Month: March 2017

Trends In U.S. Corrections

From The Sentencing Project, we present a fact sheet of Trends in U.S. Corrections, including prison populations, state and federal expenditures, the number of people in prisons and jail for various offenses, facts on women and race, as well as much more.    








School Choice 101

School Choice is the term given to a set of government programs that provide families with alternative school options other than those that are publicly provided, to which students are generally assigned by their family’s location of residence. 

These programs are available in only a handful of states and include the voucher program, charter schools, tax credit scholarships, individual tax credits, and education savings accounts. The goal of implementing school choice programs is to raise productivity in public schools by encouraging competition and innovation in the education ‘market.’ The hypothesis about choice and productivity is quite straightforward: when students can leave and money follows students (even if imperfectly or indirectly), less productive schools will lose students to more productive schools.

What is the voucher program?

There are several different types of school choice programs, the best known of these is the voucher program. The voucher program was first introduced in 1955 by Nobel laureate and economist Milton Friedman. Because “a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens,” Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.

Vouchers are used for tuition at private schools of choice but are funded  through public money, typically through income and state tax. Whereas charter and magnet schools are public schools of choice and often do not require vouchers, this program gives parents an alternative to oftentimes poorly performing public schools.

Today, there are 25 operating voucher programs in 14 states—Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana (2), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (2), North Carolina (2), Ohio (5), Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin (4)—and Washington, D.C.

How does the voucher program work?

Vouchers are funded through taxpayer dollars, typically from income and state tax. The state gives the family a tuition voucher, and the family then spends the money at a private school of their choice.

What are the other school choice programs?

There are several other types of voucher-like programs and can vary from state to state. The most commonly known programs are:

  • Tax Credit Scholarships:

In this program, the state gives a tax credit to an individual or a business who donates money to an approved scholarship program. That approved scholarship program then gives the money to a family to spend on tuition at a private school.

  • Education Savings Accounts:

Here, the state takes money or a portion of the money they would have put into the school district for a particular child and puts it into a special account. The parent is then allowed to take money out of that account and spend it on approved education expenses. These expenses could include a private tutor, educational therapy, or tuition at a private school.

Why is school choice controversial?

The primary source of contention among those who are opposed to school choice is the claim that the programs siphon money away from the public school systems, thus reinforcing the notion that public schools are ineffective and essentially setting them up for failure.

Proponents of school choice offer a different perspective, saying that “When students leave a public school using vouchers, the public school is relieved of the duty/costs of educating those students.” However, the problem becomes evident when too many students (and their funding) are drained from the public school system entirely.

There are also those who believe the voucher program threatens the separation of church and state, since many of the families who use vouchers opt to send their children to a religious private school. The National Education Association has stated that, “privatization [choice] strategies are about subsidizing tuition for students in private schools, not expanding opportunities for low-income children.”

What have been the results of school choice programs so far? 

When we talk about whether school choice programs ‘work,’ we’re not only talking about the overall academic success of an individual student, but also the overall improvement of the public school system in America.

Formally, the success of a school is measured as achievement per dollar spent. When public funds are siphoned away from public schools in large quantites, it can have a measurable negative impact on the overall performance of that public school.

In a study released by The Institute of Education Sciences, the overall performance of 36 charter middle schools across 15 states was shown to be, on average, “neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.”


Institute of Educational Studies

Swedish Economic Policy Review

Education Week

Private School Review

Anti-Defamation League

The New York Times – “Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools”

The New York Times – “Dismal Results from Vouchers Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins”

Ed Data

[1] “Charter School Financial Impact Model Final Report,” MGT of America, September 11, 2014,

[2] “Review: Fiscal Impact of Charter Schools on LAUSD,” MGT of America, May2016,

[3] “Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: Michigan’s Story,” David Arsen, Thomas A. DeLuca, Yongmei Ni, and Michael Bates, Michigan State University, November 2015,

[4] Fiscal Impacts of Charter Schools: Lessons from New York, Robert Bifulco and Randall Reback, Columbia University, New York, NY,

Calling For Peace, Unity, Religious Freedom At Rutgers’ Muslims For Peace Event

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) delivered the keynote address at the 10th Annual Prophet Muhammad Day event at Rutgers University today. The event, hosted by Muslims for Peace, is focused on bringing communities together to celebrate the legacy of compassion, mercy, and justice of the Prophet Muhammad, and to stand together against anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.

Namaste. Salam Alaikum.

Aloha.  Thank you for inviting me to be with you as we all come together from different faiths and spiritual paths to stand in solidarity for freedom and peace.

Sadly, as we look around us at the chaos in the world today, we see people who are inflicting violence and terror upon others in the name of religion and identity.

On January 29, six people were killed and nineteen wounded as they were fired upon while they prayed in a Quebec City mosque.

On February 16, an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber killed at least seventy-five people while they worshipped at a shrine to the Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan—a place that was tragically targeted for embracing worshippers of all faiths and sects side by side.

Since the beginning of 2017, hundreds of tombstones have been toppled at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis and nearly 100 bomb threats have been called into Jewish schools and community centers across our nation.

In February of last year, ISIS beheaded a senior Hindu priest named Jogeswar Roy at a temple in northern Bangladesh, and injured two others.  Just a few months before this, ISIS conducted attacks on Shia mosques and shrines in Bangladesh killing and injuring worshippers.

The perpetrators of these horrific actions have no connection with the spiritual love that lies at the heart of all religions—the love that has the power to overcome differences and bring people together.

No matter where you’re from, no matter what religion you practice, your ethnicity, race, or anything else—what is it that can bring us together as people?  It is, what we call in Hawaii, aloha… sincere, deep love and respect for other people as children of God.

The sectarian spirit that fuels enmity and violence between members of different religions has been described by the great saint Bhaktivinode Thakur as “the greatest enemy of mankind.”

When a person thinks, I am a Christian, this other person is a Muslim, therefore he is my enemy, or I am a Muslim, this other person is a Hindu, therefore she is my enemy, they reveal their own lack of spiritual depth. No religion teaches this, and any understanding of any religion that adopts this divisive attitude proves itself false by doing so.

As a Vaishnava Hindu, a devotee of Sri Krishna, I recognize and respect both Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed as messengers of God, messengers of love, peace, and universal brotherhood. Prophet Mohammed warned against any maltreatment of people of other faiths, saying:

“Beware!  Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud)

I was raised in Hawaii in what I call a “faith-inclusive” family.  I never felt I had to choose loyalty to the New Testament over the Bhagavad Gita.  It really wasn’t until my late teens that I became aware of the ugly concept of sectarianism.

According to Vaishnava Hinduism, there is only one Supreme Being, but He has many beautiful and wonderful names.  God is one, no matter what name we call Him, and it is the loving exchange that each of us has with God that is true spirituality.

The Hindu scripture, the Brahma Samhita, states, “The soul is eternal and is for eternity without a beginning, joined to the Supreme Lord by tie of an eternal kinship. The soul is transcendental spiritual potency.”  (Brahma Samhita 5.21)

When we are tasting such love for God, we are able to see beyond our external differences and designations, and recognize that we are all relatives in the deepest sense.

By embracing this truth, which is a core message of all scriptures of the world, we can achieve real peace and harmony with others, no matter the different backgrounds we come from.  Such tolerance, respect, and love for others, regardless of religion or any other external differences, is taught by Sri Krishna Chaitanya in His prayer:

“One should chant the Holy Name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, feeling oneself to be lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than the tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the Holy Name of the Lord constantly.” (Sri Siksastakam)

The Quran states, “Humanity is but a single brotherhood. So make peace with your brethren.” (Quran 49:10)

The Sri Isopanishad, a Hindu scripture, states, “That person who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all living entities as parts and parcels of the Lord, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything, never hates anyone nor any being.”  (Sri Isopanishad, Mantra 6)

The Bible states, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (Bible, John 4:8)

The essence of God is love, and central to love is freedom.

Our country’s Founding Fathers invoked our inalienable God-given right to life and liberty, and enshrined that right of freedom of religion in our US constitution, recognizing that everyone must be free to follow his or her conscience without fear of persecution.  This right is something that comes from God, bestowed on every one of us, no matter who we are or where we are from, and which no one has the right or ability to take away.

It is truly wonderful that embedded in the very bedrock of our nation is this recognition of free will; of this intrinsic right of every individual to worship God as one chooses, or to not worship God; to adhere to any spiritual path or to no spiritual path. No one can make that decision for another person.  It is our duty to guard and protect the right of all people to worship or not worship according to their conscience. This is the nature of love.  Every person has the freedom to choose to give their heart and give their life to God or not.  You can’t force someone to love God, or to love anyone.

As stated in the Quran: “To you be your religion, to me be mine.” (Quran 109:6)

By cultivating the understanding that each individual has the intrinsic right to follow a particular spiritual or religious path, or no path at all, and by recognizing that this right is given by God, not by man or government, we can maintain a pluralistic, peaceful society.  Without this understanding, and a commitment to respect and uphold this right, there is no foundation for peace in the world.

The terror that we see perpetrated in the name of God today is in fact a refusal to honor the inherent freedom of all people that is given by God.  So-called “religious terrorism” is born of an exclusivist ideology that says, my faith is the only legitimate faith, and that everyone who does not believe as I believe is inferior and must be converted, enslaved, raped, or killed.

Such acts of terror are also an admission of insecurity and doubt.  Those who are confident in their own faith have no reason to attack the faith of others.  It is only those who are fearful and devoid of love for God who believe that forcing their view on the rest of the world could ever be the will of God.

Groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram all share this divisive ideology in common, and it is also at the heart of the Wahhabi Salafist ideology sponsored and propagated by countries like Saudi Arabia.  This exclusivist ideology is the opposite of real religion because it denies the inherent freedom of every individual to choose whether and how they want to love God or not, and it is the enemy of peace for all of humanity.

Therefore, in order to defeat this enemy, we not only need to defeat these terrorist groups militarily, we need to defeat them ideologically.  Otherwise, those terrorists we kill on the battlefield will simply be replaced by others who have been indoctrinated into a perverse and violent understanding of religion.

How do we defeat this exclusivist ideology?  We must confront this exclusivist, hateful ideology head-to-head, and defeat it with an inclusive ideology of love—a consciousness of love. Inclusiveness is born out of wisdom and love, knowing that every single person is a child of God, and we should love others as our brethren.  We should appreciate and respect that every individual has the right to choose the spiritual path that they want.

Ultimately, the only way we can defeat terrorism is by wielding a superior truth. To defeat terrorism, every imam, priest, reverend, rabbi, guru, and spiritual teacher must articulate this central truth—that real religion is love, and love must be freely given, it cannot be forced.  A loving relationship with God can only be initiated out of an individual’s free choice. When this truth is heard, understood, and accepted in all corners of the globe, then we will have peace.

This ideology of inclusivism, of aloha, of love and respect for others, needs to be promoted around the world in every mosque, temple, and church.  Only this inclusive ideology of aloha can defeat the exclusive ideology of terrorism.

When a society fails to cultivate this love, and fails to respect individuals’ freedom of choice, such societies inevitably end up in great darkness and suffering.

Unfortunately, there are billions of people in the world who have been forced to live in societies where individual freedom of conscience and religion do not exist, where people who are followers of the “wrong religion” or of no religion are treated as lesser human beings, discriminated against, oppressed, forced to pay extra taxes, forced from their land, or worse yet, imprisoned, tortured, raped, or killed.

These examples may seem very extreme as we sit here in this nice, safe hall in New Jersey, under the protective umbrella of religious freedom.

But we must remember that there is not one place—not even our own nation—that is immune to the poison of religious bigotry.

Abraham Lincoln was attacked with accusations that he was not a Christian.

When John F. Kennedy ran for President, his political opponents tried to foment religious bigotry against his Catholicism.

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2007, people accused him of being Muslim, as if that would somehow disqualify him from becoming president.

When I first ran for Congress, my Republican opponent stated in a CNN interview that I shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress because my Hindu religion “doesn’t align with the constitutional foundation of the US government.” Last year, my Republican opponent stated that, “a vote for Tulsi is a vote for the devil,” because of my Hindu faith.

The message in each of these situations was simple: you will be punished politically for being of the “wrong religion.”

Nothing could be more un-American than this.

The only way to defeat this dark cloud of religious bigotry and hatred is when we stand together in the light of love.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We must stand with people of all religions who are committed to pluralism and individual free choice.  People like:

Mahmoud Al ‘Asali who was assassinated for courageously speaking out against ISIS’ brutal treatment of Christians in Mosul;

Khurram Zaki, a prominent Pakistani journalist and human rights activist who was assassinated because he was one of many Muslims courageously advocating for a pluralistic, tolerant, secular Pakistan;

Kenyan Muslims who shielded Christians from the attack of terrorists;

Jewish and Christian leaders in Victoria, Texas who opened their synagogue and churches to the Muslim community whose mosque burned down.

There are countless examples of such love and courage by individuals and communities who embrace and live by the true spiritual principles of peace, love, mercy, and tolerance; who are building coalitions of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, atheists, secularists, and more; who are risking their lives, bravely crying out for a peaceful, pluralistic society built on the bedrock of religious freedom.

So the challenge for each and every one of us here is—will we elevate and empower these champions of peace and a pluralistic society?  Will we do what is necessary to defeat the destructive exclusivist ideology with one of love, aloha, and inclusiveness?

Or will we stand by, shake our heads, and do nothing?

We must act.  For the sake of our families, our communities, our country, and all of humanity, we must stand with these brave souls, these warriors for peace.

Let us stand proudly as Americans, as defenders of our constitution, as defenders of freedom, as defenders of peace, as beacons of love.

Let us be brave and forceful in standing up for each other’s rights to live and worship freely and let us not be afraid to say that whoever threatens that right for any one of us will have to face all of us together.

Let us be inspired by the vision put forward by our nation’s founders, and challenge those fomenting religious bigotry to do the same.

Rather than pour fuel on the fire of darkness, divisiveness, and hatred, let us bring the light found in the aloha spirit to our lives, our country, and the world.

Let us be inspired as we join hands, working toward the day when everyone—whether they are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist—can live in peace and free from fear.

Let us confront hatred with love.  Confront bigotry with aloha.  Confront fear with courage.

Let us truly live aloha in our actions, in our words, and in our hearts.

Interview With Nina Turner: Right-To-Work Laws Are Weakening The Middle Class And The Economy

During her time in the Ohio Senate, Turner fought for legislation that would level the playing field for women and men—including introducing the “Viagra bill,” which would subject men to the same scrupulous levels of regulations women face over their reproductive choices—and her dedication has continued into her postlegislative role.

The Canton plant first opened in 2003, and Mississippi residents hoped it would be a boon to their local economy. Though Nissan says the factory has added $2.9 billion each year to the state’s economy, and created 25,000 jobs, the state still remains the poorest in the nation, and workers have spent nearly a decade and a half fighting for better conditions and fairer treatment. The Japanese automaker is currently facing fines at several of its U.S. plants for safety violations—including the one in Canton—and workers say the company has tried to hinder their attempts to join the United Automobile Workers union (it doesn’t help that Mississippi is a right-to-work state, meaning the law gives workers the option not to join a union, or allows them not to pay union dues if they do). And because 80 percent of the plant’s employees are African American, protesters argue that not only is it a fairness and safety issue—the plant’s difficult relationship with its workers is a civil rights one.

“I’ve had a long history with the UAW, particularly in my home state of Ohio,” Turner recently told Glamour. “In places like Ohio [and 27 other states, including Mississippi], these antiworker’s rights bills were filed back in 2011. It was a really big deal in Ohio and motivated me to cement my relationship—or ’street cred,’ if you will—with the labor community in my stance to protect their right to collectively bargain.”

There is a trend now in dissuading people from unionizing, and more right-to-work policies, like those in Ohio and Wisconsin, are being passed at the state level. What do you think this implicates for workers across the country?
It’s a dangerous trend. Workers’ wages are not keeping up with inflation. Their wages are not on pace with the amount of work that they do. We work harder and longer in this country, and still people’s wages are not keeping up with that. Labor unions have a long history of benefitting all workers, even those who are not members of unions, because everyone’s wages go up. If we don’t increase membership—and membership in labor unions is going down because of the attacks against organized labor—it’s something every single American, whether they’re officially in a union or not, should be concerned about. It’s a spiral. It’s a weakening of the middle class, and our economy can’t sustain that.

For the workers and their families, being able to bring home a living wage helps their families and, by extension, helps our economy. Seventy percent of our economy is consumer-based. We know that when lower- and middle-class families have money and disposable income, they spend it. That puts money back into the economy. It’s a win-win for everybody: not just for the individual, not just production at a specific company (like Nissan), but for the greater good. I look at what’s happening at plants like Nissan and what is happening across the country at the hands of some of my Republican sisters and brothers, and it becomes a moral question. Are we the type of country that will make progress and move forward, or are we going to go backward—and take middle- and working-class families with us? The one percent and the 10 percent are doing just fine, but the people who are bearing the brunt of this economy are the ones who suffer.

For women who are in these kinds of jobs, there is also the added factor of covering child care. What kind of effect do these working conditions have on them?
If a mother or a caregiver does not have a job that pays a living wage and they cannot afford child care, that is unacceptable. I’ve talked to my constituents over the years, and child care can almost bankrupt a family, even a two-parent household in which both parents are working. That keeps a parent from being at ease, and it really stifles the social and economic growth of a family. Women are hit hard across the board, but particularly in homes where the mother is the head of the household and the only wage earner. It hurts her, and it hurts her children. I’m always amazed to hear my more conservative colleagues talking about how they care about life. They’re pro-life, but when it comes down to safe work environments that allow for unions, being able to pay for child care, having family leave—they don’t care about any of that. That’s where I argue that they’re not pro-life; they’re pro-birth.

There’s a lot of grassroots activism happening across the country. Do you see a connection between these actions, Saturday’s Nissan rally, and what you and Senator Sanders are doing with Our Revolution?
I absolutely do. People are awake. That hashtag #staywoke is real, and I hope it continues. My hope for this country and the activists is that they never, ever go back to sleep, and they keep fighting for social justice, equality, and decency. It reminds me a lot of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms. Being a progressive himself, he was talking about the fact that we should provide jobs for everyone who wants one. People do have a right to live in decent housing. They do have a right to education. FDR was preaching this gospel in the thirties, and Dr. Martin Luther King did the same thing in the 1960s with the Poor People’s March on Washington. Folks in this country have these rights, and it’s the job of this country to answer this call. We need groups like the Women’s March reminding elected officials that they have a responsibility to create pathways of opportunity, and if—and when—they aren’t doing that, everyday people are going to put a little “extra” on their ordinary and extraordinary things will happen. At this moment the not-so-quiet voices rumbling across the country and the world are saying we absolutely and unequivocally deserve better.

Another point I want to make is that it’s important for women to understand that it’s bad enough that we don’t make dollar-for-dollar what men do, but when you distill that down to women of color, our Latinas and our African American women, it’s even less than that 78 cents. When you have mega-corporations that have record profits, but they don’t want to share even a little bit of that with their workers, we are actually putting our communities at peril. What happens to women happens to the entire nation. People work hard. But when you’re working long hours, you don’t get to spend time with your kids, you don’t get a chance to take a vacation every now and then, you don’t get a chance to make a big purchase (which helps the economy). There’s something wrong with that. This isn’t about wages; this about quality of life. If workers are overworked, or—like at this Nissan plant—companies hire temps at low wages, this fundamentally comes down to the quality of life for a person. It’s bigger than wages. They should be able to spend time with their families. And if they’re single, they should be able to have fun and not spend every day of their life working 12 to 15 hours a day and never get a chance to take care of their well-being. To me, that’s part of living a good life.

On Wednesday, March 8, activists and feminist leaders are calling for women to go on strike to protest the current administration and years of policy that have kept women from being equal members of society. Will you be participating in any demonstrations?
You know, I’m not sure. I can’t say definitively if I will be there physically, but I will definitely be there in spirit. I’m glad to see people coming together like this, and we have to keep this unity going. What happens to one directly happens to all indirectly. It may be Nissan workers today, but it could be somebody else somewhere else tomorrow. We have an obligation to each other to not only push our politicians but to push companies to do right by their workers. They wouldn’t even have successful companies without their workers. They are the glue that keeps things together. How, in the twenty-first century, we have mega-corporations that have lost sight of that boggles my mind.

Glamour: Last week a new DNC chair was selected. I know you’ve been involved with the DNC at the Ohio state level. What are your thoughts on new chair Tom Perez and deputy chair Keith Ellison? How can they keep up the grassroots efforts that are going on and fulfill the hopes of more progressive Democrats?
I am a member of the DNC from Ohio, so I was there in living color this past weekend. I supported Congressman Keith Ellison, and I am disappointed he did not win. I saw forces work to malign Congressman Ellison’s credibility, and I saw a tinge of Islamophobia within my own party, which causes me great dismay. I do hope that Chairman Perez and his decision to make Congressman Ellison the deputy chair, a position that does not really exist, is real. That relationship is going to have to be real for progressives who were disheartened by the direction the DNC took in 2016 during the presidential election and the direction they see the DNC taking now. I want to be clear—I want Chairman Perez to be successful. If he is successful in making sure the DNC recaptures its integrity, that is a good thing. And by integrity, I mean making sure what happened to Bernie Sanders doesn’t happen to another candidate, where you have staffers and even the chairperson putting their thumbs on the scale for one candidate in a primary over the other. We really are going to have to answer the cries of everyday women and men who are calling out for elected leaders to do something different. They want to be treated fairly, and they need a political party who represents them. It’s shameful that the elites basically have one-and-a-half political parties. Working class men and women have zero parties—or they have half a party. That’s exactly what progressives are upset about. I hope that the DNC can take a different turn and restore the party’s integrity. I’m hopeful, but I won’t hold my breath.

There’s some movement online to recruit you to run for governor of Ohio. Would you have any interest in that—or running for any office again?
We’ll see. I’m keeping my options open at this point, but I’m very humbled by the fact that grassroots efforts are rising up all over the country but particularly in my home state of Ohio. I barely have words. To know that so many people across the state, from the rural areas to the urban areas, see something in my leadership and really believe I am someone for the people means a lot to me. That’s how I want people to see me and my public service. Even if they disagree with me, I want them to know I was authentic in my public service. I stand for all people even if it causes me political heartburn—and I’m going to do that no matter what my future holds.

With the current administration just weeks into their presidency and the Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, what are your hopes for Our Revolution and what it can achieve over the next four years?
My hope is that we help progressives win at local and state levels of government. Democrats have lost over 1,000 seats since 2009. It’s very easy for people to get up in arms about Mr. Trump, but the fact of the matter is that the Democrats took their eye off the ball starting in 2009. I see Our Revolution as being a great champion on that state and local space, because we have to get more progressives elected to those levels of government. Though we don’t control the Congress or the presidency, and we are certainly outnumbered on the state level, there is a chance for us starting this year, and in 2018, to win back some of those state seats. There are states that have started initiatives to do away with Citizen’s United. The overflow of big money in politics drowns out the voices of everyday people. That is part of the conundrum in this country: The more money you have the more speech you have. That leaves everyday people out of the equation. I also see local areas trying to push for universal health care and a single payer system. I’m so inspired by states that do that, and that’s where Our Revolution can do its greatest work—to support those people who wouldn’t normally have the support of establishment types to run and help them win.

In terms of President Trump, I really do hope that he does accomplish some of the things he said on the campaign trail. If he is willing to make investments in infrastructure, but not on the backs of the middle class and the working class, and put people back to work, that would be a good thing. If he’s serious about making Obamacare better, and not pulling the rug out from 20 million Americans who benefit from it, that would be a good thing too. I would love to see more investment to help our veterans. He’s talking about investing in the military—I imagine he wants to invest on the war side, but what we really need is to take care of our veterans, and invest in the VA hospitals, provide better mental health treatment, and help them find housing. That is a stain on America for all of us—Republican and Democrat. No administration in recent times has been able to tackle the needs of our veterans. On that, I do want to see him successful. But in terms of his travel ban and immigration policy, I don’t want to see him successful.

That is why we need this rising. We need people to fight back. So many people are depressed, and they’ve become preoccupied with the negatives of this presidency. That can cripple people mentally. We’ve had to overcome a lot in this country to become a nation of progress. We still have a lot of progress to be made. My role is to remind people that everyday people can make a difference. And if we get people out there doing things to make this country a better place, we can bring change. Decide what your role is going to be, whether it’s helping a candidate, fighting for an issue, or running for office yourself. We have the power to overcome these challenges and keep moving as a nation—and Mr. Trump does not control that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Watch Bill McKibben Talk Climate Change Battle On Real Time

On a particularly bad day for Earth’s wellbeing – the EPA revealed massive budgetary cuts while the Trump administration waffled on the Paris Agreement on climate change – environmentalist and founder Bill McKibben appeared on Real Time With Bill Maher to discuss the dire situation and how the American people can fight back.

“The level of complete corruption from the fossil fuel industry that marks this administration is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” McKibben said, adding that new EPA chief Scott Pruitt frequently sued the EPA on behalf of energy companies while Attorney General of Oklahoma.

“Earlier this afternoon, the EPA under Mr. Pruitt… their budget cuts leaked out. Not only are they going to cut by 97 percent the amount of money they’re spending to try and improve water quality in the Great Lakes – which finally begun to improve, same thing with San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay; good thing that no one lives in any of these places,” McKibben said.



“They also said they’re going to drastically cut the amount of money they spend on something called water quality compliance, the kind of things that helped alert us to things like Flint, the water crisis there. Of course, since they’re zeroing out the environmental justice program at EPA, that probably won’t be a big worry anymore.”

After pointing out that the Keystone Pipeline would be built using Russian steel – the oligarch of that Russian steel mill gifted Vladimir Putin a $35 million yacht, McKibben noted – McKibben attacked the argument that state governments will handle the things the EPA doesn’t by highlighting the crisis in Pruitt’s own state of Oklahoma.

“For as long as this continent has been around, Oklahoma has been seismically inert, as stable as it was possible to be,” McKibben said. “Now, it shakes a lot more than Oklahoma. It’s the most seismically active place on the continent because we’ve done nothing but frack it for the last 10 years and force all this water underground into wells on the faults.”

Even as the nation is divided into two halves – liberals who believe in climate change and conservatives who turn a blind eye toward it – McKibben warned, “In the end, these are not political questions. In the end, physics doesn’t care what your skin is. It just does what it does.”