The Green New Deal: What’s Green? What’s New? What’s the Deal?

Robert Hockett –


During their first weeks in the new U.S. Congress, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues already have done something no other American political figure has managed for decades. They have got the whole country, and indeed much of the world, talking about massively transformative public investment as a real prospect.

The ‘Green New Deal’ exceeds in scale and scope all major undertakings of U.S. federal, state, and local governments since both its namesake – Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal – and the mobilization effort for the Second World War in 1940s, respectively. And this is true irrespective of what measure of ‘size’ you might use – geographic and cross-sectoral scope, number of firms and sub-federal units of government apt to be playing a role, segments of the population who will be playing a role, dollar value of real expenditure, dollar value of expenditure as a percentage of GDP, … you name it.

Ambition on such a scale always draws carping and naysaying from the timid, the cynical, and the economically uninformed, and this time has been no exception. Predictable expressions of skepticism and incredulity, along with the usual ‘what about partisan gridlock’ and ‘how will you pay for it?’ queries, have abounded. Even some self-styled progressive politicians have hedged their bets, approving ‘the concept’ while studiously shying away from declaring on any particular instantiation.

Against such a backdrop, we do well to recognize that in the present case, ‘size matters’ – and matters in a way that the politically demoralized, the fiscally austere, and tepid allies alike seem to miss. The problems the Green New Deal addresses, in short, are problems where bigger is better, is imperative, and is, paradoxically, more politically feasible and ‘affordable’ too where responding is concerned.

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