Issue 3: Poverty
In line with the Green Party’s focus on “social justice,” our administration would tackle Third World poverty with vigor. In tandem, we’d work to reduce, exponentially, inner city and rural poverty in America.
At a Habitat for Humanity headquarters in Americus, Georgia, we looked at models of quality small homes intended to get scores of people off the streets and out of sprawling slums worldwide. And like Jimmy Carter, hammer in hand I would tout that program at every turn.
During a talk in Picayune, Mississippi, I said that according to UN figures, 24,000 people starve to death every day in the world. This is an absolute social justice travesty, given the resources America (and the rest of the First World) squander.
At a seminar in Wilmington, Ohio, I learned America wastes (spoilage, simply throwing away, etc…) 33% of its food. Then we spend billions of dollars on non-nutritional junk food every year and even more billions being ‘over-nourished’ (33% obesity rate in America now) – while so many others starve to death, or are extremely malnourished.
As president, I would push to make the “Eating is a Moral Act Campaign” (already existing) much more high profile to educate people about these dynamics, I said during a talk to a Political Science Class at Baldwin Wallace College.
I told the LA Times that we should “…make war on poverty and social injustice.”
And in our travels, we looked at the poverty first hand on tours of the South’s Black Belt region, in inner cities across America, on the dusty streets of slums in Juarez, Mexico, on multiple Naïve American Reservations, in Appalachia…
And there are multiple programs I would point to, to carry on this ‘war on poverty’ in these places.
In Waconia, Minnesota, for instance, I interviewed Paul Turek, a representative of Caribou Coffee. That company has taken “Fair Trade” a step beyond by helping some of their grower villages in Latin America start health clinics.
In Fishers, Indiana, we met with John Mundell who is involved with the new nationwide “Economy of Sharing” businesses that give the first third of their profits, off the top, to the Third World.
On the Southside of Chicago, in a gang war zone, we researched The Port Ministries, which provides a tiered system of help (homeless shelter, transitional living facility, mentor programs, education programs…) to help people get on their feet.
In Durango, Colorado, we learned about a church that has adopted a village in Uganda, where moms and dads are dying of AIDs and little children sleep on burlap bags on dirt floors.
And we looked at so much more in the way of social justice programs to help…
What’s more, every chance I could – as president – I would point to these projects (as we do now in our extensive travels) and ask the American people, almost across the board, to sacrifice more so the poor can have at least the basics in adequate nutrition, housing and healthcare.
That there is so much potentially relievable human suffering in the world that isn’t being relieved, is unconscionable.
Note: To impact poverty in the decaying urban centers of our nation, our family moved to the heart of Cleveland, Ohio (one of the poorest cities in America), where we volunteer at an outreach to the poor, take homeless people into our apartment and coach Rec. Center sports for latch key kids just barely surviving down here.
Issue 4. Hispanic Immigration.
Speaking at an Immigration Rally in Flagstaff, New Mexico, I said we walked the dusty streets of a slum in the border town of Juarez, Mexico, where 200,000 people live in abject poverty. The scenes were heart-wrenching.
In Tiffin, Ohio, Sr. Paulette Schroeder told us on her Witness for Peace trip to Nicaragua several decades ago, she learned of a government sponsored ‘campaign of terror,’ with wide-scale rape and child killing.
In a hardscrabble area of El Pasto, Texas, we toured a clandestine, homeless shelter for people illegally crossing because of the dead end poverty, because of the violent political oppression. People here were desperate.
How can we turn our backs on these people? How?
I told the Sun News in Hobbs, New Mexico, that we should not look at new arrivals here (legal or illegal) as a burden, but rather as a tremendous spiritual opportunity to help. And I told Phoenix, Arizona’s Channel 3 News that our administration would push for amnesty and family reunification.
What’s more, we would try to inspire many more Hispanic Councils to help new arrivals with assimilation into our society. On a stop in Eunice, New Mexico, Hispanic Council co-founder Leon Navarette told us this ad-hoc citizens group is designed to help new arrivals learn about social service options, education, the job market…
And in regard to working conditions in general… After touring the San Joaquin Valley in California to look at migrant farm worker issues, I told the Lodi Sentinel that our administration would push for a living wage, optimal working conditions and full benefits for these farm workers and other immigrants entering the work force.
Finally, I said to a student group at Northern Arizona State University that many people don’t want to leave their family, their towns, their country… “But their kids are hungry, or in danger…” And with that in mind, our administration would also try to inspire many more projects into Mexico and Latin America to help people there become as sustainable as possible.
Issue 5. Healing the Family (emotionally)
“To heal the country, you have to heal the family.” [said Schriner] –CBS News, Monterey, California.
Note: Besides my journalism background, I am a former counselor who started one of the first Midwest, outpatient treatment models for Adult children of Alcoholics & other Dysfunctional Families. I have worked extensively with family systems and believe, strongly, that as the fabric of the family breaks down – the fabric of the country breaks down.
Ann Wilson Schaaf wrote the book When Society Becomes an Addict. Her contention is that many people in modern America have become addicted to, or are extremely compulsive about, a variety of substances and/or activities.
And the scenario goes like versions of this…
A parent (or parents) is afflicted with one, or a combination, of the following: alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive disorders (compulsive overeating, compulsive gambling, compulsive work patterns, compulsive TV watching…), codependency…
When parents are caught in the throes of any of these, inevitably children get shorted emotionally. And also with parents in the grips of these addictions and compulsive behaviors, children are much more apt to be abused physically, sexually or verbally, I told the BG News during a stop at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
These dynamics, in turn, lead to varying degrees of emotional scars, which result in the next family generation developing similar, but often even deeper and more extensive, addiction and emotional problems. It is analogous to a flu strain that keeps getting stronger.
The playing out of these addictions and compulsive behaviors, not only tear at the fabric of families, they send all kinds of turbulence into society at large.
During a campaign stop in Fostoria, Ohio, I interviewed Mark West, who designed an award winning, two-year extensive recovery rehab model for the prison systems. He said alcohol and drug addiction are precipitating factors in some 80% of incarcerations.
As a counselor, I observed time and again how alcoholism, drug addiction and/or some of this other compulsive behavior led to divorce. (We have a 60% divorce rate in the country now.)
What’s more, children from dysfunctional homes often grow up angry. This will translate into them later mentally or physically abusing their children. Or they will take the anger to the streets. Or they will repress their anger, which will in turn break down the immune system leaving them more vulnerable to chronic health problems, which not only taxes the individual, but the healthcare system as well.
To reverse all this, we have to rally as communities to create sets of multi-dimensional programs to support each other in the pursuit of emotional health.
For instance, on a stop in Glendive, Montana, we learned of this city’s Healthy Community Project. There are community classes on addictions, on healthy parenting, on relationship building… On the Monterey Peninsula in California we learned about Take A Stand for Kids (TASK). This non-profit grassroots organization educates people (through in-home presentations, school presentations, civic presentations…) about the dynamics of addictive and dysfunctional behavior, how it effects others and what to do to change it.
In Lorain, Ohio, I worked as a counselor at a three month halfway house for alcoholics and addicts. It is my belief that if people are to get a solid footing in recovery, they need quality programs like this that, well, last a long time.
And our administration would propose matching federal grants to bolster these programs. And we would propose, for instance, cutting back in other government programs.
We would also push to create more “collaborative medical models,” like the one we researched in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Dr. Carl Marlito told me the Marillac Clinic here, not only does medical work, but they screens patients for mental health and other social issues. And they have developed an extensive referral network to social service programs throughout the area.
Again, our administration would be as proactive as possible in promoting the looking at these deeper issues – so the problems can be solved at their roots, as opposed to with social service bandages. (Not that these bandages aren’t important in the immediate, but again its key we look at the problems through a systemic lens too.
4. What parts of the GPUS platform do you feel most closely aligned with? What parts do you disagree with, if any? Are there parts you would improve upon and how? (Who are we?)
I am committed to almost all of the Ten Key Values. And I have already, in previous answers, spelled out my allegiance to some of these Values.
Toward eliminating “weapons of mass destruction,” our platform calls for unilateral nuclear disarmament in America. During a peace protest march just before the Iraq War, I posed the following question to an ABC reporter from Toledo, Ohio.
“What if we let the weapons inspectors into Montana?”
Also, on a research trip to Luck, Wisconsin (headquarters for Nuke Watch), I met with Jerry Berrigan, son of the well-known peace activist Daniel Berrigan. Jerry told me he sees nuclear weapons proliferation as the “biggest pro-life” issue around. No world. No Life.
With an eye on “economic justice,” I told a class at St. Leo College in Florida that with 24,000 people starving to death worldwide everyday (UN figure) this, too, is a “huge pro-life” issue. And we must continually “confront in ourselves” – to borrow from Green Party vernacular -- opulent American lifestyles (at most socio-economic levels) in comparison to billions in the Third World living in abject poverty.
Again, I told the LA Times (Orange County edition) that we should “…make war on poverty and social injustice.”
Another gigantic pro-life issue at this time is global warming, I said during an environmental stewardship talk to the First Methodist Church in Wellington, Ohio. I explained that the excessive “carbon lifestyles” we lead here in America, is like shooting slow motion bullets (increasing droughts in more arid countries, gradual glacial and permafrost melting…) at people all over the world.
In essence, our platform embodies a “Consistent Life Ethic,” I told the Rome (GA) News. That is, we’re opposed to poverty, pollution, nuclear proliferation, or anything else that can end life prematurely. This too means we’re opposed to abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia.
While at the Green Party 2009 Convention in Durham, North Carolina, a college professor approached our family and said it was refreshing finding someone else in the Party with a Consistent Life Ethic. And a number of others said this was new to them because they were so used to hearing the pro-life message as a myopic, one dimensional paradigm.
As an addendum, we’re not just about saying no to abortion. (Hardly anyone I’ve talked with around the country actually believes abortion is a desirable thing.) We also would work stridently to end precipitating factors (poverty, dysfunctional family patterns, drug and alcohol addiction…) that lead to unwanted pregnancy. Abortion rarely happens in a vacuum.
Note: I was in Glasgow, Kentucky, recently and, by happenstance, found myself in a discussion with an organizer for the Tea Party in that area. He said he wasn’t too concerned about my stance on global warming because if I happened to get into the White House -- there would be “checks and balances” in the Congress to it. Pro-choice Green Party members might want to look at the same paradigm when it comes to myself, abortion, and the checks and balances to that in Congress, in the Supreme Court…
Another area where we believe we are in line with the Green Party’s 10 Key Values is proposing tangible reparations to the Native Americans and African Americans. In fact, as mentioned earlier, our position paper on Native American Reparations was recently used as an essay in the college text book Social Justice (Opposing Viewpoints) [Gale, Cengage Learning Press]. My essay ran opposite nationwide conservative talk show host Michael Reagan (son of the late President Reagan). He argued against any form of reparations. I obviously disagreed.