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Gov. Jay Inslee on Climate Refugees, Tax Breaks for Boeing & Why He Feels Trump Is a Racist

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We speak with Washington Governor Jay Inslee about his bid for the 2020 presidency, immigration and the military-industrial complex. Inslee has also vowed to allow in a record number of refugees and to end President Trump’s Muslim travel ban. In 2017, Washington became the first state to file a lawsuit to challenge Trump’s initial travel ban.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Jay Inslee is our guest, the governor of Washington, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted ask you about refugees. We’re seeing many people coming up from Central America. Some people believe many of them are climate refugees, as well, but also fleeing gang violence and deep poverty there. You were one of the leaders among governors, obviously, in opposing President Trump’s efforts to not only have the Muslim ban, but also on immigration issues. Talk about what you’ve been doing in Washington.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, we’ve been standing up to Donald Trump. I’ve now sued him and defeated him 21 times in a row, with Bob Ferguson, our excellent attorney general, at the helm. We need to stand up for democracy, in all its measures and value system. Your logo has a Statue of Liberty on it. And I believe the light from that statue should continue to shine across the United States. It is an ancient thing, light, we should guard jealously. And I did that, and I’m proud I was the first governor to stand up against his Muslim ban. I was also the first person to say we should accept Syrian refugees, even before, I think, that that issue came up.

And the reason is, is that this is not only a matter of compassion of the United States. We are a compassionate nation, taking in the refugees and those, you know, fleeing, the huddled masses yearning to be free. This is something that’s deeply ingrained in our hearts in the United States. But it is also an economic development issue. Look, we’ve grown our economy because we have geniuses who have come from nowhere and now created businesses in my state. The DREAMers who are in my state are some of the most ambitious, creative, going to be productive businesspeople and doctors. That’s why I’m proud of being the first governor to make sure the DREAMers get access to college education. So, I believe that the current situation is unfortunate—

AMY GOODMAN: What about what Governor Newsom is doing? It looks like he’s about to sign this bill that will increase the access of undocumented immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25, something like that—around 90,000 of them will get healthcare.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: So, we are taking steps in that direction. We started with our youthful folks in that situation, and we make sure that we have ERs open to them. But first they have to have access to not be put in cells and have the children separated from parents, like Donald Trump is doing.

And as you indicated, what is so maddening about this is that the president refuses to go to the source of this problem, which many of these people are climate refugees today because they simply can’t be subsistence farmers. Because the climate has changed so much, you can’t grow crops, particularly at higher elevations in Central America. So they’re starving to death. And the president refuses to recognize the reality of climate change. He’s going to allow it to become worse, because he just doesn’t give a hang or is too scientifically illiterate. Each are fatal.

Now, secondarily, it makes sense for us to make investments there, so we don’t have to make them on the border, to try to improve the economies of those regions, so people can stay in the place of their homeland. And those are smart investments to make. But instead, he wants bumper stickers and confrontation. There’s a better way.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you call President Trump a racist for his Muslim ban, the one that you were the first governor to challenge?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: You know, it’s painful to think in those terms, but I don’t know what other conclusion you can make, and I made it a long time ago. You need to understand the depths of depravity of this individual. This is a person whose entire political existence he owes to a racial lie, when he said that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. That is the entire way he developed a base in the Republican Party. That lie is the only reason he has a political existence. So I don’t know what other word you can attach, because he has followed this up every day trying to divide the United States, continuing to pull out his dog whistle out of the Oval Office closet and blow it every single day. So, it’s painful to say that, but I just have to reach that conclusion.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You mentioned former President Obama. I wanted to ask you a question on healthcare. Your campaign has said you’re the only person running for president who both voted for Obamacare and then implemented it in your state. Could you talk about what you did there—


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —and the whole issue? Because, obviously, President Trump has never ceased wanting to dismantle Obamacare.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Right. Well, I think this points out to something that—I’ve been a member of the U.S. Congress for 15, 16 years. I was very active trying to get the healthcare bill passed. We were successful. But we’ve also implemented it. And governing means both passing bills and implementing them. And we’ve been very successful in our implementation of Obamacare since I’ve been governor. We have 800,000 people with insurance. And importantly, we’ve been able to keep a lid on costs in healthcare. And now I have passed the first public option in the United States. So I’m the only candidate who has actually passed a state-sanctioned plan for healthcare in their state. We’ve also passed the first long-term elder care program in the United States. And with our increasing retirements and the dementia crisis, this is extremely important.

So, the implementation that I have put forward, I think, has been very, very successful. And it’s one of the themes, frankly, of my candidacy, that the things I’ve done as a governor, I think, is a template for success in the United States—the highest minimum wage, the best paid family leave. We’re very radical in Washington. We think women should be paid the same as men, so we have the best gender pay equity in the country. I’ve got the biggest teacher compensation increase in the United States. We were the first—I was the first governor to pass a net neutrality bill. The point I’m making is that governing is important, in addition to just passing legislation; I think it would suit me well in the position in the White House.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You also have some very big companies, obviously, in Washington—Amazon, Microsoft—


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —Boeing. One of them I wanted to ask you about was Boeing, that, back in 2013, you and the Legislature passed a series of tax incentives for Boeing that were some of the—tax breaks that were some of the biggest of any state has ever given a company, about $8.7 billion. And yet Boeing continued to lay off workers rather than expand the workforce. Have you looked back on that and thought about those tax breaks and whether they were a judicious use of state power?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: No, I think we need federal legislation to protect states from what happened to my state, where a large corporation sort of held a gun to our ribs and said, “We’re going to move 20,000 jobs elsewhere, if we do not continue the tax treatment.” Now, essentially, this was just a continuation of the existing tax treatment they had. I don’t think states should be able to be leveraged in that manner. And we can’t allow these corporations to continue to play one state off against another to try to leverage those tax breaks. So, no, I’m not comfortable that that happened. We need protection against that. And I think there are some things we can do in the tax code to protect states from being subjected to that sort of being victimized, in my view. So I hope to get that done.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you sorry you did that? Would you do it again? I mean, you’ve come to New York, where people drove Amazon out—


AMY GOODMAN: —of Long Island City—

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: —just enraged at the tax breaks that they were giving this company.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Right. Well, I have to say that I am pleased that there’s about 20,000 people that would not be working in the state of Washington in the aerospace industry had we not done that. So, my job is to keep those people working, and we did it for those families. But as I’ve said, we should push back against this corporate behavior that does that.

Now, not all corporations do this. Look, Salesforce just acquired Tableau in Seattle. This is a corporation that cares for its people, gets paid compensation, worries about the homelessness. Not every corporation behaves this way. This one did.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on democratic socialism?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I think that—well, I’m a proud progressive. My progressive record is unmatched. We’ve talked about the Muslim ban and gender pay equity. I’ve passed one of the best reproductive parity bills. By the way, this is important. It’s not just a matter of a woman having the right of choice academically; they have to be able have healthcare. And we’ve passed a Reproductive Parity Act to make sure women have access to healthcare through their insurance policies. So, I’ve been a very stalwart progressive, and I’m a Democrat. That’s how I label myself. And I think those are things that are going to win.

And we have to realize that we need to be vigorous in defending those values. Look, I heard the vice president today saying, well, he’s just going to sort of sit down with Mitch McConnell and iron these things out. Look, the party—the party that tried to destroy Obamacare and cripple the Obama administration and stole the Supreme Court decision is not going to be solved over a cup of tea. You know, you can’t expect the Toronto Raptors to root for the Warriors in the next game of the NBA Finals. And we have to have a hardheaded realization that we’ve got to stand up for these values. And I’m very capable of doing that. I’ve had some bipartisan successes. I got the biggest educational benefit, biggest transportation package, best family leave, while I had a Republican Senate. But you’ve got to be able to stand for your values, and I’ve been doing that for about 25 years.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to ask you about another issue on which you have evolved over the years: capital punishment. You were once in favor of it, but then you placed a moratorium on the use of capital punishment in 2014, and the death penalty has since been abolished in your state. Can you talk about the evolution of yourself on this issue?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yeah. I think that what I’ve seen is an increasing awareness of the racial disparity in our criminal justice system. And that is one of the reasons I eliminated the death penalty, put a moratorium on the death penalty by executive order. And so, what I’ve seen is—and it’s one of the reasons I’ve offered pardons to thousands of people who had marijuana convictions. We have now legalized marijuana. But we’ve seen the racial disparity that has come from the drug war. And we need to root that out. It’s one of the reasons that we passed the best police accountability laws that hold police accountable when there’s undue violence. That’s one of the reasons why we now are doing something that I’m really proud of, which is diverting juveniles into the school system, out of the criminal justice system. We’ve got way too many black young men who are shunted into the criminal justice system at age of 14, 15, 16, that we want in the educational system, that might need some mental health issues, as well.

So, these are a host of things we’re doing to try to right the racial disparity that has been so prevalent in our society. We’ve also now just embraced affirmative action for the first time. And I was very vocal in favor of the restoration of affirmative action in our state, so that we can right the shadow that has inflicted this country of racial disparities in so many contexts. So, we’re moving forward, and I’m glad we’re doing so.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, how do you hope to break out of the pack here? We’ve got about two dozen candidates, and they’re being essentially divided into anyone who gets 2% or more in the polls versus everyone else. How do you hope to—

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve made it into the first debate.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yeah, we’re in the first debate. We’ll be in the first—we’ll be in the first debate. Well, look, there’s two things I can offer to people. And the first one—look, I’ve got to tell you why I’m running for president. That might be relevant to this discussion. I really love being governor. I’ve been extremely successful. We’ve got the best economy. We’ve created the best economy in the United States. It’s going to be a good argument to defeat Donald Trump, when I tell him, “You know who’s got the best economy? You know who needs—knows how to build an economy? I’ve done it.”

But I just decided I wanted to be able to look at my grandkids on my final day and say I did everything I could to defeat climate change. So this is a personal obligation, in some part, and I want to do that for all the children and grandkids of the nation. So what I’m offering to people is a unique commitment to say that if I’m elected president, I will make defeating climate change the number one priority of the United States. And I profoundly believe that level of commitment is necessary to this job, because if it is not job one, it will not get done. The political capital that is necessary to totally mobilize the United States economy requires a president with that level of commitment. And I’m the only candidate who’s made that commitment, because I know it’s necessary.

And I have a plan to accomplish it. I have the experience, that is unmatched by anybody in the field. And secondly, I have an experience level of all the things I’ve got done, some of which we’ve talked about today, of accomplishment in the state of Washington. So, those are two things, and I hope people take a look at them.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. military is the largest consumer of oil in the world.


AMY GOODMAN: How do you take on the military-industrial complex, or do you see that as something that you feel you should be doing? And your stance in foreign policy, in the wars, in the longest war the U.S. has ever engaged in, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I was one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq War and the Bush administration, and I fought long and hard against that war. And I would continue the principled position that we need alliances rather than making continued mistakes of thinking we can revamp whole countries and cultures in our own image in a short period of time. So, I think I’ve gotten experience to show I’ve been able to stand up against when the war drums are beating.

And as far as the U.S. military in regard to climate change, I believe that they can be actually a very positive way to help drive new technologies that are not dependent on oil and gas and diesel and coal. We’ve started that in my state, where we use our procurement power to drive new technologies. I’m the first governor to make sure half the cars we buy in the state, for the state government, are fully electric. And that’s really working really well. We can do the same kind of thing with the United States military. We’ve started that a little bit with the Green Fleet, to use biofuels in some of the ships. We can do the same in aerospace, where we now are developing biofuels that can be really low-carbon to fly our jets. And we’ve already done that. So we need to make it a positive player, because it is an 800-pound gorilla throughout the supply change—chains. And I’m convinced we can make it positive.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Governor Inslee, we want to thank you for being with us. Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

When we come back, we go to Australia, to Brisbane and Perth, where press freedom groups are sounding the alarm after police raided the headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, after the network revealed Australian special forces may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: The instrumental to Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.” Member Bushwick Bill passed away Sunday at the age of 52.

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Press Freedom Under Attack: Australian Police Raid Network for Exposing War Crimes in Afghanistan

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