Green New Deal

Three members of Illinois’ Congressional delegation are co-sponsoring the Green New Deal, an ambitious public-works plan to address climate change and inequality, and though it faces stiff Republican opposition, it resonates with the public.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, IL-7th Dist., Mike Quigley IL-10th Dist., and Jan Schakowsky IL-9th Dist., are among dozens of co-sponsors of H.R. 109, introduced by progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

The Green New Deal (GND) started getting attention this winter, when hundreds of demonstrators were arrested at Capitol Hill sit-ins, and then Ocasio-Cortez gathered 70 co-sponsors and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a companion measure, S. Res. 59.

Their GND outline includes meeting 100 percent of the country’s power demand through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy by 2030; investing public funds in researching clean, renewable energy, zero-emission transportation and high-speed rail; removing atmospheric carbon via planting trees and building soil; eliminating emissions; upgrading the electric distribution grid; upgrading the energy efficiency of all buildings; and promoting clean manufacturing.

Already, it’s attracted public support, as a Yale University poll showed 81 percent of registered voters back the initiative, and more than 600 environmental and progressive groups, including Greenpeace, Indivisible and some labor leaders have endorsed the GND.

“Climate change is one of the most consequential challenges we face as a country, global community and as a generation,” Garcia said. “It poses a great threat to our future, but also an immense opportunity to harness the great ingenuity of the American spirit. It’s time to take bold actions to begin addressing the matter.”

The original New Deal came during the Great Depression, when the Roosevelt administration enacted reforms including public employment, farm price supports, environmental restoration, labor rights, public infrastructure and Social Security.

Funding for a Green New Deal could require raising taxes on the super-wealthy, said Ocasio-Cortez, who suggests increasing the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent for annual incomes over $10 million, an idea favored by 6 in 10 Americans, according to a Hill-HarrisX poll.

That rate would kick in after a rich person reaches $10 million.

For decades, under Democratic and Republican presidencies, the top tax-bracket rate was more than 90 percent, according to the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

Besides financial considerations, environmental concerns are vital, said Quigley.

“As a member of the Sierra Club since I was 16 years old, environmental stewardship was my introduction to public service,” he said. “I’m proud to take this next step for our environment, economy and public health.”
Nationally, U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said, “Climate change is an existential threat, and we have got to deal with the reality of it.”

Other presidential candidates Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all support GND, too.

While climate skeptic Donald Trump falsely claimed that the country is reducing greenhouse gases (a study from Rhodium Group researchers reported that carbon emissions soared last year), about 8 in 10 Americans believe the climate is changing, according to a poll from Monmouth University.

“We don’t have time to sit on our hands as our planet burns,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Climate change is bigger than election or re-election. It’s life or death.”

At press time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., – who blocked votes on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 and measures to end the recent government shutdown – said he’ll call for a vote on Markey’s GND bill to “force” Democrats to commit.

“Republicans may be more than happy to divide Democrats,” wrote A. Adam Glenn of the Society of Environmental Journalists. But “there is a lot more to it than zero-carbon, clean energy and jobs. It’s about reversing a four-decade trend of economic stagnation, deindustrialization, and anti-labor policies.

“It’s certainly likely to shake things up in this Congress, the next Congress and even the race for the White House in 2020.”

Bill Knight

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