Q&A: Mike Beilstein, Pacific Green Party candidate for Oregon's 4th Congressional District (click on the photo to link to the interview)
by Brandon Kamerman and KVAL.com StaffThursday, October 13th 2022
Brandon Kamerman, KVAL News: I’m joined by Pacific Green Party candidate for the Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, Mike Beilstein. Thanks for taking the time today, Mike.
Mike Beilstein: Pleased to meet with you.
Troubling news month after month with the national inflation report. Sitting around and over 8% for several months. That can take a toll on a lot of people in the 4th Congressional District. What do you think should be done at the federal level to address this issue?
MB: I’m glad you asked that. I think people fail to recognize the inflationary effects of military spending. You know, we have record military budgets, over $800 billion in the current budget, and if you take other securities spending, it’s probably over a trillion dollars in defense spending, and defense spending is inherently inflationary. You know, inflation occurs because there’s money circulating in the economy that’s not matched by goods and services, and goods and services in the military, if anything it destroys utility rather than building it so it’s amazing that during the Vietnam War that was a clearly understood fact that military spending was causing inflation and yet now nobody talks about military spending as the cause of inflation and I think it’s one of the main ones.
It seems to be on both parties that, you know, don’t tend to address that issue and continue to support the rise in military spending. Why do you think that is? It’s really not one ideology versus another. Both tend to support more spending in the military.
And as the cost of living is going up wages aren’t keeping pace with that, and that’s one of the issues that makes the rise of inflation so troubling for a lot of people. Is there a way to address this issue, the fact that wages just don’t seem to be rising at the same rate as inflation?
MB: It’d be great to have wages rising to match the level of inflation. I think we’ve got a fairly good minimum wage in Oregon although I certainly think it’s not adequate, but in general the minimum wage in the country – I think federal minimum wage is still around $7.00 an hour. It’s only a fraction. It’s less than half of what it was at its peak, when the minimum wage was instituted. The failure to raise the federal minimum wage has been a real problem. I think the main contributor to inflation in the country is actually housing costs, and that’s why we’re seeing such a rise in homelessness, is because as housing costs both ramp and housing prices have risen faster than the wages, then people at the bottom end were struggling to stay in a home now find they can’t, and so I think a substantial housing program that involves public housing I think would be a good solution to inflation and to the homeless problem. Some of the places where they have the best housing in the world is almost all public housing. In Vienna 70% of housing is either public or its cooperative-owned. It’s not private investors. Unfortunately housing has become an investment opportunity in this country rather than a utility. You know, people have to have a place to live, but people don’t buy a home on the basis that they’re gonna live there. They will live there, but they’re also thinking that this is gonna be an investment and I can sell it for a lot more in a short time than what it costs now, and so this I think public housing is one way to counter that, to have an alternative, to have competition with the private markets so that public housing would be provided as a utility rather than investment opportunity, and so I think to take housing out of the finance system I think would be a big help.
We’ve seen another wildfire season with more destruction, poor air quality that we still have and a consistent fear for a lot of people in this district that every time it’s summer and late summer or early fall, their business, their home could be at stake. How do you think we can manage this crisis better?
MB: Well, we should definitely be putting more into management of forests, and I think we need to be managing forests both to prevent fire damage but also as using forests as a carbon sink. Really the way forestry has operated in Oregon it’s been like strip mining of our forests for the benefit of Wall Street interests, and it’s really Oregon is being treated like a banana republic, like a third-world country. The people of the state, state government, is not really getting the benefit of the forest industry here. It’s all for outside investors, and I think that’s something that’s got to be changed. We need to make sure that forestry is done for the interests of the state, for the workers in the state and not for the benefit of outside investors, and of course the fire danger – some of the biggest fire danger comes from actually tree plantations. You know, there’s natural fires that occur in the old-growth forests, but the tree plantations are a bigger problem than the old-growth forests, but regardless we need better management of our forests. We need to be growing them for carbon storage, and we need to be using fires judiciously to prevent these large gigantic fires from occurring because of the buildup of fuel.
Oregon is perhaps the most accessible state for abortions in the country. Federal lawmakers could institute a ban, which would essentially supersede Oregon laws. Would you support any limits to Oregon’s current laws?
MB: No, I certainly would not like to make women’s healthcare less accessible in Oregon than it is now. I mean, I think federally I don’t think that there’s really much chance of passing a nationwide abortion ban. I think it’s much more likely that if the Democrats can keep control of the House and the Senate through this next election that we're more likely to have an enshrining of Roe versus Wade protections in law, which the Democrats could have done any time in the past and it has not happened yet, but I see that as a more likely outcome and of course a more welcome outcome than any further restrictions on women’s healthcare.
And so if you were elected into Congress, you would push for that as well, for codifying it into law?
MB: Yeah, certainly I would do that, if I were to be elected. You know, as a third-party candidate I don’t have any fantasies about being elected. I’m fairly certain that Val Hoyle is going to be elected. She’s an okay person. She’s still a Democrat. She’s not a Green, but I’m satisfied with knowing that Val Hoyle’s going to be elected. I might point out that I’ve run five times against Peter DeFazio, and I never considered Peter DeFazio an enemy. I mean, we were on the ballot together and I was running against him, but I’ve always admired him as a very good progressive Democrat, but unfortunately he wasn’t a Green and neither is Val Hoyle.
And one of the things I know you want to push for and at least use this podium, so to speak, for is the way Congress is handling right now war and the situation going on in Ukraine. How would you like to see it handled?
MB: Well, I think if the United States had just stayed out of it, there would have been a negotiated peace. In fact, Russia and the Ukraine had negotiated a peace as early as April of this year, and the United States and Britain stepped in and said, ‘No, you cannot do this. You cannot negotiate. We have to keep fighting.’ And so it’s basically a proxy war, which the United States and NATO is fighting a war with Russia, but we’re using Ukrainians to – we’re killing Ukrainians instead of our own soldiers, but it’s a very dangerous thing to be doing. I think Russia has some legitimate aims in the region and certainly Ukraine joining NATO was something that would have been very threatening to Russia, and so I think certainly this war was provoked by the United States and NATO. I’m not saying the invasion was not a war crime. I think there’s always alternatives to war. That’s never the best solution, but I do believe the United States is very much responsible for the war and for continuing it and making it as devastating as it is. It’s making it into a situation where Russia feels that their existence as a country depends on winning this war so I don’t see any hope of Russia deescalating. It’s always going to end in negotiations so let’s start the negotiation now and let’s stop the carnage that’s going on in Ukraine.
Do you think the idea behind it was to weaken Russia without using our own soldiers, so to speak, or is it to keep it going for what you talked about before, the military spending, the arms spending? You know, we’re bumping up our arms in order to support the Ukrainians.
MB: I mean, it’s both. There definitely is kind of a grand strategic plan that the United States wants to ensure that there’s no regional powers really that can confront the United States, and so the powers that could confront the United States is of course China and Russia, and so the United States has been very deliberately kind of encircling this expansion of NATO throughout essentially all of Western Europe and now Eastern Europe as part of that, you know, and the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan and now the provocations in Taiwan and so there’s definitely this kind of encirclement that is occurring against Russia and China, and so the war in Afghanistan is just kind of the result of that. At some point, they’re gonna push too far, and at some point they might push too far in China over Taiwan or something as well. So there’s definitely the financial aspect, the arms industry. The people that have military contracts, they’re all in favor of this because it means they’re a growing industry and you know returns for their investors are increasing, but at the same time there is this grand strategy as well of encircling. You know, in geopolitics they call it the Eurasian landmass. You know, and so this constant threat against Russia, China and Iran is ultimately with the idea of encircling and enforcing the will of the United States or the investors of the United States on those countries, and so that’s happening, but it’s happening at the same time when the United States is becoming a weak economy. You know, China is a growing economy. It’s possibly larger than the U.S. economy already, and then with the great natural resources of petroleum especially in Russia. If you have that alliance, unless the United States can break that alliance, I think we’re headed to a place where there’s really no choice for the United States. We’re gonna lose our empire or we’re gonna end the world in global war. So I think people have got to start realizing that in the United States. They have to start not automatically supporting greater U.S. militarism and bigger budgets.
And so, taking into account what you said about running as a third-party candidate, but let’s say you were in Congress and that vote for more aid comes before you, would you not support more aid being sent to Ukraine?
MB: I think if I was in Congress I would oppose any export of weapons outside the United States. I mean, the United States is essentially providing almost half of the weapons that are exported for countries in the world. We’re making it a more dangerous place by doing that, and definitely I would be looking – in Congress I would be looking for cuts in the military budget. I would say cuts of at least 50% are necessary, and I would oppose any export of weapons, whether it be Saudi Arabia or Israel or Ukraine.
He’s running for the Green Party for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District. Mike Beilstein. Thanks so much for taking the time.
MB: Yeah, thanks for your time, Brandon. It was nice meeting with you.