard. One of my biggest wakeup moments in the political process was in my first campaign I was running for governor in Massachusetts
And there I was, suddenly in a debate. And saying just sort of the normal everyday things that we say to each other sitting around our dining room tables. And I found myself being voted the winner of the debate. And declared winner of the debate by many of the respectable news operations as well. And this light bulb went off in my head that we are not sort of the lunatic fringe that we are portrayed as.
That we who long for democracy, justice, sustainability, real communities, vibrant schools, jobs as a human right, health care as a human right, downsizing the military, these are not fringe ideas. These are really core to the American public. But we live in this elaborate hoax of a media and political system. It really is a hoax that's being perpetrated on us.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, I heard you say that our political system and our parties offer nothing but treachery?
JILL STEIN: There are definitely some wonderful exceptions out there. But the rule is-- betrayal. The rule is service to the 1 percent, to the campaign sponsors, whether you're looking at health care, the Wall Street bailouts. $85 billion a month we are spending, continuing to bail out Wall Street in this quantitative easing so-called policy of the Fed, supported by the White House.
Which pours our resources into those who created the problem. It hasn't worked. We've been doing quantitative easing for many years now. It's not working except to make the stock market boom and to give, you know, investors all the more resources to create their bubbles and so on. But it's not working for the economy. How about we bail out the students?
You know, how about we bail out students who don't have a future right now and make public higher education free, which in fact would pay for itself? We know that from the GI Bill investing in public higher education pays back $7 for every $1 invested. So there are good things. People agree with us. We can actually get this done.
BILL MOYERS: Have some politicians treated you with respect?
MARGARET FLOWERS: All politicians in this system right now are restricted by the system. So that--
BILL MOYERS: How so?
MARGARET FLOWERS: So they're able to say the good things. You know, they can say the right things, the things that you want to hear. But no politician has stood up and really held a hard line all the way to the end on any issue, on any of the important issues that we face.
And I think that there's this thinking by elected officials that, well, if I compromise a little bit on this, at least I can stay in office and try again to do something good. And so, they just keep compromising.
MARGARET FLOWERS: And President Obama campaigned on renegotiating NAFTA in a way that was more favorable, but instead is pushing through a more toxic trade agreement. And he's doing worse things with the drones and murdering civilians than Bush did. And it's confusing progressives because all of a sudden you have a Democratic president willing to even cut our basic social insurances that was kind of a pillar of the Democratic Party.
BILL MOYERS: You and Kevin Zeese wrote a long piece a couple of weeks ago that sort of took off on the web, in which you really laid bare your opposition to Obamacare three years after it was passed. Why did you do that?
MARGARET FLOWERS: I guess what really compelled us was even the single payer groups within the United States are confused by Obamacare because there's so much marketing going on around it, that activists are not sure whether they should be supporting it or fighting against it.
And so, we really felt it was important to show that it fits all of the steps of a typical scam. And one of the major steps of a scam is that people that have been scammed feel good about it. They don't realize that they were scammed. And the--
BILL MOYERS: Do you really think, as you wrote the other day, that Obamacare is the biggest insurance scam in history?
MARGARET FLOWERS: Absolutely. I mean, we're forcing people to purchase private insurance. We're pouring hundreds of millions, I think $1 billion went into setting up insurance exchanges in 15 states. And then hundreds of millions to hire people to go out and knock on doors and sell private insurance.
And then hundreds of billions to subsidize the purchase of that private insurance. Private insurance companies, we're doing all of the work for them. And what are we getting in return? Really skimpy policies. We've lowered the bar on what is considered coverage in this country. And the insurance companies are restricting their networks so that people will be forced to go out of network and bear more of the cost if they have a serious accident or illness.
What we're trying to show is that this is not a step toward single payer as people are being led to believe. This is actually increasing the privatization of our health care, increasing the corporatization of it. It is taking us farther away from where we want to be. It's defunding our public insurances. It's privatizing our public insurances. It's a neoliberal economic policy. And I keep telling people that the global south has come home.
BILL MOYERS: Meaning?
MARGARET FLOWERS: That the neoliberal economic policy that we've waged all around the world of forcing countries to allow us to have our private corporations come in and take over their resources through our structural adjustment programs, forcing them to defund their public programs that have that same policy is being waged right here at home against us.
BILL MOYERS: But shouldn't we see how things turn out before coming to all these conclusions? I mean, do you not see any good in giving this time to unfold?
MARGARET FLOWERS: We have to look at the data. So we've already used these type of plans at the state level numerous times. And every single time, they've failed as the costs become uncontrollable and they have to cut back on services or jettison people from the program. And ultimately they fail due to cost.
If you look at the provision that youth can stay on their parents' plans until they're 26 years old what's happened is that we had a 48 percent uninsured percentage of that population, 19 to 26 year olds. 48 percent were uninsured prior to that. Now it's down to 41 percent. It's only a 7 percent change. That's not really that significant. Things like--
BILL MOYERS: But it's early.
MARGARET FLOWERS: Well, it's been a number of years. I mean, that provision went into effect in 2010. And I think we can't say that we cannot say that it's already working because people are continuing to face financial barriers to care.
I mean, the one thing that was, to me, really concerning is that in 2012 when the provision kicked in saying that insurance companies had to cover preventative care, our health services did go up a little bit as people started getting checkups and preventative care. But what are they going to do now, when they're diagnosed with cancer or a serious condition and they find that they can't afford to get the care to treat it? That's wrong.
BILL MOYERS: Are either of you still practicing?
JILL STEIN: Political medicine.
BILL MOYERS: So you really, for all practical effects, you're not practicing the medicine for which you prepared?
JILL STEIN: You know, I see it very closely related to the medicine for which we prepared. In fact, really doing justice for the medicine for which we prepared because the current system doesn't allow us to practice that medicine for which we've prepared because of all of the restrictions and the barriers. You know, and in the discussion about health insurance, I feel like we have so lost track of, you know, sort of seeing the forest for the trees.
We've lost track of the forest because, you know, again, the data says that about 75 percent of these chronic diseases, or I should say 75 percent of the money that we spend on health care, that is 75 percent of almost $3 trillion is spent on diseases which are readily preventable if we were doing the right things up front. And those right things just happen to be the same things that would create a whole lot of jobs, make wars for oil obsolete. That is, by greening our economy. We don't need the bloated military industrial complex.
And which would also, you know, draw climate change to a halt. So, you know, it's really important to consider this discussion of health care in context. And one other point, if I can make it, you know, about giving it time. Massachusetts has had plenty of time. Let's not ignore the concrete example here--
BILL MOYERS: Romneycare, Obamacare had its model.
JILL STEIN: It sure did--
BILL MOYERS: In Romneycare.
JILL STEIN: And medical bankruptcies have not been reduced in Massachusetts, despite everybody having access to this piece of paper because this piece of paper does not cover you when you need it.
BILL MOYERS: As you sit here, I think we're watching climate change, as you said earlier, wreck our planet. We've seen vast sums of money overwhelm our elections. We know the gap between rich and poor is getting wider. I mean, aren't you just a teeny, weeny bit discouraged after all these years of protesting, going to jail nine times between you, giving up your practice--
JILL STEIN: Actually, I'm really encouraged, to tell you the truth. You know, what was hard was breaking up with that abusive relationship. That is very hard. But once you've broken up and you realize all these other wonderful people out there that you can be working with, with whom you can have sort of mutual reinforcing community building relationships, it's a whole other universe.
And that doesn't mean you have to spend, you know, 24/7 doing it. You know, but it's an alternative mindset. It's an alternative social network. And we are seeing successes.
BILL MOYERS: But don't you get physically tired? I mean, you came to New York for a UN protest, to present a petition. You're going off, I presume, somewhere else to, don't you get physically tired?
MARGARET FLOWERS: I guess not. I mean, it's something that drives me every waking moment. I mean I find myself now I work seven days a week from the time that I get up until the time I go to bed because it's so interesting and it's so invigorating and I'm working with people all around the country and all around the world that share the same vision that I share for a just society and a clean planet. And I see how there is so much going on, that things are changing. And so I want to keep feeding that.
JILL STEIN: When you actually get into the communities who are disenfranchised, that's a lot of America. And that America is ready to move. And when we start moving together, in fact, I'd say all we have to do is realize how numerous, strong and inspired we are. And then we are unstoppable. You know, in the words of Alice Walker, the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. It's by flicking that switch and rejecting the disempowerment that's beaten into us every waking moment by every media source that surrounds us.
MARGARET FLOWERS: What's so hopeful to me is seeing frontline communities all around the country, standing up and fighting for their rights.
And after the Occupy movement disbanded and people keep saying, oh, it's gone, it went away. It didn't go away. It inspired others to stand up for their rights. So we see low wage workers all around the country standing up. And now states that are starting to pass minimum, raising their minimum wages. We see anti-foreclosure activists fighting back and people being able to stay in their homes.
We see communities creating economic democratic or democratic economic institutions. And so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. These things are happening. They're not covered in the mass media. They're not funded by the big funders. But they're happening in this country.
JILL STEIN: Things are changing. Things are moving, but not nearly as fast as they need to. But there are real successes here, despite this you know, this propaganda campaign that we're powerless.
We actually are powerful. And I think the name of the game is rejecting that mythology of powerlessness and seizing the power that we do have right now to turn this breaking point that we're at, you know, into the tipping point that we must have to reclaim democracy in our future.
BILL MOYERS: Dr. Jill Stein, Dr. Margaret Flowers, thank you very much for being with us.
MARGARET FLOWERS: It’s a great pleasure.