My own definition of a Green New Deal, which has evolved since 2007 as the technology has gotten better and the climate problem has gotten worse, remains focused on how a green revolution in America can drive innovation, spur new industries and enhance our security.
Tom Friedman, New York Times, January 8th, 2019
Tom Friedman coined the term “The Green New Deal” in 2007 consistent with his long-standing concerns about climate change. The unintended consequences he foresaw included the failed Arab Spring which grew in part out of withering droughts that forced farmers into overcrowded cities and ultimately into bloody uprisings resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands. He later felt that the Great Recession of a decade ago sapped the political will and capital to begin addressing climate change in earnest.
The Green New Deal has been revived by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the ubiquitous AOC, who has energetically advanced it, even uninvited into a reluctant Speaker Pelosi’s office in January. Subsequently it has gotten mild support but little traction in either the House or Senate. It has however gained the attention of eleven Democratic candidates for president in 2020 who have signed on entirely or in large part. Six of these are senators who have co-sponsored the non-binding resolution, including Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren.
The GND is hugely ambitious, seeking to move America to 100% renewable energy by 2030 with massive shifts required in industry, transportation and infrastructure. Costs are estimated to be in the trillions. It will be a prolific job creator, requiring ten million workers to build whatever is necessary in “a ten year national mobilization”. Additionally it unabashedly calls for a return to the very powerful and expensive federal government similar to that which battled the Great Depression and won World War II, the race to the moon and the Cold War. It also seeks to create an updated economic bill of rights similar to one first proposed by FDR that will:
- Guarantee of a job with a family sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security
- High Quality Education including college and trade school
- Universal Healthcare
- Safe and affordable housing and Healthy Food and Water
Finally it addresses social justice by seeking to remedy the plight of thirteen disadvantaged groups which range from 1% of the population, indigenous people, to 32%, low income workers, to 50.8% for women – there will be some double counting. A presentation that provides much more depth has been created by a Progressive think tank called Data for Progress and is available here: http://filesforprogress.org/pdfs/Green_New_Deal.pdf
The Green New Deal is a sharp rejection of the more moderate “third way” policies of Democrats led by Bill Clinton, who announced in his 1996 State of the Union Address that the Era of Big Government was over. Despite eight years of 4% annual growth, the creation of 22.8 million jobs and the only budgetary surpluses since 1969, Clintonomicshas seemingly been de-emphasized if not discarded by the 2020 Democratic candidates. The embrace of market-oriented policies and international trade deals appeared to weaken Hilary Clinton’s own run and possibly made her appear to be the candidate of Wall Street and mysterious globalist powers.
While combatting climate change is generally quite popular among voters, the sweeping package that is the GND appears to be roughly split in polls. Some Republicans have named it a socialist manifesto and it has been frequently derided on Fox News, much more than it is promoted on CNN or MSNBC. President Trump has weighed in citing peripheral issues such as pollution caused by cows spelling the end to our hamburgers. Additionally, a right wing think tank has put the cost at $93 trillion, which is thought to be high but not out of the realm – this at a time when the 2020 federal budget will run a $1.1 trillion deficit – a number that was deemed shocking just a few years ago.
It is easy to see the Green New Deal as the impractical and unaffordable wish list of progressives but it should be noted that the Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders was beating Donald Trump by ten points in polls leading up to the 2016 conventions which – not incidentally – is the same amount that he leads Trump today. The appeal of a “socialist” agenda may resonate with a of majority of Americans who are for combatting climate change, and who do not have $500 in the bank. They have seen the most rapidly growing jobs include home health aides and personal care aides at $22,000 annually, a bleak prospect for themselves and their kids. Millennials in particular lost valuable years in getting their careers launched due to the Great Recession and continue to carry large student debt. They do not appear to automatically reject solutions like free tuition and universal healthcare as foolish or too costly given that we are the most expensive in the world in both areas with middling results.
Additionally, the jobs created by the GND would not be “footloose”, easy to shift off-shore, or pay at minimum wage. The infrastructure required to transition to zero emissions and provide more mass transit and clean water will require a robust public/private partnership with many small to mid-size contractors utilized. Universal healthcare, also included, will similarly create millions of jobs, perhaps as many as 2.6 million while reducing the administrative cost burden, which at 30% is double that of Canada.
The key questions become: 1. Will voters embrace such a broad program enabled by a huge increase in government’s role in their lives, 2. Will a Progressive candidate convince Democratic voters in the primaries sufficient to secure the nomination? And 3. Will that candidate go on to win the presidency?