The Green New Deal is what our planet has been waiting for

Since she took office in January, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez, Thunberg, Rapinoe make BBC's 100 most inspiring women of 2019 Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey endorses Biden Democratic strategist on Sanders debate performance: 'I just think he might've topped out' MORE’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal initiative has generated much popular excitement. It's no surprise since it is the single most ambitious and potentially transformative national project since Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal and World War II mobilizations of the early-mid-20th century.

The Green New Deal is animated by two great ambitions.

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It is “Green” in its aim to modernize and decarbonize the U.S. economy. It's focused on stopping the poisoning of our environment, subsidizing decaying infrastructure and sacrificing poor and working class communities to false wealth that benefits only a few.

 

It is a “New Deal” in its working on a scale not seen since the New Deal of the 1930s — an historic national reconstruction that put scores of millions of Americans back into productive and high-paying jobs and transformed our economy into the greatest engine of production and broadly shared prosperity the world had ever known.

Every project in the Green New Deal’s portfolio will invest in workers, businesses, communities and thus the entire nation. The plan calls for and enables America’s whole society to participate in a single great national aim: the expeditious transition to a forward-looking society of broad opportunity, equal justice, productive prosperity and environmental sustainability.

The Green New Deal comprises a full menu of mutually complementary and critically necessary projects. All will contribute to the restoration of a just, prosperous and sustainable economy that treats all Americans as valued members of our society and treats our environment as our home. These products include, among others:

  1. Building “smart,” energy-efficient national power grids to transition to renewable power, including energy storage solutions and technologies and improvements that overlap with all of the other Green New Deal projects.
  2. Overhauling America’s transportation systems to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation from transportation.
  3. Replacing carbon-emitting electricity generation with wind, solar and other renewables. Also expanding existing renewable power sources and deploying new production and storage capacity to meet 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources.
  4. Upgrading residential and industrial buildings for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety, creating millions of new high-wage jobs in every community and fostering ownership by communities.
  5. Investing in and working with U.S. industry to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from production.
  6. Investing in and working with American farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
  7. Making adequate capital, technical expertise and other forms of assistance available to all communities, organizations and corporations in the nation, especially those that have historically gone underserved.
  8. Making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States and promoting global cooperation and exchange of “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services to encourage a global Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal will be funded as all other ambitious American projects through history have been, from national development through war efforts to tax cuts. That is to say, through carefully targeted Congressionally authorized spending, lending, loan-guaranteeing and even joint-venturing.

This does not require “new taxes” or “more debt” while inflation is nonexistent. And since (a) well over $5 trillion in tax cut and war expenditures in recent years have not triggered inflation, (b) the Fed has yet to get inflation consistently up to its 2 percent target and (c) the Green New Deal will produce new goods to keep pace with and absorb its expenditures, there is no more reason to let conservative fear-mongering halt progress here than there was to let it halt wars or tax cuts.     

The Green New Deal also will mark an improvement on its nearest predecessor mobilizations — those of the New Deal and WWII. 

These earlier mobilizations brought progress and prodigious improvements to American and global life. They were also marred by both racist and sexist implementation — the product of compromises made with conservative politicians to obtain Congressional cooperation.

Ocasio-Cortez’s plan will not allow this to happen again. The Green New Deal will go out of its way to protect America’s historically wronged communities. All American communities will receive particular attention where new infrastructure, environmental restoration, investment and wealth-building opportunity are concerned.

The United States has shown time and again that it can do “big things” when it “thinks big.” For too many decades the nation has been “led” either by small-minded people with small-hearted aims or by broad-minded people with unfounded fears. Many individuals and firms, in the face of this leadership vacuum, have understandably sat back and waited, hoping for things to get better.

The result is malaise and stagnation, with wealth concentrating ever more densely at the top, poverty overwhelming the bottom and insecurity menacing the middle. Meanwhile the planet is burning, threatening humanity and indeed most forms of life with extinction.

All we’ve been waiting for throughout this decline is good faith, clear vision and passionate leadership. The faith, vision and passion are now here, the barriers have been broken and we shall move forward.

Robert Hockett is a professor of law and finance at Cornell University. He is an adviser to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)