by Sam Killmeyer

It’s dark. We are in a pandemic and people are dying and our lives are upended. We are in desperate need of change. If ever there was a moment for us to fight for universal health care, child care, paid sick leave, it’s now. If ever there was a moment for a Green New Deal, it is now. 

It is time to imagine and fight for a better future. Like the one described in this video from The Intercept of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s message from the future: 

AOC reminds us that the future hasn’t been written yet and that “we can be whatever we have the courage to see.” We need the courage to see a way out of this coronavirus crisis that provides for a sustainable, just, green future. One that takes lessons from the past and uses them to build a better future. 

What We Can Learn From The New Deal

The original New Deal under FDR came about as a response to the Great Depression and the environmental crisis of the Dust Bowl. In the passing of the New Deal, we came to see that we can create a government that can provide direct relief and employment. That we can solve economic crises by working to uplift people, not the industries that contribute to the problem. 

The main goal of the Green New Deal is to bring greenhouse gas emission to net-zero, but it does so through the creation of millions of jobs and provides a federal job guarantee to all Americans — something those who have lost their job due to the coronavirus crisis desperately need. Coronavirus has currently put 300,000 Coloradans out of work, and that number only represents those who have filed for unemployment, not those who had their hours or pay cut.

Along with providing good paying jobs, we should also remember that the original New Deal was an attempt to curb capitalism’s excesses. When FDR took office, the banking system had collapsed and Americans had lost faith in their institutions. The New Deal set a minimum wage, regulated working conditions, promoted labor unions, and created Social Security. 

It set a new precedent for the government’s role in regulating and steering the economy, in order to guard against dangers like the ones we are seeing right now — shortages, stockpiling, inability to allocate resources, public distrust in institutions. In this time of gutted government oversight, it’s important to remember that other ways are possible.

But How Did We Pay for It?

FDR paid for the New Deal by hiring millions of people across the country through New Deal programs and paid them through a massive infusion of new spending approved by congress — like the unprecedented spending in the coronavirus relief packages. It also found ways to help businesses overcome risk-aversion and finance new opportunities for growth, which you can read about in more depth in this article from the Atlantic

The most recent coronavirus aid relief package totals $2.2 trillion, and it is bigger than Biden’s entire climate plan – 1.7 trillion. And while Biden’s plan is no Green New Deal, this is a moment to reflect on how much money there is available to help us through a crisis. We can push for a direct infusion of immediate government spending and use that as a springboard for the longer term investment necessary to realize a Green New Deal on the scale proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). 

A Green Coronavirus Stimulus Package

Democrats have already attempted to add environmental legislation to the stimulus bill, but were shouted down by republicans claiming that they were politicizing a crisis. While at the very same time the Trump administration and state governments are rolling back climate protections. 350 founder, Bill McKibben writes of what he calls this “naked greed, political influence peddling” and “complete disregard for the next crisis aiming for our planet” here in an op ed piece for the Guardian.  

Any response to the crisis is a political decision. We need to acknowledge that and move forward, taking that political power away from the naked greed of those seeking to profit from this crisis. A green stimulus package would mean restarting the economy while supporting environmental goals.

The economic fallout of the coronavirus will last long beyond the stimulus packages. We need policy that invests in low-carbon infrastructure and creates new jobs. Republicans have shown that they are willing to vote for stimulus packages, and in the midst of this devastating crisis, we have a real opportunity to accelerate green energy and green policy – boosting the economy and our ability to move toward a sustainable future.

What Can I Do?

  • Sign the Green Stimulus Proposal created by U.S. economists, professors, and veterans of the last financial crisis that has been sent to congress. 
  • Call Wall Street CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Liberty Mutual, and BlackRock and pressure them to stop funding fossil fuel projects.
  • When the Green New Deal was voted on in the Senate on March 28, 2019, Senator Cory Gardner voted No and Senator Michael Bennet voted Present – contact Bennet
  • Talk with your family, friends, your online community about how we can envision a better future after this crisis.

Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, consider making a donation to 350 Colorado to support our efforts to lead a #JustTransition to a Green New Deal in Colorado.