The Ecosocialist Working Group of the Massachusetts Democratic Socialists of America has put forward a Green Stimulus Plan that it says prioritizes equity, working people and the environment. It comes as the state slowly rebuilds from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. WAMC spoke to John Prusinski of the Berkshire Chapter of the DSA. He says the plan corresponds with legislation working its way through the Massachusetts legislature.
PRUSINSKI: One of the major issues that we're looking at is that many people are losing their jobs. Companies are unable to provide socially distance working conditions and purchasing is down, and therefore people are getting laid off. So we're going to need to find a way to get those people back to work if we're going to keep the economy going. And as long as we're doing that, we need to be able to think about how we can create family-sustaining, career track green jobs in clean energy expansion, building retrofits, sustainable home building, local food, economies, public transit maintenance… We'd like to be looking at moving public transit to more environmentally sane methods and gas powered or- I’m speaking of natural gas, or gasoline, obviously. There are lots of ways that this can be approached, and by putting all those people to work doing those things, we're getting people who, you know, would have been left behind into a situation where they're prepared for a future.
WAMC: The second point is described as providing economic relief directly to the people. John, what does that mean?
Well, it means, you know, for one thing, the type of stimulus that we got from the federal government, you know, way back. The $1200 dollars kind of thing. And continuing pandemic unemployment assistance. But it also means finding ways to take care of, making sure that people who lost their jobs are looked at first. That people who are from traditionally marginalized communities are taken, are moved to the front of the line, because traditionally, they either get left out altogether or their, you know, the relief to those people is not sufficient in the ways that it is to white people in suburbia. So, basically, we want to make sure that everyone is taken care of as funds come in to take care of people's basic needs.
Of the three remaining issues, one involves protecting the democratic process, which I think speaks for itself. The other is prioritizing rescue workers and communities over corporations. I'm interested in point number four, “make a down payment on a regenerative economy while preventing future crises.” Can you explain what that means?
Regenerative economy is a concept that means using all of the inputs and the outputs of industry to keep everything as green as possible so that we're not skewing pollutants into the air, climate destroying trash and litter, you know, basically all the waste that comes out.
Now there are bills in the Massachusetts legislature that the DSA says are connected to this larger undertaking. Can you walk me through the connection between this proposal and those pieces of legislation?
The bills that we’re specifically referencing are the Senate bill S2500 and the House 2050 environmental roadmap bills, which is actually a set of bills, which are currently, as far as I know, still in reconciliation, and the, as I'm sure, you know, the legislative session has been extended, so that they have a little time to finish this. And we want to make sure that specifically they retain the language which is in there now, which supports environmental justice, so that it mandates environmental impact reports for any project that is likely to cause damage to the environment, anything that’s located within one mile of an environmental justice population. And requiring the OER- That's the department of energy resources- to set aside future solar out energy allocations for low income neighborhoods, the neighborhoods that typically get left behind in modernization efforts.
John, what's the major takeaway on a green stimulus plan for Massachusetts residents?
It takes care of your meet their immediate needs in the current crisis, but also does it in such a way that it's setting up a future Massachusetts which will enable us to be in better position to face the climate crisis which is coming, and looking at the inequalities in the state, and so that's not just some people that are taken care of, but all the people in the state.