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Stephen Gottlieb: New Year's Wish For The Green New Deal

For my own peace of mind I’m going to go ahead with the commentary I planned about global warming rather than the latest anti-American actions of the person in the White House, so:

My New Year’s wish is to solve our climate change problem across the board. We need a Green New Deal and mustn’t let fear stop us from solving the biggest existential problem facing America. Climate change already floods homes in the Mississippi valley and New Orleans, burns Californians out of theirs, bankrupts farmers, and is sinking Florida, Cape Cod, lowland cities, coastal property, and handing us huge bills just to rebuild those areas without slowing the impact of climate change.

The Green New Deal is a resolution, not a statute, and needs work to fill it out. To summarize an elaborate proposal, the Resolution would make it a federal duty to “eliminat[e] pollution … greenhouse gas[es]” and other sources of climate change “as much as technologically feasible,” and build clean replacement technology in ways that support new jobs, family farming and healthier living. The online text of this commentary includes links to the Resolution’s text and the New York Times’ excellent description of its provisions.

Descriptions by political critics are full of nonsense. Every aspect of the Green New Deal builds on existing technologies and puts money and resources into getting them into operation. One of my relatives tracks the advantages and immanent crossover to electric over gas-guzzling cars, initially driven by regulation and incentives but now with a life of its own. One of our friends has been deeply involved in capturing greenhouse gasses from dairy farms and other livestock operations. The Green New Deal is absolutely doable. What’s missing are the incentives.

We can afford the Green New Deal and need it. Once created, the jobs Americans need become part of tax producing economic activity. Since the 18th century, Americans understood that some progress couldn’t be made without government investment. Government became a major stockholder to get many enterprises going. It built projects too large for private industry, and projects with such broad public and economic benefits that the cost couldn’t be paid by charging and collecting tolls from all beneficiaries.

People go ape over the word “tax” but whether taxes disadvantage people depends on whether the shills of corporate powerhouses refuse to let their clients pay their full share. That battle is not exclusive to environmental projects and your taxes won’t be cut down by blocking progress. Actually, I’d go one better with a carbon tax so the incentive to use clean energy and other products is systemic, not piece by piece.

The Green New Deal is necessary so we, our children and grandchildren can continue to breathe, drink, work and survive. It’s a major nationwide path to jobs. And it’s doable – every aspect builds on existing technology by adding effort and incentives. The Green New Deal could put the US back in the lead in economic development; resisting it will pass the economic baton to Russian Siberia which is becoming livable while we’re losing our crucial climate advantages.

By contrast, the climate crisis aggravates virtually every problem, including the waves of refugees whose desperation forces them to move despite the obstacles, so the Green New Deal can help ease the refugee crisis.

Don’t let politically manufactured hobgoblins and other scary stories stop the real progress we need. Problems don’t go away because we refuse to deal with them; they just get worse.

And my New Year’s toast is let this be the last we’ll hear from disloyal people in the White House.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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