Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other congressional Democrats have introduced what they are calling a Green New Deal, aimed at increasing economic security for all Americans and pulling back from the brink of catastrophic climate change. The measure is at present an outline for future action, but predictably, it has drawn out the right wing in reactive opposition.
The list of proposals centers around two key concept: economic justice and reduced emission production. The first of these is antithetical to the libertarians among us, people who believe that we should be more responsible about choosing where we are born and who our parents are. The effect of NIMBY — not in my back yard — exists because people with money are the ones who pay for political campaigns and thus receive the benefits that regulatory power can provide. Water pipes in affluent neighborhoods deliver water, while those in Flint, Michigan add lead to the mixture. Gated communities are spared from having to breathe noxious fumes and small particulates, leaving asthma-inducing atmosphere to places like East St. Louis. And people who are able to afford their own cars find that well stocked grocery stores are much more conveniently located for them than for people who have to rely on public transportation.
The Republican mythology is that one’s economic status is the result of one’s choices — hard work vs. lounging about being the key decision. Personal decisions do affect the outcomes in our lives, but the right-wing position ignores the relevant factors. To use sports analogies, if you are born on third base or if you can run a race without having to carry a fifty pound backpack, you have an advantage over those who are not so fortunate. Your bootstraps have less to do the lighter you are to start with.
The second aspect of the Green New Deal also comes under attack for its goal of revising our economy into sustainability. Ocasio-Cortez’s identification as a democratic socialist makes right wingers believe that the real goal is to transfer the means of production into the control of the proletariat, though why that would be a bad idea is often left unstated. But the latter is not necessary to achieve the former. While the regulations required to get to a green economy would not embrace the fantasy of an entirely free market, requiring, for example, that carbon dioxide emissions go down does not negate the ability of corporations owned by stockholders to produce vehicles for sale to consumers.
I have been told by Trump supporters that this green energy dream is impossible. They tell me that the Sun sets and the wind dies down, and though Gretchen Bakke’s book, The Grid, suggests ways that we can store excess generated electricity, there is nothing in the right wing vision that we can do. The promotion of high speed rail in the Green New Deal gets mocked, and for some reason, despite air travel these days being a combination of the experiences of prison intake, renewal one’s driving license, and purchase of the last bottle of taco sauce at Walmart on game day, for some reason, my antagonists insist on an anticipatory nostalgia for planes over trains. But trains have a much lower carbon footprint than aircraft and trucks, so opposition to this form of transportation does not arise out of any concern for the planet. And contrary to the narrative of the fossil fuel party, wind and solar power are steadily increasing in the percentage of electricity generated in even this country. As James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”
One attack was nothing but a schoolyard taunt, the claim that the Green New Deal includes a provision to provide economic security for people who are unwilling to work. That was an error in an early draft of a Frequently Asked Questions document, not something that appears in the House resolution. As an author, I know all too well how dangerous the send button is, and I find it interesting to note how many people who will excuse Trump’s many absurdities and illiteracies have leapt in to criticize a typo in an opponent’s proposal. May we all be spared from imperfect documents.
Republican opposition here is entirely predictable. The combination of greed and ignorance is the essence of the party’s ideology today. But the good news is that large majorities in this country understand that global warming is happening and that we are the cause. The Green New Deal is an outline of how to reverse the damage. The fact that we must wait for at least two years to gain a Senate and president who will go along illustrates the irrationality that we have allowed to infect our political system.