Saturday, March 30, 2019

This Week's Most Important TV: "The Most Controversial Thing In American Politics At The Moment And You've Probably Heard About It"


"It's called the Green New Deal. It envisions a carbon-zero economy by the middle of the century and a transformation of the American economy and, indeed, society. Some people call it a socialist monster; some people call it our only hope for survival in the way of life we hold dear." That was how Chris Hayes introduced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to ever represent a district in the United States Congress, at the beginning of their Bronx town hall on the Green New Deal Friday evening. If the oil companies, Trump, the Democratic establishment, the banksters, AIPAC, the Bronx machine and the myriad other enemies she's made since being elected to Congress last November think they're going to take her out at the polls, they should look at the superstar welcome she got after the introduction.

She's probably the most famous member of Congress today. One metric I've used before: she has 3.76 million twitter followers. Speaker Pelosi has 2.4 million. Steny Hoyer has 113,000. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy, has 256,000. Ocasio has more twitter followers than all the top Republican leaders combined. Want to understand grassroots American politics of the left in our time? Watch the video above.

The media is busy, busy turning Pete Buttigieg, an unknown small city Midwest mayor with a good p.r. firm and a bunch of identity politics factors (youngish, gay, veteran, no sports jacket, a self-proclaimed intellectual...) into a legitimate presidential contender. Does he stand for something... for us? I mean in terms of a policy agenda-- the way Bernie does? The way Elizabeth Warren does? Or is he just a young version of Biden or a lesser-well-known version of Beto? In his brilliant excavation of the pop-up pol, the Democratic celebrity du jour, Nathan Robinson reminds us to "only accept politicians who have proved they actually care about people other than themselves... When he is asked about what his actual policies are, Buttigieg has often been evasive. He has mentioned getting rid of the electoral college and expanding the Supreme Court, but his speech is often abstract."

Not the same

Very different from Bernie; very different from Ocasio-Cortez. "My politics," she told Hayes, "is just an emergence of my life experience and a reflection of all of our experiences as working people... How about we start by fully funding the pensions of coal miners in West Virginia... or rebuilding Flint [Michigan]?" There are no coal miners in the Bronx and Flint is a million miles away but these examples help explain not just the Green New Deal, but also AOC and why she's probably more popular in her district than the Yankees or the zoo.

In explaining how the Green New Deal came to be an idea and a proposal, she told Hayes that 'we're looking all these issues [of economic inequality and social justice]-- Medicare-For-All, a living wage, tuition free public colleges and universities... and there's this false idea that we need to put them all in a line and say 'do this or do that. Do you care about healthcare? Or do you care about the economy or jobs?' And then I started to realize that these are not different problems; these are part of the same problem." Our history tells us, she explains, that the solution is not an incremental approach but "an ambitious and directed mobilization of the American economy." We've done it around war but now our greatest existential threat is Climate Change and so mobilizing around that rather than war is how we "revamp our economy, create dignified jobs for working Americans, to guarantee healthcare and elevate our educational opportunities... we will have to mobilize our entire economy around saving ourselves and taking care of this planet.. This is urgent-- and to think that we have time is such a privileged and removed from reality attitude."

Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rhiana Gunn-Wright of New Consensus, joined her to talk about making the Green New Deal a national priority. That the clip directly above... it's a must-view. So is the next clip, which had some surprises. And had more Ocasio-Cortez explaining for example, that she didn't write the Green New Deal resolution to convince her colleagues but to go directly to the people of the United States-- a very different kind of populist politics her colleagues are largely uncomfortable with. "You don't have to replace everybody-- you can if you want to-- if the electorate prioritizes it and overwhelmingly supports it, we create the political room to pass it." The politicians aren't leaders nearly as much as they are followers.

In an email to her supporters today, AOC wrote that "Wildfires ravage our communities. The midwest is under water. Our water and our air are toxic. For too long, our leaders have refused to take action to save our planet. But now, we have a plan: a Green New Deal to rapidly transform our energy infrastructure, achieve net-zero carbon emissions, and create millions of green jobs for distressed communities across this country. But Republicans refuse to listen. They say, absurdly, say that our solution is too expensive and that our concerns about our environment are elitist... Bias and power underly the status quo. Environmental racism and injustice are the core reasons no action has been taken to clean up the water in Flint, or why kids in the Bronx experience the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Our communities are not elitist, we are desperate for change... Here’s the reality that we face: our nation will pay for the costs of climate change one way or another. Our only choice is whether we walk the path of proactive change or the path of reactive change. As natural disasters ravage our communities, as people are pushed out of cities and towns at risk of plunging into the ocean, as our people are poisoned with lead, we will face the costs of our inaction. Or we can dare to be bold-- we can pass a Green New Deal, invest in our future, build a green tech infrastructure, provide millions of green jobs to communities that have been left behind by the modern economy, and ensure that our children can enjoy this planet just as we have."

Also Friday, before the MSNBC town hall, Stephanie Kelton, Andres Bernal, and Greg Carlock wrote an OpEd for HuffPo, We Can Pay For A Green New Deal. "Across America, calls for climate action are growing louder and more fervent," they wrote. "As Naomi Klein wrote this week, '[we have] been waiting a very long time for there to finally be a critical mass of politicians in power who understand not only the existential urgency of the climate crisis, but also the once-in-a-century opportunity it represents.' We’re almost there."
We understand the problem-- we can’t allow temperatures to rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives the world 12 years to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid severe climate effects later this century-- including in the United States. The urgency of the situation can’t be overstated.

We have momentum-- incoming Democrats, like Reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, are building support for an ambitious climate plan, and more than 15 members of Congress are calling for a select committee with a mandate to draft comprehensive legislation: a Green New Deal. We have the outline of a plan: We need a mass mobilization of people and resources, something not unlike the U.S. involvement in World War II or the Apollo moon missions-- but even bigger. We must transform our energy system, transportation, housing, agriculture and more.

What we don’t (yet) have is the final, vital ingredient-- a critical mass of politicians prepared to unleash the enormous power of the public purse to save the planet. We need more political courage and less political consternation.

The Benefit, Not The Cost

Sure, it’ll cost a lot of money. That’s likely to rattle the nerves of self-proclaimed deficit hawks, Democrats and Republicans alike, who will ask the same tired questions: “How will we pay for it?” “What about the deficit and debt?” “Won’t it hurt our economy?” In fact, these questions are already coming, with the eager help of the fossil fuel lobby.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah recently said that “all the proposals I’ve seen so far… would devastate the U.S. economy.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says he’s theoretically open to action but adds, “I’m also not going to destroy our economy.”

Democrats risk aiming low if they merely repackage proposals for “pay-go” infrastructure spending that would build more roads and bridges but fail to strengthen resilience to worsening climate hazards. These politicians, and the pundits who echo them, approach the debate all wrong. We can’t afford to let deficit politics stand in the way of an ambitious Green New Deal.

Here’s the good news: Anything that is technically feasible is financially affordable. And it won’t be a drag on the economy-- unlike the climate crisis itself, which will cause tens of billions of dollars worth of damage to American homes, communities and infrastructure each year. A Green New Deal will actually help the economy by stimulating productivity, job growth and consumer spending, as government spending has often done. (You don’t have to go back to the original New Deal for evidence of that.)

In fact, a Green New Deal can create good-paying jobs while redressing economic and environmental inequities. One policy vision, by the progressive think tank Data for Progress, is based on a foundation of equity and justice. It proposes a transition to a low-carbon economy using clean and renewable energy, the restoration of forests and wetlands, and the build-up of resilience in both rural and urban communities.

Rethinking The Budget

To save the planet and fix historical inequities, however, we must change the way we approach the federal budget. We must give up our obsession with trying to “pay for” everything with new revenue or spending cuts.

Are taxes an important part of an aggressive climate plan? Sure. Taxes can shape incentives and help change behaviors within the private sector. Taxes should be raised to break up concentrations of wealth and income, and to punish polluters for the cost and consequences of their actions. In a period without federal leadership on the climate crisis, this is how many state and local governments are considering carbon pricing. That’s useful-- not because we “need to pay for it” but to end polluters’ harmful behavior.

The federal government can spend money on public priorities without raising revenue, and it won’t wreck the nation’s economy to do so. That may sound radical, but it’s not. It’s how the U.S. economy has been functioning for nearly half a century. That’s the power of the public purse.

As a monopoly supplier of U.S. currency with full financial sovereignty, the federal government is not like a household or even a business. When Congress authorizes spending, it sets off a sequence of actions. Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense or Department of Energy, enter into contracts and begin spending. As the checks go out, the government’s bank-- the Federal Reserve-- clears the payments by crediting the seller’s bank account with digital dollars. In other words, Congress can pass any budget it chooses, and our government already pays for everything by creating new money.

This is precisely how we paid for the first New Deal. The government didn’t go out and collect money-- by taxing and borrowing-- because the economy had collapsed and no one had any money (except the oligarchs). The government hired millions of people across various New Deal programs and paid them with a massive infusion of new spending that Congress authorized in the budget. FDR didn’t need to “find the money,” he needed to find the votes. We can do the same for a Green New Deal.

Despite lawmakers’ stated fears, larger public deficits are not inherently inflationary. As long as government spending doesn’t cap out the full productive capacity of the economy-- what economists call “full employment”-- it won’t spin prices out of control. Inflation isn’t triggered by the amount of money the government creates but by the availability of biophysical resources that money tries to go out and buy-- like land, trees, water, minerals and human labor.

The Deficits That Matter

Instead of talking about a numerical budget deficit, we should be talking about the deficits that matter, like our deficits in biodiversity, fresh water and the capacity of our environment to absorb pollution. We should be sounding the alarm about our deficits in education, in time we can spend with our families, in lifesaving medical care and access to mental health services, and in life expectancy itself. And what about our deficit in freedom from the violence of unemployment and jobs that pay starvation wages?

The shapers of the original New Deal understood this. James McEntree, director of the Civilian Conservation Corps, stated in 1941 that the CCC had “reversed the Nation’s traditional policy of using or wasting our natural resources at a rate faster than they were being replenished and had started the country on the way toward a balanced natural-resources budget.” (Emphasis added.)

The U.S. government can never run out of dollars, but humanity can run out of limited global resources. The climate crisis fundamentally threatens those resources and the very human livelihoods that depend on them.

The Only Conversation Worth Having

Once we understand that money is a legal and social tool, no longer beholden to the false scarcity of the gold standard, we can focus on what matters most: the best use of natural and human resources to meet current social needs and to sustainably increase our productive capacity to improve living standards for future generations.

This is ultimately how a Green New Deal can also help bridge our political divides. Rural communities in the Midwest have as much to gain economically from a Green New Deal as coastal urban areas. We can ensure Farm Bill subsidies help American farmers earn a good living by simultaneously feeding the nation, generating renewable energy and capturing carbon in soil. We can also boost manufacturing and construction jobs by retrofitting buildings, electrifying transportation and hardening our shoreline communities against sea level rise.

That such a visionary undertaking can align with and support Just Transition efforts-- led by communities of color, women and indigenous groups uniquely affected by the climate crisis-- should also be viewed as an opportunity rather than a challenge or a burden.

Politicians need to reject the urge to ask “How are we going to pay for it?” and avoid the trap when it’s asked of them. A better question is: What’s the best use of public money? Giving it away to the top 1 percent who don’t spend it, widening already dangerous wealth and income gaps? Or investing it in a 21st century, low-carbon economy by rebuilding America’s infrastructure, bolstering resilience, and promoting good-paying jobs across rural and urban communities?

The greatest burden we are passing on to future generations is not the debt but our failure to respond to the climate crisis. We must move beyond the fatalism about paying for a Green New Deal so we can get to the conversation that matters most: How can a Green New Deal protect our finite natural resources, end the climate crisis and build the 21st century economy that works for everyone?

That’s the only conversation the American people should be willing to have.

Would you vote for anyone who isn't behind the Green New Deal? Really, would you? While you ponder that one... here's a bonus track from after the Friday night town hall:

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At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish someone would take on this "socialist monster" BS.

This nation has been partially Socialist at least since the Great Depression began. It was a necessary step if FDR was to save capitalism from its greatest excess in American history.

Stories like Oliver Twist are about the excesses of capitalism, in which a very few enjoy the benefits generated by the labor of many. The worker ends up being exploited terribly.

On the other extreme, what passes for Communism in most American minds is the system of State Capitalism as practiced by Stalin in the USSR. Under that system, the military enjoyed the benefit generated by the labor of the many. The worker ended up being exploited terribly.

Socialism is seen (and taught) in the US of A as something of a hybrid of these two systems, and we in the States are certainly living under it today. Capitalism is seen in the horrible tax policy under which the wealthy benefit a great deal while the expense of the State Capitalist military which imposes their attempted colonization of the entire world for private profit is taken without consent from We the People, who are being exploited terribly.

Thus, the "Socialist" canard is but an excuse, a cover, a great lie hiding the reality of modern life for the vast majority of Americans. Gilens and Page proved in their study that the American people are being taxed heavily without representation. As I recall, that condition didn't sit well with the North American subjects of the British Empire almost 300 years ago.

It should not sit well with Americans today.

But because too many americans are cartoon-addled buffoons. such is the condition of the nation today. Keep watching all those Marvel movies, fools. At least there the stories have heroes.

In real life, we only have villains.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Gadfly said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Gadfly said...

As an actual Green, I'm here to off comparisons between the original Green Party New Deal (which VERY many people have not heard of) and AOC's shadow version. This is Part 2 of what I have planned to be as at least three parts. Part 3 is in the hopper for my blog for this coming Friday.

At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:56, Bill Maher did a nice, if shortish, address of "socialism" on Friday's final "New Rule". Check it out.

Gadfly, ty. I wonder how many will actually read those. the democrap party is more religion than political party. We're not D vs. R so much as shia vs. sunni any more in this shithole. Plus... and I cannot stress this enough... we're dumber than shit.

"Does he stand for something... for us? I mean in terms of a policy agenda-- the way Bernie does? The way Elizabeth Warren does?"

That sentence is self-repudiating. Bernie and Elizabeth BOTH stood for $hillbillary. Elizabeth notably refused to stand for Bernie.

And, toward that same end, AOC stood for Pelosi as speaker.

Take those for what they're worth -- indicating that nobody is really what you want them to be.

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe restrict a piece to only what the GND is, and is not, and leave out the personalities? We get plenty on AOC as it is.

The GND is not AOC and AOC is not the GND. AOC, apparently, is far more than the GND, which is fortunate since the GND is not much of anything yet.

And the democraps still cannot vote for something that really isn't anything... yet.


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