Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been in the spotlight for a number of reasons lately: her far-left politics, her youth, and her interesting usage of social media. One of her most interesting and important proposals is that of a “Green New Deal.” This proposal has been flirted with by left-wing politicians on numerous occasions, but is now in the public eye in a way that it never has been before. In fact, several important contenders for the 2020 presidential election (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker…) have openly declared their support for the Green New Deal.
So what is the Green New Deal?
The phrase, “the Green New Deal”, is not particularly specific. But from those three words, we can deduce a few important hints:
- ) Green: “making less harmful or more sensitive to the environment”
- ) New Deal: “ a series of programs and projects instituted during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that aimed to restore prosperity to Americans.”
It is important to avoid mistaking conflating this with a purely environmental program. The Green New Deal (to be further referred to as the “GND”) is, as can be inferred from its name, as much a pro-labor political program as it is a set of environmentalist policy propositions.
The Roosevelt-era New Deal was built on the premise of Keynesian economics, seeking to end the Great Depression by stimulating the economy with massive government jobs programs & increased consumer spending. Notable legislation included:
- The Civilian Conservation Corps, hiring millions of workers to improve & conserve the environment in government-held land.
- The Social Security Act, creating a contributory social fund to provide for the elderly.
- The Tennessee Valley Authority Act, creating an entity designed to create massive amounts of public power plants in the Tennessee Valley (and employing a substantial number of people).
The GND aims to apply the economic principles underlying the original New Deal to the fight against climate change and the degradation of the American environment. Not everybody agrees on what exactly the GND will consist of, but common policy planks include:
- A federal jobs guarantee, employing people in large-scale infrastructure programs in renewable energy, environmental sustainability, low-emission transportation, and so on.
- Social democratic welfare policies, including universal healthcare, public daycare, and expanded social security.
- Expanded labor rights, including an end to “Right to work” policies & the strengthening of labor unions.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aims to transition to a 100% renewable energy economy within 10 years of the legislation passing.
Who supports the Green New Deal?
A number of high-profile politicians, activists, and organizations have come out in support of the Green New Deal. Supporters include:
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, controversial congresswoman from New York.
- Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel-winning economist.
- Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts.
- Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey.
- Rashida Tlaib, Representative from Michigan.
- Van Jones, left-wing environmental activist.
- Al Gore, former Democratic presidential candidate.
- Ilhan Omar, Representative from Minnesota.
- Paul Krugman, Nobel-winning economist.
- Jill Stein, former Green Party presidential candidate.
Arguments for & against the Green New Deal
The Green New Deal is a particularly controversial topic. It has been described by some as a “trojan horse for socialism”, and by others as absolutely necessary to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Those on the left support the program because they argue that it is essential to tackling climate change. Moreover, it is essentially a goody-bag of left-wing policies designed to tackle the very issues that the party has united around solving, such as income inequality, poverty, & the impending climate crisis.
Those on the right criticize the GND for the very high anticipated price tag, the necessary expansion of the federal government, and the small likelihood of it even achieving its goals.
The future of the Green New Deal
The GND is becoming increasingly popular. It polls highly among Americans, and has a number of high-profile supporters. The media is captivated by the idea, and it is possible that our next president may very well be a supporter.
The scale of such a program, however, ensures that it will face brutal opposition. The GOP, among which are many explicit climate deniers, will surely stand united against it. It’s support within the Democratic party is certainly not universal, and many within the party will seek to hamstring any legislation that is put forward.
Only time will tell how this program fares. Perhaps it will pass and drag us out of the Great Depression of our era. Perhaps it will pass and be a total flop, doing little but costing the American taxpayers. Perhaps it will be killed before it even passes.
We will find out.