"Voters are learning that lesser evil voting hurts us by empowering the two major parties to march to the right and take voters for granted," Dr Margaret Flowers told Muslim Press.
Read the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: Dr. Flowers, what would you do for American working families if you were elected to the senate?
Margaret Flowers: One of my primary concerns is the growing wealth divide, which has been getting increasingly worse over the past decade. Currently the bottom 50% of people in the U.S. are sharing 1% of the wealth and the bottom 25% are in debt with negative wealth. This is not sustainable. To change this, I would push for progressive taxes on wealth and to close tax loopholes because wealth is growing in the U.S. but it's going to the top. I would push to reinvest that money in communities to build up their local economies through small and medium sized businesses, especially worker-owned enterprises. And I would promote public banks which can partner with community banks and credit unions to provide small loans for home purchases and capital for businesses. I also support a Green New Deal which would set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030 and have a clear plan to transition to electric transportation including affordable mass transit, to transition our agriculture to regenerative organic practices, to build up our wetlands and to make our buildings energy efficient. This would create tens of millions of living wage jobs. And we need to treat public investments as something that provides a public return so that we create a guaranteed basic income to eliminate poverty. I will also push for a national improved Medicare for all and for free public higher education. This will take the stress of health care and education off of working families.
MP: What do you see as the biggest challenge that American workers face in this era?
Margaret Flowers: I believe the biggest challenge that workers face is a global economic system that makes workers insecure and exploits them. Businesses are under pressure to pay as low as tolerated and to reduce benefits in order to stay competitive in a market that encourages large corporations to move wherever labor and environmental laws are the most relaxed. I have been fighting to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other bad deals for the past five years. We need trade models that raise labor and environmental protections. We need to end extractive models of development in which large businesses come into communities because of taxpayer funded incentives and leave as soon as they get a better deal somewhere else. Workers need to be empowered and to be able to work with dignity.
MP: What could be done (what would you do) to fight racial injustice?
Margaret Flowers: At the federal level, there are a number of things I could do to fight racial injustice. Certainly economics are a part of that. Systemic racism for centuries has created a racial wealth divide. The Green Party supports reparations. I also support making taxing and regulating Marijuana and releasing nonviolent drug offenders because drug laws are used to disproportionately incarcerate people of color. I would treat drug addiction as a public health issue, not a crime. I would end the militarization of police through provisions such as section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). And I would push for independent investigations of all deaths in police custody and holding police officers accountable. I would also conduct investigations through my office to expose racial disparities and to promote solutions at the local level such as community control of policing. And I oppose private prisons.
MP: What would you do to fight financial fraud and Wall Street's power?
Margaret Flowers: I was the first candidate to sign on to the Bank Whistleblower United's 19-step plan to hold Wall Street accountable using existing law. I would support that in Congress by working to allocate more funds for federal agents to investigate white collar crime. We can also use existing law to put caps on banks so they are not too big to fail.
MP: What would you say is the most important issue in today's America and how do you plan to fight it?
Margaret Flowers: An underlying cause of the many crises that we face is the domination of our political process by wealth and the resultant lack of democracy. We now have academic studies that prove the U.S. is a plutocracy, ruled by and for the wealthy. We can fight that by withdrawing support for candidates of the two plutocratic parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and electing candidates who do not accept contributions from corporations and PACs. We need elected officials who represent and answer to the people. In Congress I can fight this by pushing for greater transparency for campaign contributions, for public financing of elections and for equal airtime for candidates. I will push for universal voter registration and removing other barriers to voter participation. And I will work to remove obstacles to independent parties.
MP: How do you see the future of the Green Party?
Margaret Flowers: The Green Party is a young party in the U.S. that is growing. Nationwide, thousands of Green Party candidates have been elected to office at the local level. I believe the Green Party has the potential to become a major party in the U.S. Green candidates do not take donations from corporations or PACs. The Green Party values and platform are strongly in alignment with the values of the growing social movement in the U.S. and with what the majority of people in the U.S. want. It has been exciting for me to see the growth of the Green Party this year and I hope that we break through and see some of our candidates elected to federal office.
MP: How do you see the impact of Jill Stein in the presidential election?
Margaret Flowers: Dr. Jill Stein has been working hard for many years to build the Green Party presence at the national level. She is dedicated and tireless. And she is having an impact because this year the major media outlets have launched attacks at her. Dr. Stein and her vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka are elevating the level of political discourse in this country by talking about critical issues and solutions while the major party candidates argue over who is the most corrupt. The Stein-Baraka ticket is giving voters a choice they can feel good about in this election. Voters are learning that lesser evil voting hurts us by empowering the two major parties to march to the right and take voters for granted. More people are realizing that there is no democracy when voters vote out of fear and that a vote for a candidate is just that, a vote for a candidate and not 'stealing' a vote from another candidate. And the Stein-Baraka ticket has a chance of receiving 5% or more of the popular vote in this election. If they achieve that, it will give dozens of states automatic ballot access and will give the campaign access to millions of dollars in federal funding. This will give the party a huge boost and allow greater investment in building party infrastructure and supporting more candidates to run for office.
MP: The Green Party supported Bernie Sanders and his political revolution throughout his campaign. Now that Hillary Clinton got the nomination, what do you think about the future of his revolution?
Margaret Flowers: There was a lot of hope during Sanders' campaign that he would take the momentum that developed and continue to challenge the establishment. It is disappointing that he chose to support the establishment instead because many people hoped he would be different. It is normal for insurgent Democratic candidates to fall in line with the party after they bring a lot of new energy into it. I'm glad to see that people are not following him and are turning to the Green Party and other left independent parties instead. That gives me hope. I expect that Our Revolution will be like the other Democratic groups that arose out of presidential races such as the Rainbow Push Coalition, Democracy for America and Progressive Democrats of America. It may try to push the party to the left but in the end it will be a tool for the Democratic Party agenda.
MP: What role does Wall Street play in U.S. elections? Is Wall Street too powerful to fight against?
Margaret Flowers: Wall Street finances and plays a significant role not only in our elections but also in our government. Corporate media shape the public narrative and distract from discussion of the real issues of the day. They go after Dr. Stein with false accusations of being an anti-vaxxer when she questions the pharmaceutical industry's influence over the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is documented to exist, but they don't go after Clinton for her policies that have impoverished and killed thousands. They go after Dr. Stein for her investments in mutual funds, but they do not go after Clinton for the fraud committed by the Clinton Foundation or her offshore accounts. We see their influence in the fact that Citigroup executive Michael Froman recommended much of President Obama's cabinet positions, including making himself the U.S. Trade Representative, and the president followed his advice. Despite this, Wall Street is not too powerful. History teaches us that people have more power than any government when they have the courage to use it. We can expose Wall Street fraud and demand accountability. We can protest those who commit fraud. And we can build alternative economic institutions that are independent of Wall Street and withdraw our support from Wall Street. There are more of us than there are wealthy elites. Remember, we are the 99%.
MP: How have Obama's policies affected American workers?
Margaret Flowers: I would say that overall, Obama's policies have hurt workers. We could have enacted an improved Medicare for all in 2010. It is what the majority of people wanted, including 80% of Democrats and only Democrats voted for the health bill. That would have taken the strain of paying for health insurance off of workers. Instead, the health law is forcing workers to buy insurance that doesn't protect them. Under Obama, the 'recovery' from the 2008 financial crisis has been for those at the top. The banks were bailed out, but not the people. People are struggling in low wage insecure jobs. Half of workers in the U.S. are making $31,000/year or less. Students are burdened with debt that prevents them from participating in the economy. We are strangling the economy from the bottom because people do not have the money to meet their basic needs. And the military budget has grown under Obama as he continues the policy of endless wars. Weapons sales have skyrocketed. We need to dramatically realign our federal spending to invest in education, jobs and other human needs instead of more wars and aggression, which are also creating greater instability and insecurity around the world.
MP: How will the TPP affect working families? Who does it benefit?
Margaret Flowers: The TPP was literally written by and for transnational corporate interests. Industry lawyers wrote the language while Congress was cut out. And now Congress will be pushed to ratify it without the power to amend it even though the TPP will change U.S. law. For workers, the TPP will lower wages because manufacturers and other businesses will be able to move to countries like Vietnam and Malaysia where wages are extremely low. The TPP will benefit large multinational corporations and will hurt small and medium-sized businesses and farms. Even the U.S. International Trade Commission admitted this year that the TPP will hurt 16 out of 25 industrial sectors in the U.S, and will increase the trade deficit. In addition, the TPP will prevent us from passing laws that are in the public interest, such as raising the minimum wage or banning polluting industries, if these interfere with corporate profits.
MP: Hillary Clinton has opposed the TPP. Do you think she will still oppose it if she becomes president? What would change after the election?
Margaret Flowers: Clinton supported the TPP for a long time before she was forced to oppose it due to public pressure. I suspect that she hopes President Obama will ratify it before she is in the White House so she doesn't have to take responsibility for it. If we stop the TPP from being ratified this fall, she will have to find a way to maneuver her support for it. It will be tricky for her to find a way to justify pushing for its ratification, but she can count on the corporate media to be complicit. The current language we are hearing is that the TPP is a national security issue, so they can always use fear to manipulate the public.
MP: Hillary Clinton has a good chance of becoming the next president of the United States. If you were to describe one of her policies as the worst one, what would it be?
Margaret Flowers: The Clinton policy that frightens me the most is her foreign policy. She has no respect for international law or human rights and will continue to pursue policies of hegemony and imperialism. She will continue to antagonize Russia and China and will increase the risk of another major war. Her presidency must be a presidency of protest. That is already happening as she faces protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We must recognize that Clinton is a neo-liberal and a neocon who has successfully united the two plutocratic parties. She must not be given a honeymoon or a pass because she is a woman. It is critical that the people rise up to demand that we set the political agenda to meet our needs, not the elites.
Dr. Margaret Flowers is running for the U.S. Senate seat left open by the retiring Barbara Mikulski. Margaret wants to "Let People Power Bloom!" by serving as an advocate for public interests in the U.S. Senate.
"I view the struggle for health care as part of a broader social, racial, economic and environmental justice movement." - Margaret Flowers
Margaret is a Maryland pediatrician and mother of three. She has practiced medicine in hospitals and in private practice. In 2007 she stopped practicing medicine to start advocating full-time for a state and federal single payer health care system. She has organized and participated in numerous campaigns to promote fair trade, a new economy, and investment in peaceful public infrastructure. Visit her website at: http://www.flowersforsenate.org/