How to Run on the Green New Deal in 2020
Now that some Democrats are promoting a Green New Deal — the signature program of the Green Party for the last decade—how should Green Party candidates run on that program in 2020?
Green Party Origins of the Green New Deal by Howie Hawkins
I was the first US candidate to run for office campaigning for a Green New Deal in 2010. As the Green Party candidate for Governor of New York, I called for a Green New Deal of more progressive taxes to fund expanded public spending on public schools, single-payer health care, public housing, and a job-creating emergency program for 100% clean energy by 2020.
Our Green New Deal was advanced by our whole statewide slate, including Gloria Mattera for Lieutenant Governor, Julia Willebrand for Comptroller, and Colia Clark and Cecile Lawrence for U.S. Senate.
Coming out out of the Great Recession, we pitched the Green New Deal as the Hawkins Prosperity Plan vs. the Cuomo Austerity Plan. Democrat Andrew Cuomo was running on budget cuts, a public employment freeze, a property tax cap, and against the millionaires tax. We argued that revitalizing the public sector was the road to economic recovery, economic justice, and climate protection.
By August 2010, 62 Green candidates around the country had signed on to a joint Green New Deal statementwith additional national demands, including military spending cuts of at least 70%, tuition-free public college, and amending the US Constitution to end corporate personhood.
In 2012 and 2016, the Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, campaigned for a federal Green New Deal that added economic democracy demands, including a public energy system and financing and training for cooperatives.
In campaigning for a Green New Deal for America, we were following the lead of European Green campaigns for a Green New Deal by the Green Party of England and Wales in 2008 and the European Greens in 2009. The British program, announced by Green MEP Caroline Lucas, sought “to tackle ‘triple crunch’ of credit, oil price and climate crises” with a full-scale mobilization for clean energy and economic justice based on progressive taxation, public investment, bank regulations, and democratizing European Union fiscal and monetary policy-making. The European Greens campaigned for seats in the European Parliament in 2009 on a Green New Deal for Europe.
I campaigned again for governor of New York on the Green New Deal platform in 2014 and 2018. The 100% clean energy goal was changed to 2030 only because we had a study specific to New Yorkdocumenting in detail that 2030 was technologically and economically feasible. The climate science indicating the most rapid transition possible had only become stronger. 2020 would have been better in meeting the safe zone target that climate science demands—350 ppm of atmospheric carbon to limit global temperature rise to 1ºC. But 2030 was now a goal we could defend in terms of available technology and costs.
After we received 5% of the vote in 2014, Cuomo conceded some of our demands hoping recapture votes he lost to his left, including a ban on fracking, paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage, and tuition-free public college (though the timeline to $15 is slow and the college program is a selective scholarship, not free tuition).
Our vote went down to 2% in 2018 mainly because so many progressives wanted to vote against Trump by voting for every damned Democrat they could find on the ballot. But then a funny thing happened after the election. Just about every damned Democrat in New York was now for proclaiming their support for the Green Party’s demand—a Green New Deal.
First came AOC and the Sunshine Movement. A week after the election, they occupied Speaker Pelosi’s office demanding a Green New Deal that in its broad strokes of linking economic justice and climate protection is what the Green Party has been demanding for the last decade. You are welcome, Sunshine Movement and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And thank you and congratulations for thrusting the Green New Deal into the national spotlight. Now let’s see if we can work together to get a full Green New Deal enacted.
By December, Gov. Cuomo, always shifting with the political winds, was calling his proposed climate legislation a Green New Deal. Although it increases the state’s commitment to wind and solar, it is far short of what the Green Party calls for. The Economic Bill of Rights programs are completely absent and the energy plan relies on building more fracked-gas power plants and subsidizing four economically-failing nuclear power plants.
That’s why we need the Green Party. Democrats take Green slogans and water down the programs. AOC’s federal Green New Deal resolution dilutes the Green Party’s version by limiting its goal of 100% clean energy by 2030 to electric power, which is only 28% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. It has no timeline goals for the other 72%: transportation (29%), industry (22%), residential and commercial buildings (12%), and agriculture (9%). It fails to embrace a central demand of the climate justice movement: a ban on fracking and a halt to all new fossil fuel infrastructure. It fails to oppose large-scale biofuels and nuclear power. It fails to socialize the fossil fuel and power utility industries, leaving the decision-making on energy technology and investments in the hands of the giant corporations with vested interests in continuing to profit from fossil, biomass, and nuclear fuels. It fails to redirect funds from the wasteful military budget to the Green New Deal, leaving most federal discretionary spending—and most engineering knowhow and physical manufacturing capital— devoted to the peace-and-climate-destroying US global military empire.
So in this new context—Trump in the presidency and the Green New Deal in the national spotlight—how should Green Party candidates campaign for the Green New Deal? Before tackling the howquestion, it is important to be clear on thewhatquestion: the Green Party’s Green New Deal needs to be an expandedand ecosocialistprogram that transforms all sectors of production for economic justice and ecological sustainability on the basis of social ownership and democratic planning of key industries.
Economic Bill of Rights
Economic justice for the Green Party’s Green New Deal means finally realizing the Economic Bill of Rights that President Franklin Roosevelt called upon Congress to enact in his State of the Union addresses of both 1944 and 1945. The Democrats have never enacted it despite every Democratic president from Roosevelt to Obama having a Democratic majority in both houses for at least one session of Congress. That’s another reason why we need the Green Party. These economic rights should include a job guarantee (WPA-style public jobs for the unemployed), an income guarantee (built into the progressive income tax), a decent home (public housing and universal rent control), comprehensive health care (Medicare for All), and a good public education (lifelong tuition-free public education from pre-k through college).
This Economic Bill of Rights is integral to the Green New Deal, which must assure people that the transition to 100% clean energy will be a Just Transition that guarantees economic security for all. That is how we build the political majority that will support climate action as well as economic justice.
Green Economy Reconstruction Program
An expanded Green New Deal means a Green Economy Reconstruction Program to convert of all sectors of production to ecological sustainability, not just energy production. We can’t get to 100% clean renewable energy and net negative greenhouse gas emissions without a green restructuring of all productive sectors, from agriculture to transportation.
An ecosocialist Green New Deal means social ownership and democratic planning of key industries in order make the investments and coordinate the ecological conversion of all productive sectors.
The Koch Brothers and Exxon are not going to reinvest their fossil fuel earnings into renewables. We have to nationalize Big Oil to make that happen.
Wind, solar, and water power (hydro, tidal, wave) are intermittent sources of power where they are located, but a constant source of power on a continental scale. We need a public energy system to coordinate the siting and sharing of wind, solar, and water power and energy storage across the national grid in order to provide reliable power everywhere from clean renewable sources.
Making the interconnected structures of energy, transportation, and urban land use sustainable will require the public renewable energy system to power a public electrified rail network of freight rails, intra-urban light rails, and inter-urban high-speed rails. It will take public planning to design the rail networks to serve as the principal freight and passenger lines and hubs around which cities, towns, and suburbs can be restructured into energy-efficient walkable communities where urban needs and amenities—jobs, shopping, services, recreation, culture—are within walking distance or conveniently reached through free or low-cost public transit within walking distance.
We could go on describing green socialist solutions based on pubic housing, public broadband, public enterprises, worker co-ops, and organic farms that make a decent income above production costs through parity pricing and supply management programs. The central point is that we need a big sector of socially-owned enterprises—both public enterprises and cooperatives—with democratic planning in order to rapidly convert to sustainable production before climate collapse and other pending environmental disasters take us down.
Paying for the Green New Deal
Without detailing a budget here, our basic public message on costs should be that it will cost us far more to not implement the Green New Deal. Climate collapse means the collapse of ecosystems, food production, and the human economy. We can’t wait to act. And the millions of working families who face crises every month trying to pay for food, rent, utilities, medical bills, and/or college tuition and student loans can’t wait either.
More progressive income, wealth, and estate taxes and ecological taxes on carbon and other pollution and resource extraction can provide the operating revenues for the Economic Bill of Rights and other ongoing federal programs.
Cuts in military spending on the order of 50-75% can provide hundreds of billions of a year for the Green New Deal programs.
The Green Economy Reconstruction Program will require massive long-term capital investments. Public banks can help target and finance the long-term capital investments at lower cost by bypassing Wall Street fees and profit demands.
Public money can be created for these investments. By nationalizing the Federal Reserve into a Monetary Authority with the sole power to create new money as debt-free Greenbacks (digital money as well as paper money), much of the capital funding for these long-term investments can be financed without increasing the national debt.
Pending enactment of this radical Greenback demand in the Green Party platform, the US can borrow almost without limit as long as the dollar remains the reserve currency of the world, as the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) proponents note. In this vein, a Green QE (Quantitative Easing) program could create the investment funds. This time we bail out the people and the climate instead of too-big-to-fail banks. The Treasury Department would sell bonds on the prmary market and use the proceeds for green investments and other federal programs. The Federal Reserve could support this debt financing if need be by creating money on its books with which to buy these bonds in the secondary market once they have been sold by the Treasury into the primary market.
The difference between Greenbacks and Green QE is that, with Green QE, the Treasury Department (i.e., the taxpayers) ultimately has to pay the interest and principal on those treasury bonds. The Greenback dollars (both digital money and paper United States Notes) are debt-free, while the QE dollars (both digital money and paper Federal Reserve Notes) are created by incurring public debt.
Either way, Greenbacks or Green QE dollars, the amount of new money that can be created to finance government programs and investments is limited to what the economy can use for commerce at full capacity. Above that threshold, more money may cause inflation.
The Original Green New Dealers
The Greens are the original Green New Dealers. Greens built the platform on which others are now talking about a Green New Deal. Green candidates have every right to be on that platform as the Green New Deal is debated.
The Green New Dealers inside the Democratic Party need Greens on the outside to increase their leverage inside, because by themselves they have been marginalized by Pelosi and the rest of the corporate Democratic leadership. Pelosi won’t bring AOC’s non-binding Green New Deal resolution to the floor for a vote. It got a vote on the Senate side, but no Democrat voted for it.
The inside Green New Dealers need Green candidates running so that pro Green New Deal voters are not taken for granted by the anti Green New Deal Democratic establishment because these voters have no where else to go.
When inside Green New Dealers get tired of beating their heads bloody against the corporate Democrats in charge, they are welcome to join the Greens on the outside where we can work together to replace rule by corporate elites through their two-capitalist-party system with a multi-party democracy based on proportional representation that gives the working-class majority their fair share of independent political power that is no longer captured and suppressed inside the capitalist parties.
Greens have set the standard to which the others now talking about a Green New Deal have to measure up against. Green candidates must be in that debate to fight against attempts to water down the program, especially against attempts to break the link between economic justice and climate action.
Being the original Green New Dealers who set the highest standards for the Green New Deal is Green candidates’ hook for media coverage and calling card for debates inclusion.
In Trump time there is more resistance than usual to including the Greens in the mass media and debates. Greens get that kind of resistance every election. We are always told this year is not the right year to run. Greens have a faster solution to the Trump problem than waiting for 2020. Impeach Trump Now!
The Democrats, if they were really concerned, would have already begun impeachment proceedings. That again is why we need the Green Party—to raise demands the capitalist parties will not. The Green Party can fight the right better than the Democrats, whose cowering before ultra-right racist Republicans—and the rich donors behind them—has enabled the far right to steal presidential elections, gerrymander Congress, and pack the courts.
If Trump is removed by impeachment and conviction, the Republican candidate will still be worse than the Democratic candidate. But the Democrats don’t represent Greens. They don’t have real solutions to the life or death problems we face. We want to present and vote for Green solutions. Democratic attempts to suppress Green Party ballot access and votes is voter suppression plain and simple, no different in principle from Republican schemes to suppress black, Latinx, poor, and young voters.
Ranked-choice voting (RCV) for executive offices and proportional representation (PR) in legislatures are the solutions to the vote-splitting/lesser-evil dilemma that is built into our single-member-district, winner-take-all system. Greens have raised these reforms for years, but the Democrats don’t pursue them. Instead of trying to suppress the Green Party and its voters, progressive Democrats should join us in fighting for RCV and PR. But that’s one more reason why we need the Green Party—RCV and PR are more solutions that won’t be forced on the the public agenda unless the Greens run their own candidates.