A burgeoning save-the-climate effort called the Green New Deal, explains Vox’s David Roberts, “has thrust climate change into the national conversation, put House Democrats on notice, and created an intense and escalating bandwagon effect. … everyone involved in green politics is talking about the GND. … But WTF is it?”
Roberts goes on to give a good summary, but no one can fully answer that question until someone puts a complete plan down on paper. We do know that the vision as it’s being described by its fans (and it seems to have nothing but fans in the climate movement) explicitly draws its inspiration from the New Deal that the Roosevelt Administration launched eighty-four years ago in an effort to end the Great Depression.
A Tale of Two Deals
The Green New Deal would emulate its predecessor’s use of public investment and hiring, improvement of wages, and socioeconomic safety nets to accelerate economic growth and reduce unemployment. In asking how well that strategy might work against this century’s climate crisis, we first need to take into account how the original New Deal worked, both as a civilian project and as it morphed into the war effort of the 1940s.
The massive public investment in the civilian economy that began in 1933 carried on through that decade. And the war production and recruitment boom of the early 1940s should be seen as an extension of the New Deal, in part because that turned out to be the spending that finally ended the Depression.
The diversion of money and physical resources into military production necessitated the creation of a War Production Board that allocated resources between the military and civilian sectors and limited production of specified civilian goods.
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