“The scope of the challenges ahead of us shares similarities with the crisis faced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940s. Battling a world war on two fronts – both in the East and the West – the United States came together, and within three short years restructured the entire economy in order to win the war and defeat fascism. As President, Bernie will generate the political will necessary for a wholesale transformation of our society, with support for frontline and vulnerable communities and massive investments in sustainable energy, energy efficiency, and a transformation of our transportation system.”
-from the Sanders campaign’s “The Green New Deal.”
The release a few days ago of Bernie’s Green New Deal proposal, all 67 pages of it, was a big deal that is only going to get bigger as more and more people read it and come to appreciate how important it is.
This is a visionary proposal. There is a lot of detail, and that is important, but most important is that this is a proposal which articulates the urgency of our situation regarding the climate crisis and then puts forward a comprehensive and understandable set of actions which could actually get us out of it. This set of proposals is at the scale of the problem.
Not surprisingly for someone who is about a grassroots-based political revolution, some of the proposals are clearly outside the mainstream of Democrat and Republican politics and policy. At first reading it’s hard not to think, wow, does he really think we can make this happen?
But on second thought it’s kind-of like Medicare for All, or tuition-free public colleges, or a $15/hour minimum wage. When those ideas were first brought forward, who would have thought that a few years later they would have become the focal point of political debate not just on the political left but in the country as a whole, and in the case of the $15/hour minimum wage actually starting to happen? And let’s not forget that with catastrophic climate change staring down the gun barrel at human society, there will undoubtedly be a willingness to consider proposals that in another time there would not be.
What are some of Bernie’s major ideas?
-Publicly-owned “Federal Power Marketing Administrations,” PMAs, which were first created by FDR to bring inexpensive electricity to the country. Between four existing PMA’s, the Tennessee Valley Authority and a new PMA to be created, they will “build more than enough wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants,” through investment of $2.34 trillion. “Together with an EPA federal renewable energy standard, this will fully drive out non-sustainable generation.”
-Build a “truly inclusive movement that prioritizes young people, workers, indigenous peoples, communities of color and other historically marginalized groups to take on the fossil fuel industry and other polluters to push this over the finish line and lead the globe in solving the climate crisis.”
-“Take on the fossil fuel billionaires whose greed lies at the very heart of the climate crisis. Bernie promises to go further than any other presidential candidate in history to end the fossil fuel industry’s greed, including by making the industry pay for its pollution and prosecuting it for the damage it has caused.”
-“End unemployment by creating 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis, in steel and auto manufacturing, construction, energy efficiency retrofitting, coding and server farms, renewable power plants, sustainable agriculture, a reimagined and expanded Civilian Conservation Corps and preserving our public lands.”
-Ban fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining. No longer export any fossil fuels. End all new federal fossil fuel infrastructure permits. Keep fossil fuels in the ground. Phase out coal and natural gas plants, both base generation and backup (peaker) plants. Spend $100 billion to decrease the cost of a new electric vehicle to $18,000.
-Reorganize federal agencies to prepare for destructive climate impacts and the clean energy economy, and eliminate offices and resources historically used to facilitate the fossil fuel industry: Specific agencies to be reorganized: DOE, DOI, BLM, BSEF, BOEM, EIA, FERC and FEMA.
-Reject “false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration or trash incineration.”
-A just transition for workers: “guarantee five years of salary, housing assistance, job training, health care, pension support and priority job placement for any displaced worker. . . Jobs created through this plan will, to the extent feasible, be good-wage, union jobs. In order to do that we must protect the rights of all workers to form a union and collectively bargain.”
-“Instead of accepting that the world’s countries will spend $1.5 trillion annually on weapons of destruction, Bernie will convene global leaders to redirect our priorities to confront our shared enemy: climate change. The Pentagon is the largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and the United States spends $81 billion annually to protect oil supplies and transport routes. We are uniquely positioned to lead the planet in a wholesale shift away from militarism.”
There is much more in this hope-for-the-future proposal. It addresses the transformation of farming “to develop ecologically regenerative farming systems that sharply reduce emissions.” It proposes funding to connect consumers with local farms and healthy foods, for cooperatively owned grocery stores and to incentivize schools procuring locally produced foods. “Establish a nationwide materials recycling program and reinstate the [FDR-created] Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of the most successful New Deal programs and the most rapid peacetime mobilization in American history.” It says that “the first two years of this plan will be spent very aggressively laying down a social safety net to ensure that no one is left behind.”
This big and bold proposal has already begun to be criticized by centrist and corporate-connected Democrats, and it certainly is going to be attacked by the Republicans. Just like Medicare for All, efforts will be made to paint this as wildly radical and impossible.
There will also be constructive criticism and ideas for how to improve upon it. Based upon how Bernie and his campaigns have operated going back to 2015, I am sure good-faith input will be welcomed and seriously considered.
To Bernie Sanders and everyone else who worked on and put this Green New Deal proposal together: thank you, thank you, thank you. This really is a very big deal.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist, organizer and writer since 1968. His main focus of work since 2003 has been on the climate crisis. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.