Accuracy in Media

Any objections raised about the proposed Green New Deal are no longer valid, according to a story Tuesday on Salon. 

“This economist debunked all the right-wing talking points about the Green New Deal,” reads the headline on Matthew Rozsa’s piece. “Salon spoke to an economist about the practical implementation of a Green New Deal, reads the subhead. 

Rozsa opens by suggesting “many Americans have a lot of trouble believing a large-scale public works project comparable to the original is possible – perhaps due to decades of negative right-wing rhetoric that has painted government public works projects as impossible or ‘socialism.’” 

But it’s no “publicity stunt,” as Rozsa claims Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said. 

No, the term “Green New Deal,” he writes, “is a direct reference to the New Deal programs passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Its underlying premise is that, just as Americans from that era needed to combat the Great Depression through active and creative government involvement in the economy, so too do Americans today need to simultaneously fight global warming, income inequality and other forms of social injustice through proactive progressive legislation.” 

Only, the New Deal legislation did not pull the American economy out of the Great Depression. U.S. GDP had fallen 39 percent below its trend levels before the stock market crash of 1929 and was still 27 percent below trend levels in 1939. Likewise, unemployment bottomed out at 25.2 percent in 1929 but was still 19 percent in 1939. 

Salon had talked to politicians about the Green New Deal, Rozsa wrote. This time, it sought advice from Mitchell Green, a Ph.D. economist who teaches beginning economics at Portland, Ore., Community College and works with the Global Institute of Sustainable Prosperity and the Modern Money Network. 

How will the Green New Deal be paid for? “I come from a tradition in macroeconomics that turns the sort of spending problem on its head a little bit,” Green responded. “I’m sure you’ve heard of modern monetary theory [which holds that the government can’t run out of money because it can simply print more to meet its needs], and I would say that if we want to do a Green New Deal, what we’re basically committing to is a legislative overhaul and a re-articulation of our priorities, and reconfiguration of our institutions.” 

Later, he says people are asking who will be taxed to pay for it. “And I say that’s sort of a tertiary question. I think the federal government, United States has the ability to basically spend without limits, separate to resource availability and the financing within that can follow that.” 

Rozsa responds: “That does make sense.” He then asks about coal miners losing their jobs as America abandons fossil fuels. 

“We have to center workers in something like this,” Green says. “So coal mining needs to go away, right? But good-paying union jobs don’t need to go away.” He proposes a “pathway” for the displaced workers that includes a jobs guarantee, union benefits and a retraining program. 

Rozsa asked about the Green New Deal “in terms of ordinary people’s lives … “ 

“A post-Green New Deal experience would have going to work on public transit or by walking or bicycling because we’ve made investments in walkable transportation-oriented cities,” Green responded. “Not engaging in fossil fuel extraction, of course, but engaging in a labor process that produces sustainable commodities. In the community, those individuals might enjoy public utilities that are largely subsidized at federal expense. So that way the brunt of the rate impacts of a rapid transition to renewables is not born wholly upon rate-payers and participating in things like a community-oriented provision like Victory Gardens, neighborhood organizing and the like.” 

Without a Green New Deal?

“To put it bluntly, I think we’re staring down a ‘Mad Max’ situation here, Green says. What he calls “scarcity mindset” would result “in very bad outcomes for most people. I think the rich will have a divine time, like they always do. But … most of us will be facing very lean and scarce conditions.” 


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