Tavis Smiley: Good evening from Los Angeles. I’m Tavis Smiley.
Tonight, part one of our presidential forum featuring the third-party candidates, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. With just a week to go before election day, two voices, two choices you might still be somewhat unfamiliar with, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, in a moment.
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Tavis: I am pleased to welcome the Green Party’s candidate for president, Dr. Jill Stein, and the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president, former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson. Tonight is the first of our three-part conversation. Part two will air tomorrow night right here on this program.
Part three will be available for viewing exclusively online at our website starting tomorrow night at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time immediately following the West Coast airing of this program. For now, though, let’s get this conversation started.
We will focus tomorrow night on foreign policy. Tonight, then, domestic policy, and I am pleased to have both Mr. Johnson and Dr. Stein with us. Thank you for agreeing to do this. We’re glad to have you on the program.
Gary Johnson: Thank you.
Jill Stein: Thank you.
Tavis: And thank you both for agreeing to give 90 seconds responses to these questions. The first question, we’ll start with you, Dr. Stein. In a presidential election year where the two major party candidates have both had favorability issues and trust issues, why has your campaign not picked up more ground? It seems that this is a tailor-made election for a third-party candidate to rise.
Stein: It absolutely is, and the American people are clamoring for other voices and other choices. These are the most disliked and untrusted candidates in our history. Unfortunately, we have a system that is very carefully firewalled in order to protect the political establishment so that real challengers like Governor Johnson and myself are basically excluded from coverage.
We have to fight very hard in order to get on the ballot and we are excluded from the debates. This is a case in point. Donald Trump got $4 billion dollars worth of free prime time televised media. Hillary Clinton got $2 billion. We got virtually none. I think the governor got a little bit more than I did, but we were basically shut out compared to the other two candidates.
So, you know, this is what the American people are demanding. This is what we should be giving them, and thank you to your show and to PBS for actually making this possible.
Tavis: A few more seconds you still have left here, let me just ask this question quickly then. Some have suggested that the Democrats need to rethink–I saw a piece in the Chicago Tribune the other day that Democrats ought to press her to step down now because of this new scandal regarding emails. Do you agree with that assessment by the Tribune or not?
Stein: You know, my feeling is that the FBI’s reopening the case is very poorly timed and irresponsible. This should not be done eight or nine days before an election. I think the issues have already been there and are not new to Hillary Clinton’s voters.
But I think that there were already enough reasons on the table for people not to trust Hillary Clinton and for her not to be in the White House, and I would say the same of Donald Trump.
Tavis: Go to Johnson, same question for you. In this election season when the table seems set for a third-party candidate to rise with both candidates being disliked and not trusted, why not more success from the Johnson campaign?
Johnson: You know, I’m gonna label this as success, I got to tell you. Six major newspapers endorsing my campaign, the Chicago Tribune being one of the larger newspapers, kind of summarizing what they’ve said is they say, hey, you know what? These guys, Bill Weld and Gary Johnson, may not win, but two former Republican governors that served in heavily Democrat states, these guys made a difference.
The things they’re saying, fiscally responsible, smaller government, lower taxes, socially inclusive, talking about marriage equality, woman’s right to choose, ending the war on drugs, military interventions.
Look, let’s stop with regime change, and free markets are a good thing. They’ll result in more U.S. jobs, not less U.S. jobs. They said look at what these guys are saying. In 10 years, all candidates will be talking about the issues that they’re talking about now.
So vote on principle, Americans. Vote on principle. This is how you’re gonna change things. This is what we’re doing. Like I say, these guys may not win, but we’re gonna take a principled stand here and we think that it’ll make a difference.
Tavis: In 15 seconds, same follow-up for Dr. Stein to you. Do you think that the Democrats ought to be pressing Secretary Clinton to step aside, to do anything different, given this new scandal regarding these emails?
Johnson: Well, I think it’s just very, very significant that he would raise this with 11 days to go, having dropped it earlier. Clearly, there has to be something there and if he weren’t to raise it, he would be under worse criticism going forward than he is now. So I just think that starting on day one, I think Hillary Clinton is going to be engaged in an impeachment process if in fact she is elected.
Tavis: Let’s move on now to the next question. Governor Johnson, this question goes to you first. You opposed the minimum wage, but can anyone really live on $7 an hour?
Johnson: Well, it’s a minimum wage. It’s labeled a minimum wage. So something I say tongue-in-cheek and I do say this tongue-in-cheek, why not raise the minimum wage to $75 an hour? Well, I think everybody gets it immediately and that is, well, gosh, how can we afford $75 an hour? Nobody can pay that.
Well, how is it that government can assign a wage to begin with? I just think that market should prevail. I think it results in less jobs for kids entering into the marketplace, and minimum wage?
Look, minimum wage is minimum wage. It’s not livable wage and, for me having been in the private sector my entire life, I had 1,000 employees growing a business from a one-person operation to 1,000 people, minimum wage was never an issue because no one got even paid the minimum wage.
Show up on time, wear clean clothes, good work ethic? Hey, we’re not talking about minimum wage. We’re talking about a wage that you can live on.
Tavis: You got 30 seconds left. If the minimum wage–if your argument is that the market ought to decide, that means that poor people have their fate at the hands of the market. Is that really what you want us accept?
Johnson: Well, what I want people to understand is that we’re restricting jobs, that the more you raise the minimum wage, the more and more automation occurs. I mean, you force the marketplace into automation, do you know what’s going to be one of the biggest disrupters here very shortly is the fact that the number one occupation in the United States is driver.
And because we’re going to have automated driving, trucks, taxis, I will tell you, this is gonna be a gigantic disrupter moving forward. And fast food? That is also going to be subject to automation in a really big way, so these are issues. These are big issues.
Tavis: Let me cut in with a slightly different question, still on the same topic for you, Dr. Stein. You call for raising the minimum wage, unlike Governor Johnson. But there are those who think that $15 an hour isn’t even enough, that it hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation. How do you respond to that?
Stein: I think they’re right and I see $15 an hour only as a beginning, but it’s an essential beginning. And we know that actually when we are priming the pump of the economy by putting more dollars into the hands of consumers, we actually grow jobs.
So it’s a myth that decent wages depress the economy or suppress jobs. They’re actually very good for the economy. And we have serious problems in our economy right now where basically 75% of our wealth is concentrated into the hands of just 10%, the upper 10%, and the lower 50% has 1% of the wealth.
This is not sustainable. 43 million people are in poverty and it’s something like 13%, but it’s twice as many African Americans. We cannot have an economy that only works for the very wealthy and the very few. This is an economy in freefall. This is a stagnating economy.
We need our economy to actually reflect our values and to ensure that it’s working for everyone, not an economy that puts profit over people. My campaign is calling for a different kind of economy and a different society that puts people over profit.
Tavis: This question goes to you, Dr. Stein. You have argued that the U.S. should peg its gun control policies to other countries like Norway and Australia who established gun buy-back programs. Is that really the meat of your argument about gun control and gun rights? A gun buy-back program? Is that really it?
Stein: No, by no means, no. I mean, that’s actually just something we note in passing that other countries have done buy-backs. I don’t think that will work for us. Right now, we are a very divided and fearful society in which racism abounds and bias, prejudice and fear abound. So we actually call for the improvements that the American people are calling for. We’re not talking about a radical departure.
We’re calling for ensuring that the gun show loophole closes, that there are background checks, and that we get automatic weapons, basically military-scale weapons, off the streets, and that we get rid of this impunity to gun manufacturers and distributors so that they are held accountable for the misuse of their weapons and for putting those weapons into the wrong peoples’ hands.
But we also call for a truth and reconciliation commission so we can come to terms with the abundant racism and fear that pervades our society.
If we’re going to actually move forward and become a less violent society, it’s not just a matter of getting rid of the irresponsible guns out there and the guns that are in dangerous hands, but actually addressing the issues of fear, bias and racism through a truth and reconciliation commission and a deep discussion about race at our community levels.
Tavis: Governor Johnson, this question is for you. You conversely oppose any restrictions on firearms. I guess the question is, should we bear arms in schools or churches? Should people on the no-fly list be allowed to have guns?
Johnson: Well, first of all, I support the Second Amendment. Having said that, should we be open to a discussion and a debate on how we keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill? Absolutely. Should we be open to a debate and a discussion on how we keep guns out of the hands of would-be terrorists? Absolutely.
As President of the United States, I would love to know what transpired between the FBI and the shooter in Orlando. I’d love to know what transpired between the FBI and the recent bomber in New York. Clearly, the system is working up to a certain point, but is it an issue of more resources, that it could be more effective moving forward?
If that’s the case, as President of the United States, I would allocate those resources. No automatic weapons are allowed in this country. Those were banned decades ago and currently semi-automatic weapons, the kind of which many are labeled assault rifles, there are about 40 million rifles in that category.
So if you’re going to make those semi-automatic rifles illegal, you’re gonna make a new category, I think, of criminal in this country that otherwise would not be criminal.
Tavis: Very quickly here, though. When you say we ought to be open to a debate and a discussion about whether persons on the no-fly list have weapons, why a debate or discussion as opposed to an emphatic no, no one on the no-fly list should have access to a weapon?
Johnson: Well, because currently on the no-fly list are active members of Congress, for one thing. So one of the issues I believe is just really in an expedient way to address if you are on the no-fly list and should be there, is there an expedient way that you can get off of that?
And I believe that that’s an issue of resource, but currently it’s a bit on the cumbersome side. And I’ll just point out, current members of Congress currently on the no-fly list.
Tavis: This question is for you, Governor Johnson. You would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but so many low-income Americans benefit, as you well know, from extension of Medicaid. How would your plan address the poors’ lack of access to healthcare?
Johnson: Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s realistic that we’re going to repeal our healthcare, but when it comes healthcare, what we need to do is to bring a free market approach to healthcare. And by the way, healthcare is as far removed from free market as it possibly can be.
If we had a free market approach to healthcare, we would not have insurance to cover ourselves for ongoing medical need. We would have insurance to cover ourselves for catastrophic injury and illness and we would pay as you go in a system that would be absolutely competitive and offer lower prices.
So there’s no advertised pricing, there’s no advertised outcome. When you go to the doctor, you have no idea what it’s going to cost. You can’t shop the healthcare that you have. You could have healthcare savings accounts.
I think that having health insurance to cover yourself for ongoing medical need is analogous to having grocery insurance, something we don’t have. But imagine the grocery shopping experience if you had grocery insurance. Go to the grocery store, no prices on the counters whatsoever. When it’s ground round or filet, I’m gonna have to take filet every single time because I have grocery insurance.
I just think that there are so many ways that the government could create real competition in the healthcare area. Allowing us to buy prescriptions from Canada, how long would the high prices of prescriptions exist in this country if we were allowed to buy in Canada? They would last about a nanosecond.
Tavis: Dr. Stein, this question is for you, speaking of healthcare. You have denounced big pharma as corrupt and abusive. If my research is true, you have either held or hold stock investments in the pharmaceutical giant, Merck. If that is true, tell me yes, and if so, why?
Stein: So I actually gave up, sold, divested, from Merck. I will say that my husband still has some Merck. We have separate financial policies. I have divested from Merck, from GE, from DuPont, from the real bad actors out there, and predominantly invested in index funds and mutual funds that are broadly distributed, into an economy which is very problematic and which is dominated, again, by pharmaceuticals, by health insurance, by war profiteering, by fossil fuel industries.
And I am interested in moving my money in order to support better investment, but I think it’s really important that we fight for change regardless. So most investors actually are part of this reprehensible economy and that should not stop us from fighting to change that economy which is critical.
Tavis: This question is for you, Dr. Stein. Your plan to lower the national debt is to end, as you call it, neoliberal austerity measures, and to increase spending. For those who hear those two things as counter-intuitive, maybe even counter-productive, how do you respond?
Stein: Yeah. So it’s widely understood now by many economists that in the presence of a recession or an economy that is struggling that austerity is the worst thing that you can do, that is counter-productive, that is prevents the economy from recovering. We know that, for example, from the experience in Europe with Greece, for example. We know that from U.S. experience prior to the Great Depression.
Recently, the International Money Fund issued a report saying that austerity is exactly the wrong thing, that you need to invest in the economy. The Federal Reserve said the same thing. So we’re calling for prudent investments to recreate a productive economy.
What I’m calling for, a Green New Deal, is the antidote to NAFTA and to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to these so-called trade agreements which are basically crony capitalist trade agreements that send our jobs overseas and depress our wages here at home. Instead, we need to be creating these jobs here at home and growing our way out of this debt.
Tavis: Governor Johnson, this question is for you. As a fiscal conservative, how do you explain that, when you were elected Governor of New Mexico, you inherited a debt of $1.8 billion, but left office with a debt of $4.6 billion?
Johnson: That is absolutely horse [bleep] is what that is. I have no idea where that came from. I actually saw that article and I have no idea. There is absolutely no basis in fact for that, none!
Tavis: All right, enough said [laugh]. Gary Johnson, we will go to this question then. This is for you. You oppose cap and trade because you’ve said so many times and yet acknowledge man-made climate change. So how do you propose that we fight global warming?
Johnson: Well, I think the free market, if you use coal as an example, has actually bankrupted marginal coal at the moment. Right now, a coal makes up about 36% of our electrical load and right now nobody’s gonna build a coal-fired plant because natural gas is much cheaper. So you can figure on coal being phased out.
The coal that is currently marketable is the Wyoming Coal and there may be others in this country, but I think the free market has done that. I think you and I as consumers are demanding less carbon emission and we’re seeing that happen.
Looking at cap and trade, I was open and would be open as President of the United States and having been Governor of New Mexico, I’m open to any discussion that I think might make things better, cost less, work better.
So looking at cap and trade, it was that pretense that I was looking at cap and trade that this might actually work. Well, apparently–this is my assessment and many others–is that it’s just a bit too complex and that it actually wouldn’t work.
Tavis: Before I move on to Dr. Stein, since I got 20 seconds here, since you called it horse you–know–what, what do you recall the deficit was that you left New Mexico with?
Johnson: Well, I left New Mexico with a billion dollar surplus, and when I took office, you could argue that there was a billion dollar surplus.
Tavis: Okay. Dr. Stein, your platform has proposed to kick off a job-producing energy program based on clean, safe, renewable energy–you referenced that earlier in this conversation–and you denounce reliance on coal. But coal is cheap, so how does your energy plan affect poor people?
Stein: Great. So let me say, it’s not just coal, but it is fracking and natural gas as well. The science tells us that that is every bit as devastating. In fact, we know that natural gas, also called methane, is 80 times more powerful as carbon dioxide and the usual fossil fuel emissions of carbon dioxide.
So it’s not like natural gas represents the market taking care of this problem, not whatsoever. It represents how the market gets stuck in putting profit over people and the planet.
And let me tell you how this is good for people. The way this is good for people is that we create a nationally subsidized program to create these jobs in clean, renewable energy, and that we ensure that the cost is affordable.
Right now, we pay so much in healthcare costs related to fossil fuel that, by moving to zero fossil fuels, we save so much money that it’s actually enough to pay the costs of the green energy transformation.
So when you balance out the savings in our healthcare and the savings in the military where we no longer need these wars for oil that consume half of our discretionary budget and almost half of your income taxes, we save so much money through those two offsets, also by moving our subsidies tens of billions into green energy subsidies that we can ensure that this is a win especially for poor people because they are the first in line for these jobs which are good wage, living wage, jobs.
Tavis: This question is for you, Dr. Stein. You want to increase affirmative action programs, yet recent Supreme Court decisions, as you know, have started to limit these programs. How do you respond?
Stein: Well, there are various ways that we can ensure that these programs are targeted to the areas of greatest need. So as you know, unemployment rates are highest in the communities of color, particularly in the African American community.
And the way that this Green New Deal works, which is like the New Deal that got us out of the Great Depression, it’s not a hypothetical, it’s not an abstraction, it’s something we have done before and that we’ve put money into. Those jobs are targeted first to the communities of greatest need.
And whether we define that on the basis of communities of color or on the basis of the highest unemployment rates, those jobs will get to the communities of color that need them the most.
Tavis: Governor Johnson, you are for the abolition of affirmative action. To some people, that might sound a bit, if not racist, racial. How would you respond to that criticism?
Johnson: Well, I think that so many of these government programs had a place, and let’s just argue for a second that affirmative action was positive. I just think it perhaps has outgrown its positive. I think this is an example of crony capitalism.
Crony capitalism, when government picks winners and losers. I think affirmative action for the most part is gamed. And that those that know how to game it, game it and I think we’ve grown beyond affirmative action.
Tavis: Let me get this last question. Oh, I’m out of time. I wanted to get one more in, but I don’t have enough time to give them a fair chance to respond. A couple of things I wanted to get to tonight that we did not get to tonight. That is our program for tonight. We talked about, as you’ve heard…
Johnson: That was too quick!
Tavis: I know. I told you it was gonna go fast [laugh].
Johnson: Anyway, very good, very good.
Tavis: That’s our show for tonight. We talked, of course, about domestic policy. Tomorrow night, we will talk in the second part of our conversation, our forum, about foreign policy.
We will see you back here tomorrow night for night two of our presidential forum featuring Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Tomorrow night, foreign policy. We’ll see you then. Until then, thanks for watching and, as always, keep the faith.
Announcer: For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at pbs.org.
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