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Explainer: What you should know about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal

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What exactly is the Green New Deal?

Yesterday Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) released a proposed resolution titled, “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”

The document is a simple resolution, a proposal that addresses matters entirely within the prerogative of the House of Representatives. It requires neither the approval of the Senate nor the signature of the President, and it does not have the force of law. Simple resolutions concern the rules of one Chamber or express the sentiments of a single Chamber.

This resolution would merely express the opinion of the House on the “duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” Implementing the policies proposed would require additional legislation.

What’s the Green New Deal’s basis for taking action?

The resolution claims that environmental and economic conditions require the federal government to take drastic action.

On the environmental side, the resolution cites the ‘‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC’’, which was produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018, and the Fourth National Climate Assessment, a report released in 2018. Those reports state that human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century, and that a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise, an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities, and critical infrastructure.

On the economic side, the resolution claims a “4-decade trend of economic stagnation, deindustrialization, and antilabor policies” has lead to such problems as wage stagnation, reduced socioeconomic mobility, erosion of the earning and bargaining power of workers, and income inequality.

Additionally, the resolution claims “climate change, pollution, and environmental destruction” pose not only a threat to national security but have “exacerbated systemic racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustices” that are “disproportionately affecting indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.”

The resolution claims that “Federal Government-led mobilizations during World War II and the New Deal created the greatest middle class that the United States has ever seen” and that there is currently a “historic opportunity” to counteract the “systemic injustices” (listed above), create “millions of good, high-wage jobs,” and “provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security.”

What does the Green New Deal propose as a solution?

The resolution proposes to accomplish numerous ‘‘Green New Deal goals’’ through a 10-year national mobilization (referred to in this resolution as the ‘‘Green New Deal mobilization’’), including:

• Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources. [The plan calls for a “full transition off fossil fuels” and “would not include creating new nuclear plants.”]

• Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.

• Removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including by expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and industry.

• Supporting family farming and investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health.

• Overhauling transportation systems to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, including by developing zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, increasing public transportation, and promoting high-speed rail.

What is necessary to implement the Green New Deal goals?

The resolution states that to achieve the Green New Deal goals and mobilization, a Green New Deal will require several additional goals and projects, including:

• Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.

• Providing all people of the United States with high-quality health care.

• Providing all people of the United States with affordable, safe, and adequate housing.

• Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States.

• Providing all people of the United States with economic security and access to clean water and clean air.

• Ensuring that the Green New Deal mobilization creates high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires local workers, offers training and advancement opportunities, and guarantees wage and benefit parity for workers affected by the transition.

What is the proposal for paying for the Green New Deal?

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez proposes paying for by using deficit spending and the Federal Reserve’s power to inject money into the economic system. In the FAQ issued by her staff, she answers the question, “How will you pay for it?” by saying:

The same way we paid for the New Deal, the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs. The same way we paid for World War II and all our current wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit. There is also space for the government to take an equity stake in projects to get a return on investment. At the end of the day, this is an investment in our economy that should grow our wealth as a nation, so the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity.

Does anyone actually support this proposal?

While the resolution is unlikely to gain traction in the Democratic-controlled House, at least six senators who are seeking the Democratic nomination for president have endorsed the proposal: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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