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What's the deal with the 'Green New Deal'?

The sweeping and ambitious proposal has ignited fervent conversation.

You're probably hearing a lot about a "Green New Deal" being proposed in Washington (by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who you've probably been hearing a lot about lately as well), but what is it, what does it mean, and what impact will it have on your life?

The short answer is, none — at least not right now, as the "deal" hasn't even been submitted to Congress as a bill yet.

But as NPR points out, the Green New Deal "already is a politically powerful idea among Democrats," with 2020 presidential candidates already being asked if they support it.

In other words, a conversation has officially begun, so let's look at the background and key points of the proposal (the entirety of which you can read right here). 

Where did it come from?

The concept of a Green New Deal — which borrows its name from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal of the Great Depression — is nothing new, with NPR noting it's "well over a decade old."

But on Thursday, rising Democratic star Rep. Ocasio-Cortez of New York along with Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) released a resolution which "put flesh on (the Democrats') 'Green New Deal' slogan," as the New York Times puts it. 

What are the main points?

The sweeping resolution calls for dramatic changes to the economic landscape through a "10-year national mobilization" as part of an effort to combat the catastrophic impact that U.S. is facing from climate change, as well as addressing inequality. 

The five key proposals are as follows:

1. Achieve 'net-zero' greenhouse gas emissions

The plan calls for a carbon-neutral America by "meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources."

2. Create millions of 'good, high-wage jobs'

The plan includes an infrastructure program which the authors of the resolution say "could create millions of new 'green jobs,'” the New York Times notes. 

3. Investing in infrastructure and industry

"To sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century," the plans calls for federal investment in zero-emission cars (and related infrastructure), high speed rail, and other technologies.

4. Securing sustainability for 'all people of the United States'

That includes clean air and water, "climate and community resiliency," healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment. 

5. Promoting justice and equity by stopping oppression

The plan calls for stopping "current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, de-industrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth."


Reactions from the other side of the political aisle have been decidedly skeptical, with an op-ed from the conservative National Review saying:

"...When you read the document you quickly realize that progressivism is the priority, not the environment. In other words, environmentalism and progressivism are wrongly treated as fundamentally inseparable."

The official GOP Twitter account was much more forward, calling the Green New Deal resolution a "socialist wish list":

One thing many Republican pundits are talking about is a goal set out in a FAQ that Ocasio-Cortez's office gave to NPR: "expanding high-speed rail to 'a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.'"

As for how the deal's authors propose to pay for all these ideas, well... they don't.

The Green New Deal "leaves out key details about how any of these ambitious goals...would be funded," Forbes notes, adding that the cost would be "staggering," and "bigger, perhaps, than anything the US has undertaken since World War II."

Meanwhile, the left-leaning New York Magazine was unimpressed, as evidenced by this op-ed headline: "Democrats need an ambitious climate plan. The Green New Deal isn't it."

"The strategy (Ocasio-Cortez and Markey) have produced is at best grossly undercooked, and at worst fatally misconceived," the opinion piece states. 

So what happens next?

More conversation. 

As NBC observes, "the measure is nonbinding, meaning it would not have the force of law if passed," as it only contains "a broad set of principles and goals for responding to climate change rather than more specific legislative language..." 

"It is not going to become law soon," the Washington Post says, adding, "it is not written that way."

The paper describes it as having already become a litmus test for the 2020 presidential race, so expect to keep hearing about it — possibly for the next two years. 

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