- By Emily Gurnon
Part of the Election 2016 Special Report
As we’ve done with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Next Avenue set out to explore where the Green Party candidate for president, Jill Stein, stands on issues specifically affecting older voters. We found very little to go on.
That doesn’t come as a real surprise. The Green Party counts young people as its core supporters. One poll had Stein winning about 16 percent of likely voters under age 30, according to Politico. In an average of national polls reported by The New York Times on Sept. 27, Stein was on track to win about 3 percent of voters of all ages.
To be fair, Stein’s party platform speaks to broad issues that affect all Americans, such as poverty, income inequality, corporate corruption, green energy, global warming and health care. What we found lacking was detail on topics such as retirement security, caregiving and long-term care.
Stein, 66, worked as a physician for 25 years after earning her degree from Harvard Medical School. She ran unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts as a Green Party candidate twice, and for president in the 2012 election, in which she won less than half of 1 percent of the vote. The only political office she has held was as a member of the Lexington, Mass., Town Meeting, the local legislative body there.
Jill Stein and the Issues
Stein has talked far more frequently, and regularly, about topics such as green energy and student loan debt (she favors canceling those debts and guaranteeing tuition-free college education at public colleges) than issues associated with older individuals, such as Social Security.
Providing jobs to transform our economy to the green energy economy of the future, it actually gets rid of what is causing 200,000 premature deaths a year.
— Jill Stein
To the extent that we could find it, here is what Stein has said, or not said, about various issues of interest to older voters. The Stein campaign did not grant Next Avenue’s request for an interview.
“We will double Social Security benefits to lift seniors out of poverty,” Stein said via Twitter on Sept. 8. According to The Green Party platform: “The bottom 20 percent of American senior citizens get roughly 80 percent of their income from Social Security, and without Social Security, nearly 70 percent of black elderly and 60 percent of Latino elderly households would be in poverty,” the platform says.
The way Stein says she would pay for boosting benefits: “We can pay for it partly by ending the regressive SS tax income cap.” Translation: Currently, income above $118,500 is not subject to the Social Security payroll tax, aka the “tax income cap.” Stein told the program Democracy Now! in 2012 that Social Security “will be perfectly solvent when the rich are paying their fair share.”
She opposes privatizing Social Security, as does The Green Party, according to its platform. During the 2012 campaign, Stein said more about this to Project Vote Smart: “This proposal to turn our Social Security system over to private corporations would lead to huge losses for retirees who depend on Social Security.”
As to whether the government should raise the retirement age at which people can qualify for full Social Security benefits (currently between 66 and 67), Stein said no: “This will disadvantage low-income seniors whose life expectancy is lower than wealthier seniors.”
Health Care and Medicare
Stein proposes a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer public health insurance program, “to provide everyone with quality health care, at huge savings,” her website says.
Under her plan, there would be no co-pays, premiums or deductibles. Those with pre-existing conditions would not be denied coverage, nor would undocumented immigrants. Stein says she would reduce prescription drug prices by negotiating bulk purchases.
Asked by PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff how such a program would be paid for, Stein pointed to her proposal to build a green energy economy.
“Fortunately, most of it pays for itself… for example, providing jobs to transform our economy to the green energy economy of the future, it actually gets rid of what is causing 200,000 premature deaths a year, that is, through fossil fuel. It turns out we get so much healthier when we convert to a green energy economy that our health savings alone are enough to pay for the cost of the energy transition.”
We could find no reference to issues of caregiving or caregivers on Stein’s website or in coverage of her events.
The Green Party platform says only this: “We must take an uncompromising position that the care and nurture of children, elders and the disabled are essential to a healthy, peaceful, and sustainable society. We should recognize that the work of their caregivers is of social and economic value, and reward it accordingly.”
There was no mention of long-term care on Stein’s site, either.
The Green Party platform, however, does mention it under a recommendation for single-payer health care: “Enact a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health plan that will provide the following with no increase in cost: 1. A publicly funded health care insurance program, administered at the state and local levels, with comprehensive lifetime benefits, including dental, vision, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, medication coverage, and hospice and long-term care…”
Stein co-authored a report in 2008 called Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging. Published jointly by Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Science and Environmental Health Network, it highlighted a number of what it said were environmental risk factors for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Among the risk factors associated with those conditions were lead exposure, air pollution, pesticides, lack of exercise and poor diet. A high intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated in numerous studies with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, the report said.
“It is clear from these findings that our activities in the areas of food and agriculture, energy, chemical use, and social organization are key drivers in the abnormal loss of neurological function in older people throughout the modern world,” Stein said at the time.
Aid in Dying
Terminally ill people should be able to end their lives with the help of a physician, Stein told Isidewith.com.