Deconstructing The Green New Deal


by Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity:

Despite serious flaws, it sparks a needed conversation

The Green New Deal (GND) is important as a starting point to have a long, long overdue conversation about energy. Specifically: How are we going to eventually transition away from fossil fuels?

As such, the proposal — while (very) far from perfect — should not be ignored and deserves our attention.

It’s also important because it represents the sorts of zig-zags our social and political paths are inceasingly likely to take in the coming future as we’re forced to face our looming economic, ecological and energy-related predicaments.

A Symptom Of A Global Disease

The GND is emblematic of the same pressures that brought about the election of Trump, the Yellow Vests in France, Brexit in the UK, the Catalonia breakaway in Spain, the rise of populism in Italy, and the fracturing of the Middle East.

Growing numbers of people are beginning to understand that the outbreak of these social movements share a common cause: the loss of sufficient economic growth to fund both the upper and lower stratas of society.

There simply isn’t enough “growth” left for everyone to share in it.  Surplus economic production requires surplus net energy.  As we’ve been chronicaling for years, there’s now less and less of that to go around.

And because the wealthy won the class war a long time ago, anemic economic growth combined with a bought-and-piad for political system translates into less and less for the many and more and more for the few.

That is an explosive mix. Eventually it will prove to be the end of ‘good old days’ unless it is self-corrected extremely soon — though don’t hold your breath.  There are precious few historical examples of the wealthy figuring out in time that they’ve gone too far, assumed too much, and shared too little:

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.

Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason. But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right.

John Kenneth Galbraith – in The Age of Uncertainty

Given that backdrop, we’re interested in the GND as an indicator of where we are in the great swinging of the socio-political pendulum.

FYI: there’s already been some excellent discussion on the proposal in the Peak Prosperity forums, which is definitely worth checking out as accompanying reading to this article.

What Exactly Is The “Green New Deal”?

Here’s the skinny.  The GND was introduced on February 7th, 2019 with 64 House Democrat and 9 Senate Democrat cosponsors.

From it’s accompanying fact sheet, the resolution is “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all.”

So far so good.  While we don’t think 10 years is anywhere close to a workable time frame — it’s much too fast to get to ‘net zero’ emissions (meaning planes and cows are still emitting, for example, but new farming practices are absorbing an equal amount) — we completely agree with the idea that it’s so late in the game that we need something like the mass mobilization of effort seen in WW II.  Only it might need to be that large, plus an Apollo mission, and a Manhattan project in order to succeed.

Here’s the language in the bill:

In (A) it’s not clear what a ‘just and fair transition’ means for all communities and workers.  There will be winners and losers as there are in any massive economic transformation.  Some jobs won’t make sense in an energy-transformed future, and neither will some far-flung communities.   This sort of vagueness of meaning, let alone intent, makes the proposal hard to assess in terms of cost, scalability or political feasibility.

We’ll get to the massive issues involved in an energy transition shortly (and they are legendary.) But, first let’s get through the rest of the bill.

Section (B) leaves us really scratching our heads as we’re a big believer in jobs but we’re really not fans of the idea of government providing make-work just for the sake of keeping people busy. And we’re definitely opposed to the concept of “giveaway money” aka Universal Basic Income. As the accompanying fact sheet says, part of the envisioned deal is to provide “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.”  The emphasis is mine, but the idea of providing economic security for those unwilling to work strikes us as a particularly bad idea.  Of course, we’re against corporate handouts and bank bailouts, too.

In (C), above, we at Peak Prosperity are in strong agreement with the principle of investing in infrastructure, as well as sustainably meeting the challenges of the 21st century. But lacking any more detail than that, there’s not much more to say besides “we think we support this!”  But we’re not actually sure.  Also, it’s not really the “duty” of the federal government to invest in industry, as that’s really not its strong point.

But, with a gun to our heads, if you asked us if we’d rather see the next $1 trillion of government dollars flow into bank bailouts or into infrastructure, we’d pick the latter in a skinny minute.

Here’s the next paragraph:

To which we reply yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.  Put us down for all of that.  And also, motherhood and apple pie.  And puppies.

Again, the devil will be in the details. And, again, there are none to be found here (yet).  Just fine and worthy aspirations.

How exactly the government will go about assuring any of these things is unknown at this point. For sure, it will require a lot of healthy debate and planning.

Still, to recognize progress, just seeing such values put in print at the federal level is a welcome development. This can be taken as a good sign if it truly means we are finally beginning to invite proper national discussion about the essentials that actually matter to us and future generations.

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