Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Green New Deal: Good, Bad or Nuts?

Well, today was Green New Deal (GND) day, what with the release of the Markey-AOC GND resolution. What's in it and what should we think about it?
For content, I highly recommend David Roberts' lengthy summary on Vox. Very thorough and very fair.
As for what to think about it, that is complicated. As an opening bid on things to think about, it is certainly fine. If we are to have a GND, certainly the resolution touches on most of the things that should be considered. The aspirations are high, but to get a conversation started that is no bad thing. The Overton window, to use a much-abused term, is indeed moving and this document reflects that.
Moreover as Roberts points out, the document avoids taking definite positions in a number of controversial areas that would have limited its appeal:
* No position on how to pay for it; good, leave this for later.
* Does not insist on all renewables but rather on carbon-free energy; good, leaves door open for nukes and CCS.
* No specifics on carbon tax levels; good, also leave for later
* Does not insist on suppressing fossil fuels; good, this would be hugely divisive
That's all good (for now), but as Roberts also notes, there was short shrift given to important changes any GND worth its salt should include like densification and rapid electrification. And then there's the sort of nuts part of the document where they call for, essentially, the full social democratic program (a federal job guarantee, promotion of unions, aggressive fair trade and anti-monopoly policies, universal housing and health care).
Hey, I'm for all that too, but it would be bonkers to insist that all of that has to be part of a GND. We live in the real world and it will take real world politics to get anything like a GND done. Advocates like Sean McElwee may well believe that nothing less than what's in the resolution will do. As he truculently remarks: "By definition that means politicians who don’t support those goals aren’t progressive. We need to hold that line. Get on the GND train or choo-choo, motherfucker, we’re going to go right past you." (Charmingly, his current twitter display name is "GND now, choo choo motherfucker".
But Mr. McElwee is not, shall we say, the median voter so a more modest approach is probably in order. It will be hard enough to get a GND done without shoehorning in the entire left wish list.
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