The Green New Deal plan proposed jointly by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Ed Markey has been attacked not only by Donald Trump and Republicans but by incrementalist Democrats who never seem to realize that one must stake out bold positions initially if one is to shift the debate away from the status quo. As I said in a comment to my post on senator Diane Feinstein’s dismissive attitude to the children who urged her to sign on to the GND, in negotiations, you have to start out with the maximal position and then bargain down from there. That is how you push the envelope. It is because of this kind of relentless pushing by Bernie Sanders that the ideas of higher minimum wages, Medicare for all, and affordable college tuition, derided just four years ago as being unrealistic, are now embraced by nearly all Democratic presidential candidates.
Republicans understand that maximalist game and play it all the time. Too many Democrats like Feinstein start out with what they think the opposition will accept and then get beaten down even further. It has happened so many times (the debate over Obamacare was a great example) that I think it is not that they are stupid, but a strategy. They like portraying themselves as being ‘pragmatic’ and ‘incremental’ because it pleases their big money donor base since nothing really changes.
But what about the economics of the GND? Jeffrey Sachs, professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, says that its critics are wrong and that the proposals it advocates are feasible and affordable. He says that the plan has three main goals.
The first is to decarbonize the US energy system — that is, to end the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil and natural gas, in order to stop global warming.
The second is to guarantee lower-cost, high-quality health coverage for all.
The third is to ensure decent jobs and living standards for all Americans, in part by making colleges and vocational schools affordable for all.
The right wing and corporate lobbies are already hyperventilating: It is unachievable; it will bankrupt us; it will make us into Venezuela.
These claims are dead wrong. The Green New Deal agenda is both feasible and affordable. This will become clear as the agenda is turned into specific legislation for energy, health care, higher education, and more.
The key ideas of the Green New Deal — decarbonization, lower-cost health care, and decent living standards for the working class — have been studied for years. The Green New Deal Resolution is the opportunity, finally, to put that vast knowledge into effect.
What is absolutely clear is that the Green New Deal is affordable. The claims about the unaffordability of these goals are pure hype. The detailed plans that will emerge in the coming months will expose the bluster.
The Green New Deal proponents are absolutely correct on the merits. Decarbonization, Medicare for All, debt-free higher education, and other social benefits are feasible, affordable, and smart. They will deliver great savings in the case of health care, environmental benefits in the case of decarbonization, and renewed social mobility in the case of debt-free higher education.
Sachs goes on to detail his arguments as to why the GND is a good plan for the future.
Sachs is an interesting case. He has been a consultant to governments around the world. When I read his 2005 book The End of Poverty, he seemed to be pushing what I considered standard western establishment policies on poverty reduction. I wouldn’t have labeled him as a neoliberal but he came close. But over time he has changed and become far more radical, pushing for aggressive measures to combat the vast and growing inequalities that he sees occurring around the world and the danger that lack of action on the climate poses.