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A Green New Deal?

by STEVEN HIGGS

Seven weeks before Jill Stein declared her candidacy for president, the Lexington, Mass., physician outlined her priorities in a plan she called the “Green New Deal” – jobs, climate change, universal health care and peace. When she announced her bid for the Green Party nomination on Oct. 24, 2011, the Chicago native presented herself as an alternative to the two “Wall Street parties.”

“They’re privatizing education, rolling back civil liberties and racial justice, plundering the environment and driving us towards the calamity of climate change,” she said in a news release accompanying her announcement. “… We need people in Washington who refuse to be bought by lobbyist money and for whom change is not just a slogan.”

Stein has run as a Green in Massachusetts for state representative, secretary of state and governor in 2002 and 2010. In her last gubernatorial bid, the Boston Globe reported, she garnered about 2 percent of the vote. She said she hoped to achieve ballot access in at least 45 states.

Stein is one of two announced candidates seeking the Greens’ nomination. The other is Kent Mesplay, an air quality inspector and emergency shelter manager in San Diego County, Calif.

In a Dec. 7 letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, Green Party Media Coordinator Scott McLarty invited the city’s former mayor Rocky Anderson to seek the Green Party nomination, rather than form a new third party called the Justice Party.

McLarty said the Greens agreed with Anderson’s platform and would welcome him into the party. He also noted that Greens have already overcome significant hurdles to third party success that Anderson will face, such as ballot access in many states, recognition by the Federal Election Commission and established infrastructure to support candidates.

“Many of these hurdles are quite difficult, thanks to prohibitive ballot-access rules enacted by Democratic and Republican politicians to hinder other parties and candidates,” he wrote.

In a Dec. 16 email to The Bloomington Alternative, McLarty said Anderson declined the invitation.

The Green Party of the United States (GPUS) is a federation of state Green Parties. According to its website, GPUS is “committed to ecology, social justice, grassroots democracy and non-violence” through “community-based organizing without the support of corporate donors.”The Green Party has been active since 1996, when the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP) formed and ultimately evolved into the GPUS in 2001. Previous presidential candidates include Ralph Nader in 2000, David Cobb in 2004 and former Georgia U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney in 2008.

The Greens will choose the 2012 nominee at their national convention in Baltimore in July, McLarty said.

***
The centerpiece of Stein’s plan is a commitment to end unemployment through direct federal action to create the jobs needed to end the “Bush/Obama recession,” she said in her Oct. 24 announcement release. Calling President Barack Obama’s jobs plan a “Wall Street-first approach” and “fundamentally misconceived,” she said it is too small and gives more money to the financial elite in hopes that they will decide to create jobs.

In a Sept. 5 website post called Jobs for All with a Green New Deal, Stein traces the plan’s roots to the “employment assurance concept” that Franklin Delano Roosevelt employed during the Great Depression to guarantee a job for every American willing and able to work.

“Let’s turn the unemployment office into the employment office,” she wrote. “If the private sector fails to provide you a job, you go down to the employment office to get work that keeps you afloat until things turn around.”

Public works programs have put Americans back to work many times since the 1930s, she wrote, citing as examples the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and Comprehensive Employment and Training Act in the 1970s.

“These programs employed millions of workers to provide socially needed public infrastructure and public services like education, health, child care, elder care, youth programs and arts and cultural programs,” she wrote.

The plan’s cost would be almost nothing, Stein continued. According to Learning from the New Deal, a paper written by Rutgers University professor of law and economics Philip Harvey, it would pay for itself over the course of a business cycle.

“Assuming that for every two public jobs created, an additional job would be stimulated in the private sector, we would need about 17.5 million public jobs,” Stein wrote. “Harvey notes that all these jobs increase tax revenues that defray the costs of the program. Government saves money on unemployment insurance and other safety net programs.”

As these public workers spend their earnings, business grows and stimulus programs can be curtailed, she wrote. “The bottom line is simply this: Full employment through a Green New Deal is cheaper than rampant unemployment.”

The first-year net cost would be $666 billion to produce 17.5 million public jobs with living wages, Stein wrote, which is significantly less than Obama’s indirect, $825 billion stimulus in 2009. The net cost per Green New Deal job would be $28,600, compared to Obama’s $228,055.

“The cost could readily be covered through a combination of needed tax reforms – such as taxing Wall Street speculation, offshore tax havens, millionaires and multimillion dollar estates,” she wrote, “in addition to a 30 percent reduction in the trillion-dollar, bloated, military-industrial-security complex budget.”

The Green New Deal, which would decisively end unemployment and the escalating Bush/Obama recession, is within reach, technically and financially, Stein wrote.

“All that’s needed is the political will to stop throwing money at Wall Street and start building the sustainable prosperity American workers deserve,” she wrote. “In spite of Washington’s slavish addiction to serving Wall Street, that political will may finally be catching fire in the American electorate.”

***
In her Oct. 24 news release, Stein called climate change “the greatest threat confronting our generation” and chastised Obama, along with the Clinton/Bush administrations, for failing to act, while extreme weather patterns and rising temperatures inflicted increasing damage worldwide.

“The time for foot-dragging is over,” she said. “We’re going to put this issue back on the table.”

She said the Green New Deal would emphasize sustainable energy, transportation and production infrastructure, specifically renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, mass transit, railroads, bike and pedestrian traffic, clean manufacturing and regional food systems based on sustainable agriculture.

“Green” means the jobs problem can be solved sustainably through an economy that protects the environment as the core foundation of prosperity, she wrote on Sept. 5. That would also address the converging water, soil, fisheries, forest and fossil fuel crises that imperil fundamental needs for food, water and energy.

“Other countries are already making major investments for a secure, carbon-free future,” she wrote. “America needs to catch up.”

***
In her announcement release, Stein called the young people who are leading the Occupy Wall Street movement at more than 1,500 sites across the country inspiring.

“Just like in the civil rights movement, when the young people stand up, the nation changes forever,” she said. “If more of us take a lesson from them, we’re going to be an unstoppable force.”

At her announcement news conference on the steps of the Massachusetts State House, Stein said the Occupy Wall Street movement shows voters are frustrated with Obama’s stewardship of the economy, the Globe reported.

“We are hearing the need for this race in every park and plaza where there’s an encampment around this country,” she said. “There’s an enormous need for alternatives, and we see that breaking out all over.”

Stein said she is not officially aligned with Occupy Wall Street protesters, the Globereported, but, “We are proud to give that movement an electoral voice.”

In her news release, Stein said it’s time for the United States to “catch up with the rest of the developed nations” and provide health care for all through a Medicare-for-all system.

Stressing the crushing student loan debt facing American students, she called for forgiving existing debt and providing free education for all. This, she said, would be “an investment in our future that will pay off enormously.”

Stein also called for ending home foreclosures and requiring banks to adjust mortgages to reflect the current market value of homes.

***
In her “Jobs for All with a Green New Deal” post, Stein said it is time for the White House and Congress to admit that showering money on Wall Street is a failed strategy.

“Decades of hard-won experience – plus basic economic theory – show that government spending is essential in a recession to stimulate demand and put people back to work,” she wrote.

But the president and both major parties instead have used the recession caused by Wall Street abuse, costly wars and bogus trickle-down economics as excuses to slash funding for vital programs.

“As a result, seniors, working families and the poor are footing the bill for tax giveaways to the wealthy and large corporations,” she wrote. “This is not only wrong, it’s also guaranteed to destroy jobs and weaken the economy.”

Steven Higgs is the editor of the Bloomington Alternative. He can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.

Steven Higgs is an environmental journalist and photographer living in Bloomington, Ind. He owns and operates Natural Bloomington: Ecotours and More. His new book A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana is scheduled for release by Indiana University Press on April 20, 2016.

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