Green New Deal

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It’s very rare that a U.S. Congressional resolution receives the spotlight in the news. However, a recent resolution, the Green New Deal (GND), has been thrust into the public eye. Even though this resolution is the talk of the nation, few understand what it really is. What is the goal of the resolution? What does it say? Let’s unpack the details of this 14-page document.

What is the GND?

The Green New Deal is a non-binding resolution to curb pollution and overhaul the economic system of the U.S. The resolution’s name, the Green New Deal, seeks to invoke the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, while introducing “green” aspects to it. The resolution strives to accomplish these goals through environmental and economic changes, and its focus ranges from transportation overhauls to job guarantees.

Who wrote the resolution?

The authors of the GND are freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Edward Markey (D-MA).

What would happen if it passes?

The resolution is a Non-Binding Resolution, so if passed, technically, nothing happens. A Non-Binding Resolution merely outlines the goals of the governing body, in this case, the promise of the reduction of carbon emissions and increased economic security. If GND passes, the specific aspects of the resolution would likely come to the floor later.

What’s the cost of the resolution?

Since GND is a Non-Binding Resolution, the cost is technically only as much as the paper the resolution is printed on. No one is certain of the cost to implement the goals of the GND, not even its authors. Some estimates from the National Bureau of Economic Research and Bridgewater Associates indicate that a national basic income (one of the things promised in the GND) would cost the American people 3.8 trillion dollars, meaning the GND would cost significantly more than this.

What is the support for the resolution?

The resolution is currently expected to be brought to a floor vote in the Senate in the coming days, but is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate according to USA Today. Even if it were to pass, the president would likely veto subsequent resolution proposals.

As for public support, there’s really no good indicator. Climate Change in the American Mind conducted a poll saying that 82% of voters support this plan, but this study is misleading to say the least. Voters were given a highly altruistic and vague one-paragraph summary of the plan and asked people to form an opinion based on this summary. Out of the 1,000 people studied, only 17% actually knew about the plan, and only 3%, or 30 people, actually knew anything substantive about the resolution. This sample size was too small to make an actual judgement on public support. Public approval is likely to come into focus in the coming months.

What does the resolution have to say about energy?

Energy is a major focus of the GND. The resolution claims that its goal is to “meet 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources” (GND pg. 7). The resolution also mentions that the U.S. will upgrade “all existing buildings in the United States along with new construction to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability” (pg. 7). The deal does not outline how these goals would be achieved or if they would be possible. Furthermore, the deal provides no consequences for if the objectives remain unmet.

What does the GND say about transportation?

The GND calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment including—zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and high-speed rail” (pg. 8-9). How this would be achieved is not clear.

What else does the resolution cover?

The resolution addresses economic “issues” Ocasio-Cortez and Markey believe the government should solve. These issues include the removal of monopolies, “ensuring a commercial environment where every businessperson is free from unfair competition and domination by domestic or international monopolies,” and preventing job loss. It also covers two other areas that the government will provide for: jobs and healthcare.

Does the resolution guarantee a job to everyone?

It appears that way. The resolution states it will “guarantee a job with a family sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States” (pg. 12). This even seems to imply that high school students would receive this pay scale as well.

How much this would cost or how the government would provide 13 million jobs to the unemployed is unclear.

What else does the resolution promise?

The resolution also says that the U.S. will provide healthcare, housing, economic security and access to clean water, air, food, and nature. How this would happen or how much it would cost is, again, unclear.

I’ve heard mention of cows? Does the resolution mention this?

Not directly. This reference to cows actually comes from the now abandoned and deleted FAQ page that was on Ocasio-Cortez’s homepage. The exact line read: “The Green New Deal sets a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, at the end of this 10-year plan because we aren’t sure that we will be able to fully get rid of, for example, emissions from cows or air travel before then.” It’s unclear if this FAQ was meant to be a reflection of the GND.

Speaking of air travel, what does the GND say about it?

Again, only the FAQ mentions this aspect, although high-speed rail is mentioned in the body of the document.

What’s the main takeaway?

The Green New Deal seeks to solve economic and environmental issues through a massive restructure of the U.S. economy. The resolution leaves many questions unanswered about how it will fund or achieve its goals. Though the bill is being brought to the Senate floor, most experts do not expect it to pass. How the resolution—and support for it—will develop remains to be seen.