Green New Deal: Game-changer or gimmick?

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Speed Read

Who: Climate activists have been pushing for a Green New Deal-type plan for years, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has become one of its most outspoken proponents. She was joined by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and they officially unveiled their proposal on Feb. 7.

What: The Green New Deal is an ambitious proposal to overhaul and energize the American economy and to implement a road map for battling climate change. The plan calls for a huge cut in greenhouse gas emissions, upgrading existing buildings, shifting power generation to 100 percent renewables, creating millions of jobs and ensuring access to clean water. The resolution — which is likely to be incorporated into a number of individual bills — is supported by a dozen Democratic senators and over 60 House members.

When: Considering that many of the top Democratic candidates for president (including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker) have come out in support of the deal, it will be discussed throughout the campaign. But the earliest it could plausibly be passed into law is January 2021 — and that would be if Democrats recapture the Senate and White House in 2020.

Why: The world’s leading experts on climate change projected last October that world governments had until only 2030 to institute major changes that could stave off catastrophic warming while a study released last week projected that carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere might reach levels not seen in 56 million years. In addition to heading off a global environmental disaster, the Green New Deal might also be politically savvy. A recent poll found that 83 percent of likely Democratic voters in early primary states are more likely to support a candidate who backs the Green New Deal. A December survey found that 29 percent of Americans said they were alarmed about global warming, double the number in a 2013 poll.

What’s next: Democrats will work to make the case that climate change is as serious a threat as scientists say and that the Green New Deal is the best plan to combat it. It’s unclear whether Republicans will offer an alternative plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says he plans to call a vote on the resolution in the coming weeks, although he, and most other Republicans, are not expected to support it. Political observers say McConnell’s intention is to force Democrats to take a potentially risky stand, either for or against the proposition.


Environmentalist policy is strong economic policy.

“The Green New Deal isn’t the only approach, of course, but its broad ambitions mark out the ground where future climate fights will happen. Because reshaping our environmental impact means reworking our economy, there will inevitably be competing visions about who deserves to benefit and what kind of economy we should build. Centrist proposals will concentrate on promoting investment in new technologies, with profits going, pharma-style, to private researchers and manufacturers.” — Jedediah Britton-Purdy, New York Times

The Green New Deal would be disastrous for jobs.

“There’s never been a more economically destructive, job-killing, environmentally harmful, costly and impractical proposal that has drawn so much support from members of Congress and White House hopefuls. Not only is the Green New Deal impossible to achieve. Just trying to accomplish its absurd and harmful goals could send our nation into another Great Depression, throw millions of Americans out of work, and turn the American Dream into a nightmare.” — Justin Haskins, Fox News

Ignore the critics, the deal is both feasible and affordable.

“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.” — Jeffrey Sachs, CNN

“Critics will undoubtedly argue that we cannot afford the Green New Deal. This line of attack, however, ignores the costs of inaction. While the Green New Deal will not be cheap, its price pales in comparison to the damage that unchecked climate change will inflict on the economy. This argument also ignores the savings that will result from the push toward clean energy innovation under the Green New Deal. The development of cheaper clean technologies should more than offset the costs of the stimulus package.” — Quentin Karpilow and Zachary Liscow, The Hill

The kickoff was bungled, but the Green New Deal is already changing the national conversation on climate for the good.

“Whatever becomes of the plan, it will have moved climate change — a serious issue that has had serious trouble gaining traction — to a commanding position in the national conversation. That alone is reason to applaud it.” — Editorial Board, New York Times

The Green New deal is actually a bad idea, not just a botched rollout.

“But the trouble with the Green New Deal wasn’t just an unvetted fact sheet. As Mike Pesca points out, very few environmental experts consider the targets laid out in the plan to be remotely attainable. Climate change experts have called for zeroing out emissions in the power sector by 2050, while the Green New Deal proposes doing so by 2030. On what basis does it maintain the time frame can be accelerated by two-thirds? It does not say. If my plan for retirement is to have a million dollars in the bank when I’m 70, and then I decide the new plan is to have a million dollars when I’m 50, is that ‘progress’? Or just empty sloganeering?” — Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

Most of what’s in the Green New Deal is make-believe.

“What’s not well appreciated is that the Green New Deal also would require a host of nonenergy changes. As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center notes, it is ‘an ambitious manifesto demanding — among other things — a massive infrastructure initiative, a guaranteed job with a ‘family-sustaining wage,’ and universal access to high-quality health care, affordable housing, economic security, high-quality education, and healthy food.’ Granting the usual congressional penchant for exaggeration, this is still over-the-top. Most of it is make-believe. No one knows how much the program would cost. Gleckman says it would be ‘staggering.’ The total would easily run to trillions of dollars.” — Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post

Republicans are hating on the Green New Deal, but they should be trying to compete with it.

“Conservatives and Republicans take for granted that the liberal Democrats’ “Green New Deal” is so obviously out of the mainstream that the general public must, must, must see it as a joke. It’s that kind of thinking that cost Republicans the 2012 election, and the kind that rendered the Bush-Paul Ryan wing of the GOP obsolete in 2016. … It’s true that the “Green New Deal” proposal is unworkable and would cripple America’s productivity. Congressional Democratic leadership knows that. But, if there’s no alternative to a proposal that at least on the surface sounds like an attempt to advance the country, why would anyone expect voters to accept the status quo?” — Eddie Scarry, Washington Examiner

As proposed, the Green New Deal is weakened by muddling the mission on climate with jobs.

“But the goal is so fundamental that policymakers should focus above all else on quickly and efficiently decarbonizing. They should not muddle this aspiration with other social policy, such as creating a federal jobs guarantee, no matter how desirable that policy might be. And the goal is so monumental that the country cannot afford to waste dollars in its pursuit. If the market can redirect spending most efficiently, money should not be misallocated on vast new government spending or mandates.” — Editorial Board, Washington Post

Democrats should welcome the Green New Deal vote to show they are the strong party on reform for climate change.

“So let McConnell stage his vote. Let Trump issue his best adolescent gibes. Catastrophic climate events will continue to shatter complacency. Costs will continue to rise — in lives, in refugees, in property damage, in entire regions and countries destabilized. Across the world, citizen movements are rising to demand action. In this country, activists will challenge the deniers and demand that leaders get real about how they would address the threat. Just as Occupy Wall Street provided President Barack Obama the core of a new populist message, so the young organizers driving the GND may well help the next Democratic candidate create a message that will build a broad coalition for enduring change.” — Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post

The Green New Deal is the first step in a long battle.

“Rather, the GND is a set of sketched-out goals; a flag to rally support around for what its authors surely know will be a multi-year, and grinding, political battle. As ClearView Energy Partners put it in a report on the GND — coming as it does from a master of social media in our increasingly clickable political culture — this is about “counting likes (not votes).” By marrying environmental objectives with issues related to economic insecurity, Ocasio-Cortez and Markey are attempting to recast the doom-laden threat of climate change as an opportunity for economic and national renewal — a stance that mixes FDR liberalism with dashes of America First populism.” — Liam Denning, Bloomberg

The Green New Deal is flawed, but could force United States to finally take action.

“As a vision statement for the progressive left, the New Green Deal is admirable, but also largely unreachable. The difficult question is not ‘Do you support social justice?’ or ‘Do you oppose poverty?’ but ‘How do you fix those in a cautious, money-dominated, politically polarized, uncertain nation like ours?’ More significantly, why laden a clarion call for revolutionary action on climate change — which has wide popular support, according to polls — with attenuated social justice measures that can be more fractious?” — Editorial board, Los Angeles Times

What is and isn’t in the Green New Deal.

“It’s worth noting just what a high-wire act the authors of this resolution are attempting. It has to offer enough specifics to give it real shape and ambition, without overprescribing solutions or prejudging differences over secondary questions. It has to please a diverse range of interest groups, from environmental justice to labor to climate, without alienating any of them. It has to stand up to intense scrutiny (much of it sure to be bad faith), with lots of people gunning for it from both the right and center.” — David Roberts, Vox