by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute
Here we are at the start of year 2019 and the nation’s 116th U.S. Congress. Radical and exciting ideas with something for everyone from Wall Street to Main Street to the Corporate Suite and Board Room are now on the table for discussion as this new Congress gets settled in. We are tuning in to this emerging movement…
Question for you: Have you tuned in to the “Green New Deal”? The “GND” is a concept advanced first by The Green Party in the 2016 election cycle; the concepts gained traction bit-by-bit over time and have been embraced by a fiery new member of the 116th Congress as a platform for re-doing our economic system, our political system, public policies of many kinds. As well re-structuring our nation’s monetary policy (with creative new stimuli suggested for financing important infrastructure in place to meet climate change challenges) …and more. Much more.
The new champion advancing the GND today is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term democratic socialist from New York City.
The proposals are dramatic, bold, sweeping — with something that some people can love and champion and other condemn and do battle against.
We should recall here for perspective that the original New Deal was ushered in by newly-elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt upon taking office in March 1933…in the midst of the Great Depression.
Sweeping, radical ideas were then needed to literally save the U.S. economy and avoid slipping into some form of communism, fascism, or worse. The stakes were high.
At the time, the country’s economy – and people! – were being crushed by the negative forces of the Great Depression, which followed the disastrous crash of the stock market in October 1929.
Manufacturers’ lots were filled with unsold merchandise, or in many cases factories were being shuttered and workers laid off. There was a global trade war looming (with passage of the Smoot Hawley protective trade legislation). Fascism was on the rise in Europe. European countries were in an expensive arms race. Many countries were not able to pay their debts. U.S. banks were closing by the scores and then in the thousands in this country. There were few safety nets.
Said President FDR: “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. The country needs, and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
Scientists and experts tell us today that climate change challenges represent the kind of threat that the Great Depression did for our nation, and that time is running short for bold action.
“Try Something” – and so today in part inspired by the historic (and sweeping, long-lasting) New Deal accomplishments, key elements of our population – Millennials, civic leaders, business leaders, elected members of the House and Senate, NGOs – have been advancing some bold ideas for our consideration. Meet the concept of the “Green New Deal”.
Origins: As explained, elements of the Green New Deal originally were developed by The Green Party of the United States as its 2016 election platform — there were four pillars with pages-upon-pages of detail to explain each:
- The Economic Bill of Rights
- A Green Transition
- Real Financial Reform
- A Functioning Democracy
You can read the details of the Party’s GND here: https://gpus.org/organizing-tools/the-green-new-deal/
Will There Be Action in the 116th Congress?
Newly-installed member of the House of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has introduced an 11-page draft text resolution to form a new select committee in the House to rapidly develop a plan of action to finance and implement the GND.
Her draft bill calls for creation of a Green New Deal (“GND”) Select Committee to be composed of 15 House members appointed by the Speaker of the House with authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan, for the transition of the economy to GHG-neutral (drawing down GHGs from the atmosphere and oceans), and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.
The committee would draw on the expertise of leaders in business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, academia, and broadly-represented civil society groups and communities.
The actions taken would be driven by the Federal government in collaboration and co-creation and partnerships with these and other stakeholders: business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, research institutions, and civil society groups and communities, the plan to be executed (for the U.S. to become GHG-neutral) in not longer than 10 years from the start.
- The final Plan would be ready by January 1, 2020. Draft legislation to enact the Plan would be completed by March 1, 2020.
The Plan for a Green New Deal would have the objective(s) of reaching these “bold” and we can say, “radical” outcomes:
- Dramatic expansion of existing renewable energy power sources and new production capacity to meet 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources.
- Build a national, energy-efficient, smart grid.
- Upgrade every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety.
- Eliminate GHGs from manufacturing, agriculture and other industries (including investment in local-scale ag in communities across the U.S.).
- Eliminate GHG emissions from transportation and other infrastructure; upgrade water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water (UN Sustainable Development Goal #6).
- Fund massive investments in the drawdown of Greenhouse Gasses.
- Make “green” technology, industry, expertise, products, services, a major export of the United States, to become the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely GHG-neutral economies, to bring about a global Green New Deal.
The draft envisions the Plan to be an historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the U.S., to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation. This could be done through job guarantees to assure living wages to every person.
Among the benefits seen:
- Diversify local and regional economies.
- Require strong enforcement of labor, workplace safety and wage standards, including the right to organize.
- Ensure a “just transition” for all workers.
- End harm faced by “front line” communities posed by climate change, pollution and environmental harm.
- Protect and enforce sovereign rights and land rights of tribal nations (there are more than 300 in the U.S.A.).
- Mitigate deeply-entrenched racial, regional and gender-biased inequities income and wealth.
- Assure basic income programs and universal healthcare.
- Involve labor unions in leadership roles for job training / re-training and worker deployment.
How to finance all of this? The draft text calls for financing by the Federal government, using a combination of the resources and abilities of the Federal Reserve System, a [possible] new public bank, or a system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds, and other vehicles or structures.
Interest and returns would then return to the U.S. Treasury to reduce the burden on taxpayers and allow for more investments.
Paying For the GND
In the bill’s draft, a Q&A section notes: Many will say, how can we pay for this?
To which the Representative and supporters say: Let’s look at some of the ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout, aid to the auto industry, extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. New public banks can be created to ensure credit and combination of various taxation tools, including taxes on carbon and other emissions, and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed. (The immediate news media frenzy was not over the many elements of the proposed actions but on taxing the rich.)
You can read the entire draft text at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jxUzp9SZ6-VB-4wSm8sselVMsqWZrSrYpYC9slHKLzo/edit#
More than 40 members of the new Congress endorsed the move, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Corey Booker, Senator Elizabeth Warren — and a few dozen fellow House members with more sure to join the movement.
Emergent: A Movement?
This is now being described by supporters as a movement that aims to enact no less than dramatic, sweeping economic and climate change policies in the 116th Congress — and to in the process “change politics in America.”
The Controversial Conversation about GND
On the CBS “60 Minutes” program segment that will air this coming Sunday (January 6th), the congresswoman argues that the Green New Deal agenda can be financed by imposing a 70 percent income tax on the wealthiest Americans. That would be “a fair share” in taxes to fund an extensive clean energy infrastructure.
Representative Oscasio-Cortez has described herself as a democrat socialist – in the models set by President Abraham Lincoln (citing the Emancipation Proclamation in the midst of a great civil war) and President Franklin Roosevelt (whose New Deal programs re-shaped the American economy and political system).
She has focused on economic, social and racial justice as key issues to be addressed by the Federal government in her campaigning (she upset a long-standing Democrat House member (4th ranking Dem and Caucus Chair Joseph Crowley) in New York State in the November 2018 election. The Green New Deal would help in those efforts, while stimulating economic growth.
Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign platform included tuition-free education, universal health care and the Green New Deal developed by the Green Party as its platform.
During the 2018 campaign, she spent less than $200,000, compared to her opponent’s purse of more than $3 million.
The right wing publication Washington Examiner warned that the Green New Deal would add trillions of dollars in debt and would represent “the most radical policy shift in modern U.S. history”. (We would ask: what about success of the New Deal of the 1930s – was it worth the money invested by government?)
Fox News tells viewers that the GND legislation “would eliminate much of the U.S. fossil fuel consumption, dramatically increase America’s already skyrocketing debt, and transform the U.S. into a European-style socialist nation.”
Unfortunately, mainstream media such as CNN and daily newspapers (like the New York News full page headline) have been focusing on the drama of the proposed “tax on the rich” aspects of the concept and not the meat of the sweeping proposals, which American voters and business leaders might see as immediate and long-term opportunities for creating new wealth and a greatly-enhanced economy with many beneficiaries.
Important addition to the above: On January 9, 2019, influential author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman weighed in. He called to readers’ attention “A Green New Deal Revisited!” – his column today about the ideas he floated back in 2007 (that prescient commentary was about a Green New Deal), and expanded on in his best-seller, “Hot, Flat and Crowded”.
In that book (published in 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) has numerous comments on GHGs, energy, energy efficiency, environmental technology, environmentalism, green collar jobs, green hawks, the green revolution, and the Civil Rights movement and WW II analogies to the emerging green revolution.
Friedman today likes the urgency and energy [the representative] and groups like the Sunrise Movement are bringing to this task. He says: So for now I say: Let a hundred Green New Deal ideas bloom! Let’s see what sticks and what falls by the wayside.
He wrote today in the column: Who believes that America can remain a great country and not lead the next great global industry? Not me. A New Green New Deal, in other words, is a strategy for American national security, national resilience, national security and economic leadership in the 21st Century. Surely some conservatives can support that.
Money, Money, Money!
The projected additions to national debt are of course especially in focus for those in opposition to the plan.
In the discussions we should keep in mind that the “tax reform” package passed by the 115th Congress added almost $2 trillion in national debt, with benefits for a narrower band of constituents; the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected additional debt (from 2018 to 2028) with not too much criticism occurred short-term. (The commentary about the country’s staggering debt has been increasing lately.) The Republicans in Congress have talked about a second round of tax cuts (“tax reform 2.0”), which would add another $3 trillion to the Federal deficit (to be financed by still more debt).
The Social Media Universe Lights Up
In a Twitter post in December, as the social media universe lit up with mentions of the GND, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had tweeted: “…and we have #GreenNewDeal lift-off! Never underestimate the power of public imagination.”
While the first action taken by the new member of Congress called for establishing a committee, she writes on Twitter: “Our ultimate end goal is not a Select Committee. Our goal is to treat Climate Change like the serious, existential threat it is by drafting an ambitious solution on the sale necessary – a/k/a Green New Deal – to get it done.”
Note that the Congresswoman has about 2 million Twitter followers.
There’s a very well done commentary on the Green New Deal concepts for you on Vox: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/12/21/18144138/green-new-deal-alexandria-ocasio-cortez
And the Sunrise Movement has information focused on the political side as the public policy debate continues in the new House: https://www.sunrisemovement.org/gnd/
Putting Things in Perspective
We do live in the age of greater prosperity, compared as to the time when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the reins of the nation at a very dark moment in our history.
Climate change challenges pose threats to the future of this nation, many experts posit, including many elements of the United States government itself.
Then, in the 1930s, one-in-four-households was unemployed. States and many cities were running out of relief money. Farmers were being foreclosed because of crop failures, lack of foreign markets, the failure of the bigger banks they borrowed from, and poor land management (recall the “dust bowl” crisis in the west). In America, fear was rampant – with men and women wondering where was the next meal or dollar coming from.
The New Deal title was inspired in part by a book of the same name by prominent liberal author / economist Stuart Chase, published in August 1932 (the presidential election was that November). At the conclusion of his screed he observed (about the radical recommendations he put on the table for discussion): “We do not have to suppose; we know that these speculations will be met with a superior smile of incredulity. The funny thing about it is that the groups are actually beginning to form. As yet they are scattered and amorphous; here a body of engineers, there a body of economic planners. Watch them. They will bear watching. If an occasion arises, join them. They are part of what [author] H.G. Wells has called the Open Conspiracy.”
The groups he referred to some eight decades ago were the American voters, small business owners, Big Business leaders, investment bankers, trade associations, chambers of commerce, government leaders, labor unions, farmers, and academics.
These are the stakeholders clearly identified and explained in the 2019 House draft text that may or may not gain traction in the House of Representatives and for sure not in the U.S. Senate, even among rank & file Democrats who should be in favor of many of the elements of the proposal as stated so far.
Some of the 1930s ideas of Stuart Chase (far left wing and radical they were at the time!) very quickly ended up as necessary public policy adopted to bring the nation out of the scary depths of the Great Depression by a new head of state (FDR) and his assembled Brains Trust.
The Green New Deal is a blossoming idea – yes, radical, of course! – that will be both loved and hated, criticized and championed by various segments of society.
Something For Everyone!
But there is something for everyone in the package and the Plan that could emerge if the Select Committee is formed and elements of the plan get implemented, as promised with the key elements of the American Society participating. The actions of the public and private sectors could be as breathtaking in the sweep of what is to be accomplished as were the achievements of the 1930s New Deal.
Those actions helped to create the most powerful economy and democratic political structure the world has ever experienced. The laws, regulations, rules, policies and actions shaped the modern U.S. and global economies that have delivered benefits to many of us.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cautioned us just a few weeks back that we had about 10 years to reverse course and accelerate measures to address the challenges of climate change. The supporters of the GND movement cite this clear warning as part of the rationale for radical and dramatic thinking, commitment and action over the next decade.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment was released by the Federal government shortly after that, and echoed the rising threats to our economy, businesses, the public sector, and the American nation’s well-being due to the dramatically rising threats inherent in climate change.
For more details on this, see our comments in our November 30 To the Point management brief at: https://ga-institute.com/to-the-point/tune-in-to-this-important-report-the-fourth-official-climate-science-special-report-issued-by-the-u-s-governments-global-change-research-program/
Possible GND Impact on Politics
Some presidential hopefuls have recently been saying that climate change will be among the top — if not the top — issues in 2020 races.
Billionaire Congressman Tom Steyer (California) said that climate change could help Democrats sweep into office in 2020. He told USA Today in December: “When we talk about what’s at stake here, we’re talking about unimaginable suffering by the American people unless we solve the problem over the next 12 years. And I think we are very far from doing that. And it is unclear to me that we can summon that will without having substantial political victories across the board.”
Re-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that climate change will become a front-and-center issue if the Democrats take back the house. She told The New York Times in October days before the elections that she would resurrect the defunct Select Committee on Climate Change if the party wins back the House. (The Republican leaders killed the committee in 2011 when they took mid-term power.)
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken Speaker Pelosi at her word and put the meat on the table with her draft bill. (During the orientation of the new members, Ocasio-Cortez led a protest outside the Speaker’s office to draw attention to climate change.)
Ocasio-Cortez in the youngest member of the House, from New York’s 14th District in New York City, upsetting a leading Democratic member in the primary. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and was an educator and community organizer in the [NYC] boro/county of The Bronx before running for office.
Background: She was a winner of an Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in high school; was graduated from Boston University (cum laude); served as an intern in the office of Senator Edward Kennedy; was an organizer in Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign; was endorsed by Move On, Black Lives Matter, Democracy for America, and others. Including NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio.
And so against this background — we’ll see where the GND movement goes from here!
Do tune in and learn more about the critical elements of the plan being championed now in the Halls of Congress as the tempo of the conversation increases. The “60 Minutes” program on the CBS network tomorrow night is sure to create a national buzz, pro and con, and ensure Representative Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez greater notoriety (and both support and condemnation) in the days ahead.
Created January 5, 2019 – updated January 9, 2019