Viewpoint: America needs a Green New Deal, though not necessarily AOC’s

Scientists say we have only 12 years to save the planet from catastrophic floods, drought, famine, and if you think refugees are a problem now, just wait when 200 million are forced away from homes because of rising sea levels.

Think Noah and the ark that killed off all but two by two of animal life.

Now comes the Green New Deal – the name captures the sense of urgency, the scale of plight, and the fact that we’ve tried leaving it solely up to capitalists who have rigged the market in order to preserve their wealth and power, and now it’s time for something else.

Since Republicans have rejected, torpedoed, sabotaged the practical and productive solutions advanced by President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (Clean Power Plan, Paris Climate Accord, higher fuel standards), and now are determined to reverse, not merely hold, course to address climate change.
Republicans want to re-create 1950s society and all that implies – when it was legal to discriminate against gender, race, religion; when McCarthy demagogued a Red Scare.

They have left no choice but to go all New Deal. It’s physics: every action causes an equal reaction. It’s the swing of a pendulum.

We absolutely need a New Deal on the scale of FDR – public-private partnerships that built the Hoover Dam, Lincoln Tunnel, Triborough Bridge and LaGuardia Airport and created the Tennessee Valley Authority to bring low-cost electricity to impoverished rural areas.

At the same time, Roosevelt addressed the larger societal issues that produced income disparities – banking reform, Social Security, minimum wage. Reminder: America didn’t sink into communism, despite McCarthy’s malignant hysteria, but instead became a global Superpower with the highest standard of living in the world– until Trump.

The Green New Deal seeks to emulate FDR’s New Deal to address the existential climate crisis, which indeed, goes beyond how we power our society, but to who turns control over that power and profit to control political power.

It is as much about social, economic and political justice, as environmental justice. That’s why they have attached such “radical” measures as calling for minimum wage, universal health care, a guaranteed job or a guaranteed income.

They are summoning the urgency of the Great Depression and World War II when Americans recognized their patriotic duty to conserve resources, ration food, shut off lights.

And you can understand why they are going all out: because trying to be accommodating to conservatives (Obamacare was built upon the conservative Heritage Foundation model and the Clean Power Plan gave enormous discretion to states to meet carbon-reduction standards) only brought the same charges: Socialism! Class Warfare! and lawsuits.

So why not go whole hog?

But progressives, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democratic Socialist!) who are now making the Green New Deal their own litmus test – are self-defeating by insisting on the very ambiguous things that would make climate action radioactive, rather than a well-defined plan (like the Affordable Care Act).

By mashing up everything under the sun– a guaranteed federal job, guaranteed income, universal health care – that should be addressed separately, they are making what should be critical, essential policy radioactive, making it easy for Republicans in the palm of Big Oil, to rattle voodoo dolls and inspire fear and loathing from the 50 percent of Americans under the spell of Fox propaganda. America would become Venezuela!

This is Obamacare with all the fallacies and fears (death panels!), on steroids. Instead of explaining and defending the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are doing the same thing again: letting Trump and the Republicans define and caricature a Green New Deal.

Here’s a simpler explanation that Democrats should use:

First: the United States faces nearly $1 trillion in disaster relief from recent climate catastrophes including this year’s California wildfires ($400 billion), last year’s Hurricane Maria, Michael, Florence and other “1,000-year superstorms” that are coming with astonishing ferocity and frequency; hundreds of lives have been lost; whole communities, like Paradise, California, destroyed, creating tens of thousands of climate refugees (Puerto Ricans coming to your neighborhood, where they can vote!).

Add the cost of the public health impacts from extreme weather, air pollution, contaminated ground and drinking water, food-borne diseases, heat-related illnesses – impacting productivity, medical costs, and premature death. Finally, add in the higher cost for food, water, and housing.

Second: the United States faces more than $6 TRILLION just to repair its obsolete infrastructure – roads, bridges, water systems, sewage treatment, electricity grid.

Meanwhile, every other country around the world is making technological advances to shift their economies to clean, renewable energy – even oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia. The US will be stuck in the 19th century with dirty, aging, inefficient systems. American products – cars, machines – will be shunned on the global market (China, the biggest market in the world, moving to require electric vehicles).

Why not marry those things: as we make the necessary repairs, transition our communities, our society, our economy, to clean, renewable energy and a sustainable structure?

As jobs in coal mining and oil delivery are replaced, retrain and if necessary relocate workers (as Americans have always done, since the first settlers arrived). There already are more jobs in renewable energy than carbon – 374,000 solar energy workers, compared to 187,000 for coal, gas and oil power generation combined.

That is where future prosperity and quality of life lie. But just saying “a guaranteed federal job” will only scare the beejeebies out of those who want nothing better than to shrink government to a size it can be flushed down a toilet.

Indeed, the annual expenditure for infrastructure development – $1.5 trillion – matches the amount of money the tax cut shifted into the pockets of the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

That money should be clawed back and invested in America’s, the planet’s and humankind’s future sustainability.

Though states – like New York’s own Green New Deal – and localities have taken up much of the responsibility for climate action, the federal government must play a role: the electric grid crosses state boundaries; regulations are needed to level the playing field so that dirty-fuel polluters can’t operate more cheaply than others who do the right thing; the government should offer incentives and tax benefits for research, development, and business start-ups.

As it is, Trump’s EPA has virtually shut down enforcement against polluters.

As I recall, Noah’s neighbors were equally skeptical and did not get on board; hence they drowned or starved. Think of the Green New Deal as a 21st Century Ark.

About the author

Karen Rubin

Share this Article