Written by: J. Laura
As the presidential election closes in, Emerald had the chance to talk with one of the U.S. presidential candidates from the Green Party, Howie Hawkins.
Hawkins, who also ran for Governor of New York in 2010, 2014 and 2018 now wants to run for president because, “There are important issues we want to address: the climate meltdown, the growing inequalities that have led to the decline in life expectancy for working class people in this country and this new nuclear arms race,” Hawkins said. “That’s why I ran; to put issues on the table and also to build the Green Party.”
Green Party in Competition with the Major Parties
When asked what distinguishes him from other candidates including President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, Hawkins said, “We’re for legal marijuana, and Trump and Biden are not. We’re for a Green New Deal, Trump and Biden are not. We’re for medicare for all — a publicly funded healthcare system — Trump and Biden are not,” he added. “[…] We’re for nuclear disarmament; Trump and Biden are not.”
Hawkins’ running mate, Angela Walker, has been by his side throughout his campaign. Like Hawkins, Walker also served in the military. Hawkins has known her since 2014 when she ran for Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.
“She had been a great teammate,” Hawkins said.
The Green Party received no contributions from major corporate interests. Party members only “accept contributions from individuals or the political action committees of democractic people’s organizations; labour unions, co-operatives, peace, environmental community organizations. Ninety-nine percent of it has been from individuals — small contributions,” Hawkins described.
The Federal Election Committee reported that major candidates such as Trump and Biden have both raised half a billion dollars, respectively. However Hawkins only raised more than $360,000.
When asked how the Green Party plans to compete with the major parties, Hawkins said he aims “to build a mass party based on local chapters where people have built relationships in their communities, so people know who we are and trust us.”
“That’s the way we can compete,” he added. “We’re never going to have as much money as they do, although I think we can raise a lot.”
“That’s what we gotta build. We gotta build a real political party; we don’t really have a political party in this country,” Hawkins explained.
Green Party on Cannabis
Hawkins is an avid advocate for cannabis legalization. As such, he aspires to change existing federal drug policies. Additionally, he wants to pardon cannabis prisoners, whistle blowers, and political prisoners.
He plans to help small business owners grow by having regulations that keep Big Pharma out, so that small businesses can compete in the market fairly.
In regards to those who have been convicted and imprisoned for cannabis consumption, “I want to free them and expunge their records,” he said. “Unless there’s an auxiliary crime, like, they shot somebody and they got convicted for that crime. But the marijuana-related offenses should be expunged from the record.”
Hawkins is a self-described socialist who strongly condemns capitalism.
“Capitalism is a system of organized theft — you get a fixed wage; any more value you create is taken by the owners of the enterprise,” he said. “It’s a system of endless growth — which is incompatible with a fine-eyed planet in the ecosystem. It’s a system of competition […] which creates wars and conflicts.”
In his presidency, Hawkins wants democratic and ecological socialism. To achieve that, he also aims to reduce the concentration in wealth, and promote social ownership of public enterprise like cooperatives.
The billionaires, he explained, will be taxed. “We’ll tax them with the wealth tax, the state taxes, and more progressive income taxes.”
The tax rate for the highest income threshold will be between 70% and 90%, he said.
The Green New Deal
If elected, Hawkins will first declare a climate emergency and submit the Green New Deal legislation to congress.
The bill, Hawkins explained, “would emphasize public enterprising [and] planning — particularly in the energy, transportation and manufacturing sectors. And we price this out because our goal is to get to 100% clean energy, and a zero to negative greenhouse gas emission in a decade. And that [the Green New Deal] creates 38 million [jobs].”
The Green New Deal is the signature issue of the Green Party. Hawkins was the first U.S. presidential candidate to campaign the Green New Deal in 2010 when he ran for governor of New York, before it was famously re-introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, in the House of Representative in 2019.
Hawkins explained that the Green New Deal is not only a climate recovery program, it is also an economic recovery program — which he said is needed in order to curb the economic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Aside from job creation, the legislation includes an economic bill of rights, a job guarantee, a guaranteed income above the poverty line, medicare for all, public housing, education, an increase in social security benefits, and secure retirement above the poverty line.
When asked about his plans for the high unemployment rate in the U.S. — which have increased from 3.6% to 7.9% after the pandemic hit in 2020, according to the Bureau Labour of Statistics (BLS) — Hawkins said the solution lies in the job guarantee and the economic bill of rights via the Green New Deal.
… and Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is in an economic crisis, but has been rarely mentioned by Hawkins.
In October 2015, a report was published by the Hispanic Federation declared that the Commonwealth’s $72 billion debt was “not payable.”
Added to that, “One hundred and fifty public schools on the island have been shuttered during that period of time. Puerto Rico has increased the retirement age, and required heftier pension fund contributions from public sector workers, and more pain is coming,” the report cited.
And in 2016, NPR reported that Puerto Rico is losing a doctor per day.
When asked what Hawkins’ plans were for Puerto Rico, Hawkins answered, “the first thing to do is relieve the debt — there is a finance control board that is running Puerto Rico that needs to be replaced by a democratic representation.”
He then plans to provide aid to Puerto Rico to help recover from Hurricane Maria, which struck the island in September 2017.
Then to get its economy started, Hawkins plans to introduce Green New Deal — and its economic bill of rights and job guarantees — to Puerto Ricans.
“They are U.S. citizens, that will be extended to them. So those are the policies that will treat them equally with the rest of American Citizens,” Hawkins said.
In terms of the medical care that Puerto Rico needs, Hawkins will provide medicare for all systems.
“We would educate more doctors, nurses and other healthcare practitioners. So that we have more doctors and practitioners available per capita to the population,” he explained.
The Green Party’s Vision While in Office
Hawkins urged the U.S. to get out of endless wars, and insisted on “becoming the world’s humanitarian superpower; making friends instead of enemies, instead of [being] the world’s global military empire.”
Hawkins plans also include cutting 75% of the military budget. In addition, he wants to make education and healthcare free, including raising the minimum wage to $30 by 2030.
“As a candidate, I will be a voice for this program of positive change,” Hawkins said. “The climate, peace, and our life expectancies can’t wait.”