What do we want? A “Green New Deal”

Bumped! This is the most important issue for the 116th Congress, and younger voters make clear to anyone who listens that it is the most important issue of their lifetimes. The center of gravity on this issue has already passed to young voters – no, they have seized it, as is their right – and they are making reasonable demands – on Congress, and on all of us. The Green New Deal is sensible. Focused. Bold. So where are our New Jersey congressional representatives?  – Bumped by Rosi

Sen. Cory Booker has joined the call for a “Green New Deal” to attack climate change. So has Elizabeth Warren who put it in her Presidential Platform, and Beto O’Rourke who likes how it invests in green jobs. Bernie Sanders is another enthusiast who explains, “We we are trying to be part of the revolution to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and to not only save the planet but create millions of good-paying jobs in the process.” The Green Party is the one party which so far wholeheartedly supports the plan.

The Green New Deal is a proposed economic stimulus program to address both economic inequality and climate change. Its origins go back to Thomas Friedman who in 2007 started calling for a “Green New Deal” to end fossil fuel subsidies, tax carbon dioxide emissions and create lasting incentives for wind and solar energy. Today with climate change-denier Trump and his henchmen wreaking havoc there are even more reasons to take this proposal seriously and enact vigorous new policies.  

Rising support for this approach must shape the work of the House’s climate legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended her hand to the party’s energized left wing by reviving the Select Committee on Climate Change. However, the committee will not have authority to approve legislation and is not expected to have subpoena power – unlike its 2007 version. Activists and the incoming class of social democrats want something much bolder. Nearly 40 House Democrats agree that the committee should focus its efforts on making the Green New Deal a reality. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The coming battle will test progressives’ clout against the Democratic establishment. Why? Among other reasons it would prohibit congresspeople from accepting donations from fossil fuel companies. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is floating an income tax rate as high as 60 to 70 percent on the highest-earning Americans to pay for the program. Seems obviously crazy, right? Well, it was policy, as Paul Krugman points out, in United States for 35 years after World War II – including the most successful period of economic growth in our history. Ocasio-Cortez has issued a draft bill. She calls for the select committee to “have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan for the transition of the US economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans, and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.” It’s an ambitious and comprehensive proposal that demands our attention. 

Our NJ congressional delegation so far has talked about climate change but said almost nothing about the Green New Deal. On Saturday even Rep. Jeff VanDrew called for “12,000 Signatures Needed Before Midnight”: to Demand Congress Take Action on Climate Change. His concern is to protect our coastal communities, but it seems unlikely he would be an outright enthusiast for the Green New Plan. Rep. Frank Pallone, now chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, promises to combat climate change and announced plans to investigate the Trump administration’s sweeping rollback of environmental regulations. However, he and other top Democrats had opposed creating a House climate change committee, preferring to shepherd any related legislation through the existing committee structure.

Even before Ocasio-Cortez, the Sunrise group has led the movement – seen on the left and in the preview picture while inside the halls of congress. Founded a year and a half ago by a dozen or so twentysomethings, it has established itself as a significant influence on the environmental policy of the Democrat’s young, progressive wing. 1,000 young people held 3 simultaneous sit-ins in Democratic leadership offices for a Green New Deal on December 20. One young activist said,

“We know, from looking at history, that transformation of the scale demanded by science has only happened under two conditions in our history. First, when the public has united to address a clear and present threat, and, second, when political leaders have put forward solutions that clearly address that threat.”

What do we want? We want a Green New Deal. We can’t expect Republican Senate members or President Trump to be immediately enthused, but even they, as evidence mounts, are running out of excuses. We can and must expect that the House step up to the challenge. Let’s encourage strong public support for Green New Deal’s mission, urge our congresspersons to embrace its principles with a comprehensive plan, and then move to enact needed legislation.

Credits: Preview image:Jim LoScalzo/EPA-EFE Shuterstock; Green New Deal: Ji Sub Jeong/Huffiest

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