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BP, Tea Parties and Progressivism in America: An Interview With Van Jones

Depending on what side of the political fence you sit on, Van Jones is either a savior or a demon, a visionary or a left-wing radical tied to communism and bizarre conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But no one will accuse Jones, 41, of being a shrinking violet or a wallflower.

In a wide ranging interview with Michigan Messenger — a sister site of TWI — on Saturday, Jones displayed the cutting observations that landed him the designation as Time Magazine’s Hero of the Environment. And, as promised at the time of his resignation by Arianna Huffington, the proverbial sock of government employment had been removed, and Jones was ready to talk.

Image has not been found. URL: http://michiganmessenger.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/van-jones-300x199.jpg

With national news saturated with coverage of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Jones took aim at the company throughout the interview. When asked about suggestions by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the national Chamber of Commerce that taxpayers should foot some of the bill for the cleanup in the Gulf, Jones replied sarcastically that BP was “a worthy candidate for us to jump in and help to bail them out.”

“Hell. No. It’s ridiculous. We should be going the other direction,” Jones said. “BP’s assets should be held in escrow until we figure out the full extent of not just the clean up of the beaches but fixing back up the local economy. Anybody who thinks a single taxpayer should put money on the table to clean up behind the mess of this foreign multinational corporation that came over here and corrupted our government, killed innocent workers, flagged up our coastline and destroyed a regional economy — I think needs to have their head examined.”

And Jones lashed out at those pushing for drilling in the Great Lakes.

“You can’t have ‘drill, baby, drill,’ without risking ‘spill, baby, spill,’” he said.

From there Jones launched into one of the major underlying themes of his environmental activism. The United States, he points out, has about five percent of the world’s population and controls only about two to four percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet uses about 25 percent of the world’s oil resources currently. He calls that a big problem for drilling advocates.

“We will never be able to drill and burn our way out of this problem. It’s literally mathematically impossible,” Jones said. “You can risk catastrophic impacts on other parts of your economy. You can risk catastrophic impacts on the health and safety of communities and America’s natural beauty etc to try to get those last few drops, but when you get done, you’ve risked things that should be enduring for a very fleeting, short-term, partial fraction of a solution. I just don’t think it makes sense.”

In order to move forward and grasp the opportunity for political change available, Jones said, progressives have to “stop being afraid to be progressive.”

He said he is confused by the Tea Party movement, which has “non-solutions” to the problems facing the nation.

“I don’t understand how it is that we have allowed a movement to call itself patriotic when its only obsession is with making American government weaker,” Jones said. “We need American government to be stronger to protect our economic interests in an increasingly difficult global environment, to invest in the things we need, to have food on the table and safe communities and to protect us from these predatory special interests like these banksters, and these military bilksters, and big oil out there destroying a huge chunk of American beauty.”

Jones paused.

“The reason that we get stuck in these quandaries is because we have ourselves backed away from progressive values at the very moment they are most needed,” he said.

“You see bad corporate actors ruining America from coast to coast and we’re still afraid to stand up and say that we want the American government to be strong enough to deal with these people,” Jones said. “We want the priorities of local, state and federal government to reflect the urgent, desperate need of the people for relief and opportunity again.”

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