PRESS RESPONSE TO GREEN NEW DEAL RESOLUTION

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9 february 2019

[4C Note: The following articles were sent to us in a CAN-talk email from Fred Heutte of the Sierra Club.]

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/green-new-deal-resolution-calls-for-100-
clean-renewable-and-zero-emission-e#gs.sd7TM9f9

Green New Deal Resolution Calls for 100% ‘Clean, Renewable and Zero-
Emission Energy Sources’


Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey unveiled
a resolution fleshing out the concept of a Green New Deal.


EMMA FOEHRINGER MERCHANT

FEBRUARY 07, 2019

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey on
Thursday released their much-anticipated resolution for a Green New
Deal. It calls for 100 percent clean energy to supply all U.S. power
through a decade-long national mobilization.

Though the resolution adds more details to the idea of a Green New
Deal, which started as an ambitious but broad concept to create
environmentally just jobs and fight climate change, the resolution is
still a starting point. Further legislation would determine how the
federal government meets the goals laid out in the document.

And the goals are significant.

The resolution calls for supplying all power using 100 percent "clean,
renewable and zero-emission energy sources," a departure from previous
statements indicating that the plan would focus on renewables only. It
also calls for deploying distributed smart grids, upgrading buildings
for efficiency, updating infrastructure and building resiliency through
community-focused projects — all in 10 years. And it targets net-zero
emissions.

The plan also calls for righting systemic injustices for communities
disproportionately impacted by environmental issues and economic
inequality. The plan notes that making healthcare, affordable housing
and higher education available — and especially prioritizing these
goals in vulnerable communities — will be paramount to achieving the
overarching policy’s goals.

The text sketches an overhaul of the transportation system that would
include affordable public transit, high-speed rail and infrastructure
and manufacturing for zero-emissions vehicles. The deal also
concentrates on cleaning up sectors where electrification isn’t an easy
solution for reducing emissions, such as manufacturing and agriculture.

In a press conference introducing the legislation, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez
said the resolution acts as a "first step."

“We’re here to say small incremental policy solutions are not enough.
They can be part of a solution, but they are not the solution unto
itself," she said. “Today is not just a big day for us as a delegation,
us as a party, us as a movement, but this is a big day for activists
all over the country and frontline communities all over the country.
Today is a big day for people who have been left behind.”

In an interview with NPR published Thursday, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said
that the severity of climate change far outpaces the urgency of the
efforts so far to combat it.

“Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere
near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to
us, to our country and to the world,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

She added that large-scale government intervention is needed because a
more hands-off approach hasn’t done the job.

“For 40 years, we tried to let the private sector take care of it,” she
said. “What we’re here to say is that government is not just for
cleaning up other peoples’ messes, but it’s also for building solutions
in places where the private sector will not.”

Sen. Markey said during the Thursday press conference that the
resolution is by design “silent on any individual technology which can
move us toward a solution [for] this problem,” which leaves room for
continued debate on 100 percent clean energy versus all-renewables. An
FAQ distributed alongside the resolution, however, notes "the plan is
to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible."
The FAQ also argues that, thus far, carbon-capture utilization and
storage has not proven effective.

Markey also noted on Thursday that supporters of the resolution will be
working to get the same tax benefits for renewables and electric
vehicles that have been afforded to fossil fuels in the past.

Also appearing at the press conference, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of
Oregon, who is ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, said,
"It’s my intention to work with all of these good people to throw the
dirty energy tax relics of yesteryear into the garbage can, and work to
put clean energy front and center for a healthier future for
Americans."

The deal is easily the most serious piece of climate legislation
debated on the national stage in years. Already, several 2020
Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed the idea of the deal,
even as details have remained scarce. In the Thursday press conference,
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said that when introduced, the legislation will have
over 60 co-sponsors in the Democratic caucus. Over 40 Democratic
representatives also came out in support of creating a select committee
in Congress to work on the details of a deal.

Though that specific committee didn’t come to fruition, House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi on Thursday unveiled the members of a committee focused on
“the climate crisis.” Another indication that climate change is gaining
political capital: This week the House Committee on Energy and Commerce
hosted its first committee hearing on climate change in six years.

“Really, what I hope we’re able to do as a party and as a nation is
rediscover the power of public imagination,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is not a member of the "climate crisis" committee,
which doesn't have legislative authority, but she will serve on the
Oversight and Financial Services committees.

Though the plan will be expensive, and the resolution does not outline
a method to pay for it, Ocasio-Cortez said any investments will
eventually pay for themselves. In speaking with NPR, she compared the
benefits of her overhaul policy to the wall that President Trump and
some Republicans want to build on the U.S.-Mexico border for $15
billion to $25 billion, a policy she does not support.

“We have the responsibility to show what another America looks like,”
she said. “What if we actually took all that concrete and poured it
into roads? What if we took all of that engineering and dedicated it to
new energy? What if we took all of that, but actually invested in
something that will have payback and a return on our investment for the
American people?”

This story has been updated with comments from a press conference held
to highlight the resolution.

------------

https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2019/02/08/38747143/green-new-deal-greeted-with-
polite-skepticism-or-silence-by-most-of-washingtons-congressional-representatives

Green New Deal Greeted With Polite Skepticism or Silence By Most of
Washington's Congressional Representatives

by Rich Smith • Feb 8, 2019 at 2:22 pm

On Thursday Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey rolled out
the Green New Deal, a 15-point nonbinding resolution to "achieve net-
zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for
all communities and workers."

Citing impending ecological doom, the bill calls for the U.S.
government to mobilize a massive workforce to overhaul the country's
transportation infrastructure, clean its streams and skies, and meet
its power demands with 100 percent clean and renewable energy sources
in 10 years. The bill aims to create tons of jobs, supercharge the
economy, provide "high-quality health care" for everyone, all in
consultation with "frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions,
worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses."

Though 60 members of Congress have signed onto the bill, in addition to
several Democratic candidates running for President in 2020, yesterday
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed the resolution by calling it "the
green dream or whatever." AOC refused to take the bait, saying she
didn't consider the term dismissive. "It is a green dream," she said.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal is the only representative from the Evergreen
state to sign onto the bill with her full-throated support: "We need
bold, progressive policies if we are ever going to move away from
fossil fuels, combat climate change and create a healthy planet for
ALL," she Tweeted. "Let's do this!"

As for Washington's other Democratic representatives? Not so much.
Though they all offer strong support for doing something about climate
change, they're...

..wait a second! Did somebody say climate change? Governor Jay Inslee,
who's rumored to be considering a run for the presidency, would like
you to know that he's "thrilled" about the Green New Deal. In a
statement released yesterday, he described it as "a clarion call to
action from Congress," and said he wanted to hear that same call
emanating from the White House. But will that call ever truly find its
full voice if we don't elect Inslee for President? Who knows. Probably
not. Guess we'll just have to elect him—if he ever decides to run, that
is.

Anyway, as I was saying, most of Washington's Democratic Congressional
Delegation is just not at all sure if they want to do so much so soon
to address the catastrophic ecological disaster that is unfolding
before our very eyes.

Of the reps who haven't signed on, Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents
Boeing, seemed the most skeptical. "There is a lot of good in the
resolution," he said, but it's still "difficult to support the
resolution right now when one of the lead sponsors says one of the
intentions is to make air travel unnecessary." Larsen is referring to
an FAQ about the resolution that appeared on AOC's website, which
explains that one of the goals would be to "build out high-speed rail
at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary."

"I cannot sell that position to the 23,000 women and men who live and
work in Washington’s Second District who support the U.S. aviation
economy by making the safest aircrafts and aerospace products in the
world," Larsen said.

Fair enough. But I wonder if he could sell Boeing on the idea of
building high-speed trains instead of planes? I guess not. And it's
probably not worth it, huh. By the time they're convinced to make such
a radical transition, they might as well be manufacturing machine-gun-
mounted dune buggies for communities who will need them to protect
their fuel stock during the water wars.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, chair of the Democratic party's conservative wing,
more or less said he'd take the deal on a bill by bill basis: "I'll be
looking closely at the details of the green new deal as this is
transformed into actual legislation, and I am thrilled that ideas are
being brought to the table to achieve our shared goals of combating
climate change."

Though Congressman Adam Smith is a member of the Congressional
Progressive Caucus, he basically said the same thing as Kilmer, though
he was a touch more optimistic. “We are reviewing the final text that
was released last night," he said in a statement yesterday. "I look
forward to meetings that I have planned with constituents and
stakeholders to discuss. Many of the goals in here are absolutely
critical to addressing the threat of climate change, and I am committed
to advancing policies to meet those goals.”

Rep. Kim Schrier, who is a member of the New Democrats, took the same
line: "I look forward to working with my smart, creative, evidence-
driven colleagues on climate-related policies and am eager to see the
proposals that come out of the newly-formed Select Committee on the
Climate Crisis."

Vice-chair of the New Democrats and extremely extremely wealthy person
who represents Bothell, Rep. Suzan DelBene, didn't respond to multiple
inquiries. Nor did Rep. Denny Heck, who got his own special little
district drawn out for him in Olympia during the last redistricting.
Both Democrats reign over safe districts, and yet even they won't even
answer questions about the resolution.

Though an overwhelming number of Americans support the Green New Deal
when it's described to them in broad terms, I guess it makes sense that
these Democrats would say a whole lot of nothing on this issue. Why
embrace a visionary resolution that addresses climate change at a scale
appropriate to the scope of its potential disaster if the issue hasn't
been thoroughly polled in your district yet? How could they even begin
to find the language to explain to their own constituents that they
have to take the boldest possible action on climate change now in order
to prevent imminent and certain ecological catastrophe?

What might help, of course, is some of those constituents calling up
their representatives and giving them the language and confidence they
need. But even then, you never know.

----------

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/2/7/18211709/green-new-deal-
resolution-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-markey

There’s now an official Green New Deal. Here’s what’s in it.

A close look at the fights it picks and the fights it avoids.

By David Roberts Updated Feb 7, 2019, 12:58pm EST

The Green New Deal has become an incredibly hot item on the political
agenda, but to date, it has remained somewhat ill defined. It’s a broad
enough concept that everyone can read their aspirations into it, which
has been part of its strength, but it has also left discussion in
something of a fog, since no one’s quite sure what they’re arguing
about.

On Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
(D-NY) introduced a Green New Deal resolution that lays out the goals,
aspirations, and specifics of the program in a more definitive way.
This is as close as there is to an “official” Green New Deal — at last,
something to argue about.

There will be lots to say in the days to come about the politics of all
this. (In the meantime, read Ella Nilsen’s piece.) For instance, it is
interesting that Markey, a living symbol of 2008-era Democratic
thinking on climate change (and the leader of the old climate
committee), is lending his imprimatur to this more urgent and radical
iteration.

But for now, I just want to share a few initial impressions after
reading through the short document a few times.

It’s worth noting just what a high-wire act the authors of this
resolution are attempting. It has to offer enough specifics to give it
real shape and ambition, without overprescribing solutions or
prejudging differences over secondary questions. It has to please a
diverse range of interest groups, from environmental justice to labor
to climate, without alienating any of them. It has to stand up to
intense scrutiny (much of it sure to be bad faith), with lots of people
gunning for it from both the right and center.

And, of course, it eventually has to give birth to real legislation.

Given all those demands, the resolution does a remarkably good job of
threading the needle. It is bold and unmistakably progressive, matched
to the problem as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, while avoiding a few needless fights and leaving room for
plenty of debate over priorities and policy tools.

The resolution consists of a preamble, five goals, 14 projects, and 15
requirements. The preamble establishes that there are two crises, a
climate crisis and an economic crisis of wage stagnation and growing
inequality, and that the GND can address both.

The goals — achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs,
providing for a just transition, securing clean air and water — are
broadly popular. The projects — things like decarbonizing electricity,
transportation, and industry, restoring ecosystems, upgrading buildings
and electricity grids — are necessary and sensible (if also extremely
ambitious).

There are a few items down in the requirements that might raise red
flags (more on those later), but given the long road ahead, there will
be plenty of time to sort them out. Overall, this is about as strong an
opening bid as anyone could have asked for.

Now let’s take a closer look.

From a progressive point of view, the discussion over climate change in
the US has always been overly skewed toward technologies and markets.
(The term of art is “neoliberalism.”)

I have been guilty of this myself. Economics and technology are
considered serious topics in the US, a ticket to being heard and
acknowledged by the political mainstream, and there is a subtle, tidal
pressure to hew to those subjects, at risk of being relegated to the
status of activist or, worse yet, ideologue. (As though neoliberalism
is not an ideology.)

The resurgent left is done with all that.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with technologies or markets, as
long as they remain servants, not masters. It’s just that in the US,
those subjects have tended to occlude deeper and more urgent
considerations (like justice) and exclude a wide range of policy
instruments (like public investment).

It is for the progressive movement to stand up for those priorities,
and that’s what the GND resolution does. We’ll take them in turn.

1) Justice

Ordinary people matter. Emissions matter, yes. Costs and money matter.
Technologies and policies matter. But they all matter secondarily, via
their effects on ordinary people. The role of progressive politics, if
it amounts to anything, is to center the safety, health, and dignity of
ordinary people.

That means that justice — or as it’s often called, “environmental
justice,” as though it’s some boutique subgenre — must be at the heart
of any plan to address climate change. The simple fact is that climate
change will hit what the resolution calls “frontline and vulnerable
communities” (who have contributed least to the problem) hardest. And
attempts to transition away from fossil fuels threaten communities that
remain tied to the fossil fuel economy.

Frontline and vulnerable communities stand to get it coming and going,
from the problem and from the solutions. And unlike big energy
companies pursuing growth, unlike idle billionaires fascinated with new
tech, unlike banks and financial institutions seeking out new income
streams, unlike incumbent industries fat from decades of subsidies,
frontline and vulnerable communities do not have the means to fund
campaigns and hire expensive lobbyists. They do not have the means to
make their voice heard in the scrum of politics.

That’s why progressives exist: to amplify the voices of those without
power (a class that includes future generations).

Accordingly, in the resolution’s preamble — the part with all the
whereas this and whereas that — there are three statements focused on
climate damages and emissions and four focused, in one way or another,
on justice.

Of the resolution’s five goals, three are focused on justice. (For
example: “promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing
future, and repairing historic oppression to frontline and vulnerable
communities.”)

Of the 12 GND projects, three, including the very first, are focused on
community-level resilience and development. And something like two-
thirds of the GND requirements, depending on how you count, direct
political power and public investment down to the state, local, and
worker level, safeguarding environmental and labor standards and
prioritizing family-wage jobs.

The resolution makes clear that justice is a top progressive priority.
It is fashionable for centrists and some climate wonks to dismiss
things like wage standards as tertiary, a way of piggybacking liberal
goals onto the climate fight. But progressives don’t see it that way.
In a period of massive, rapid disruption, the welfare of the people
involved is not tertiary.

2) Investment

Neoliberalism has also made old-fashioned public investment something
of a taboo. The GND goes directly at it — public investment aimed at
creating jobs is central to the project.

The preamble notes that “the Federal Government-led mobilizations
during World War II and the New Deal era created the greatest middle
class that the US has ever seen” and frames the GND as “a historic
opportunity to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United
States.”

Creating jobs is the second of the five goals; investment in “US
infrastructure and industry” is the third. Of the GND projects,
investment in “community-defined projects and strategies” to increase
resilience is the first; repairing and upgrading infrastructure is the
second.

Of the GND requirements, the very first is “providing and leveraging,
in a way that ensures that the public receives appropriate ownership
stakes and returns on investment, adequate capital (including through
community grants, public banks, and other public financing), technical
expertise, supporting policies, and other forms of assistance to
communities, organizations, Federal, State, and local government
agencies, and businesses working on the Green New Deal mobilization.”

Also in the requirements: funding education and job training for
frontline communities in transition; investing in research and
development; and investing in community ownership and resilience.

Public investment with the returns going back to the public — it’s not
a GND without that.

The Green New Deal resolution smartly avoids a few fights

There some internecine fights within the broad community of climate
hawks that are best left to other venues, in order to keep the
coalition behind a GND as broad and small-c catholic as possible. This
resolution deftly avoids several of those fights.

1) Paying for it

The question of how to pay for the many public investments called for
in the GND is still a bit of a political minefield. There are centrist
Democrats who still believe in the old PAYGO rules, keeping a “balanced
budget” within a 10-year window. There are Democrats who think deficit
fears have been exaggerated and there’s nothing wrong with running a
deficit to drive an economic transition. And there are Democrats who
have gone full Modern Monetary Theory, which is way too complicated to
explain here but amounts to the notion that, short of inflation, the
level of the deficit is effectively irrelevant, as long as we’re
getting the economy we want.

That discussion is just getting underway, and the better part of valor
is to do what the GND resolution does: say nothing about it. Leave it
for later.

2) Clean versus renewable energy

Many, probably most, climate hawks would prefer a future in which all
electricity is provided by renewable energy. (I am among them.) But
there is good-faith disagreement about whether 100 percent renewables
is realistic or economical in the 10-year time frame.

Many, probably most energy analysts believe that renewables will need
to be supplemented with nuclear power or fossil fuels with carbon
capture and sequestration (CCS), but some lefty environmental groups
pushed for the GND to explicitly prohibit them.

As I argued earlier, that would have caused a completely unnecessary
fight. The resolution wisely avoids taking that route.

Instead, it calls for the US to “meet 100 percent of our power demand
through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”

Easy. Now renewables advocates can go right on advocating for
renewables, nuclear fans can go right on advocating for nuclear, and
they can continue fighting it out on Twitter. But their fight doesn’t
need to muck up the GND. The GND targets carbon emissions, which is the
right target for a broad programmatic outline.

3) Carbon pricing

Carbon pricing — carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems — is also the
source of much agita within the climate hawk community. The need to
price carbon has practically been climate orthodoxy for the past few
decades, but lately there’s been something of a lefty backlash.

Some have taken the (sensible) position that climate pricing has been
rather fetishized, that it may not be the smartest political priority
in all cases, and that other policy instruments with more proven
records are equally important. Some have taken the (silly) position
that carbon pricing is bad or counterproductive in and of itself and
pushed to have it excluded from the GND.

The resolution doesn’t take a position. It merely says that the GND
must involve “accounting for the true cost of emissions.” If you’re a
carbon pricing fan (as I am), you can read pricing into that. But there
are other ways to read it too.

Pricing advocates probably would have liked something a little more
muscular there, but in the end, I think the instinct — to avoid the
fight entirely — is the right one. The struggle over how or whether to
prioritize pricing instruments can come later; it doesn’t need to be
settled in advance of getting people on board with the GND.

4) Supply-side policy

Lately, lots of climate activists have been pushing to directly
restrict the supply and distribution of fossil fuels — at the mine,
well, or import terminal — with an eye toward phasing out fossil fuels
entirely. “Keep it in the ground,” as the slogan goes.

This is the leading edge of the climate fight, out ahead of where labor
and most moderates are. Including it in the GND probably would have
sparked some defections.

The GND resolution doesn’t touch the subject, other than calling for
transition assistance for communities losing fossil fuel jobs. And it
calls on the US to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” which
theoretically allows for some fossil fuel combustion coupled with
carbon removal.

The keep-it-in-the-ground crowd is in the same position as the all-
renewables crowd: They may feel some initial disappointment that their
perspective was not reflected in the resolution, but they can take
comfort in the fact that it was not excluded either. The resolution
simply slates that fight as something to take place within the broad
GND coalition, rather than making it part of the price of membership.

All four of these omissions or elisions — these fights postponed —
signal, to me, a movement that is capable of reining in its more
vigorous ideological impulses in the name of building the broadest
possible left coalition behind an ambitious climate solution. That
bodes well.

The Green New Deal resolution omits a few key, wonky policies

There are a few things I would have liked to see feature more
prominently in the resolution. They are somewhat nerdy, but important
in climate policy.

1) Density and public space

Just about the only urban-focused element of the GND resolution is
tucked into the transportation section, calling for “investment in
zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, clean,
affordable, and accessible public transit, and high-speed rail.”

That’s it. Boo.

Creating dense urban areas with ample public spaces and multimodal
transportation options — deprioritizing private automobiles and
reducing overall automobile traffic — serves multiple progressive
goals.

It tackles the next big climate challenge, which is cars. It reduces
urban air pollution, urban noise, and the urban heat island effect,
while increasing physical activity and social contact, all of which
improves the physical and psychological health of urban communities.

It addresses the housing crisis that is crippling many growing cities,
pricing young people, poor people, students, and longtime residents out
of walkable urban cores.

And, if you will forgive some dreamy speculation, a little more public
space might just generate a sense of community and social solidarity to
counteract the segregation, atomization, isolation, and mutual distrust
that cars and suburbs have exacerbated.

I get that GND proponents are spooked about being seen as anti-rural,
which is why these kinds of plans from the left always include
education, training, and transition assistance for rural communities
hurt by decarbonization.

And that’s great. But they should also remember that their core
demographics live in cities and are engaged in urban issues. Cities are
central to any vision of 21st-century sustainability. They deserve
pride of place in a GND.

2) Electrification

It is widely acknowledged in the climate policy community that deep
decarbonization will involve rapid and substantial electrification. We
know how to decarbonize electricity grids — so we need to get
everything we can onto the grid.

That means two big things in particular.

First, the US vehicle fleet needs to be electrified as fast as
practicably possible. The resolution’s “investment in zero-emission
vehicle infrastructure” hints at this, but scarcely conveys the needed
scale and speed.

Second, the millions upon millions of buildings in the US that use
natural gas for heat need to find a zero-carbon alternative, and
quickly. There are some zero-carbon liquid substitute fuels on the
horizon, but for the time being, the best way we know to decarbonize
HVAC (heating, ventilation, and cooling) is to rip out all those
millions of furnaces and replace them with electric heat pumps. That’s
a big, big job that will create a ton of work and directly involve
millions of people’s homes and businesses.

The GND resolution would “upgrade all existing U.S. buildings and build
new buildings, to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency,
safety, affordability, comfort, and durability.” Theoretically that
could imply electrification, but I’d like to see it called out.

[UPDATE February 7, 2019: In between the leaked copy and the final
resolution, a single phrase was added to the sentence quoted above:
“including through electrification.” They’re reading my mind!]

The Green New Deal resolution has a few, er, aspirational inclusions

As I said, most of the resolution consists of goals and policies that
anyone who takes climate change seriously will find necessary. But down
toward the bottom of the list of projects, the resolution really lets
its hair down and gets funky. Readers who make it that far into the
document will find some eyebrow-raising doozies.

Like No. 8: “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate
family and disability leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to
all people of the United States.” Heyo! There’s that job guarantee.

Or No. 9: “strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to
organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion,
intimidation, and harassment.” A full-on right to unionize, okay.

11: “enacting and enforcing trade rules, procurement standards, and
border adjustments with strong labor and environmental protections to
stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas and to grow domestic
manufacturing in the United States.” And there’s a liberal trade
regime.

14: “ensuring a commercial environment where every businessperson is
free from unfair competition and domination by domestic or
international monopolies.” All right, we’re going after monopolies too.

And just to fill in the remaining gaps, 15: “providing all members of
society with high-quality health care, affordable, safe and adequate
housing, economic security, and access to clean water, air, healthy and
affordable food, and nature.” That is quite the addendum!

If you’re keeping score at home, the Green New Deal now involves a
federal job guarantee, the right to unionize, liberal trade and
monopoly policies, and universal housing and health care.

Starting strong, bargaining down

This is just a resolution, not legislation. (I’m pretty sure providing
universal housing and health care would require a couple of bills at
least.) So I’m not really sure how literally these latter requirements
are meant to be read, or how literally those who sign on to the GND
will take them.

If they’re taken literally, then everyone who signs on should get a
welcome letter from the Democratic Socialists of America. If they are
taken as an aspirational list of Good Things, as I suspect they will be
(especially given Markey’s involvement), then many arguments will
remain to be had about just what a GND endorsement means.

But it definitely means something.

“The Green New Deal is what it means to be progressive. Clean air,
clean water, decarbonizing, green jobs, a just transition, and
environmental justice are what it means to a progressive,” Sean McElwee
said. He’s the director of Data Progress, a young think tank whose work
has substantially informed the GND. “By definition that means
politicians who don’t support those goals aren’t progressive. We need
to hold that line. Get on the GND train or choo-choo, motherfucker,
we’re going to go right past you.”

Choo-choo, indeed. As I said in my first post on the Sunrise Movement
protest that got the GND train rolling, I think it is all to the good
that a muscular progressive movement is rallying behind a program
shaped by the problem at hand rather than speculation about what is
politically possible. It is good to start from a position of strength.

And just to be clear, I’m a big fan of universal housing and health
care. But at some point, we have to grapple with the fact that a
solution to climate change will require the support of people who may
not be ready to join the democratic socialist revolution.

Given the two-year time window to get legislation ready and the 10-year
time window to kickstart multiple decarbonization revolutions, the
chances of pulling off a full-scale political revolution beforehand
seem remote.

So there will be a lot of bargaining ahead and some of the dreamier GND
requirements will go overboard for the time being. Perhaps universal
health care will have to be tackled separately.

But take a step back and appreciate: The progressive movement has, in
rather short order, thrust into mainstream US politics a program to
address climate change that is wildly more ambitious than anything the
Democratic Party was talking about even two years ago. One hundred
percent clean energy, investment in new jobs, and a just transition
have gone from activist dreams to the core of the Democratic agenda in
the blink of a political eye. There’s a long way to go, but the GND
train has come farther, faster than anyone could have predicted.

“We are going to transition this country into the future and we are not
going to be dragged behind by our past,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the
press conference Thursday.

With Trump and his attendant chaos, US politics is more disrupted,
uncertain, and malleable than it’s been in my adult lifetime.
Everything is up for grabs. The forces of ethnonationalism and fossil
fuel myopia sense this malleability and are organizing to drag the
country backward. But the malleability can serve a humane progressive
agenda as well; progressives just have to organize better.

The map has been drawn, the path laid out. Now it’s on.


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