Jill Stein’s 2016 Green New Deal Raised Serious Concerns — How Closely Will The New Version Follow?

Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

The notion of a “Green New Deal” has been gaining steam among many more liberal Democrats — including some who appear to be preparing for a 2020 presidential run.

The idea behind the initiative is to promote clean energy sources and eventually phase out dependence on fossil fuels entirely. The exact details of the most recently proposed Green New Deal are unclear, but a closer look at the actual text of a previous plan — promoted by the Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein — reveals a number of key issues that might raise concerns.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaks during a rally of Bernie Sanders supporters outside the Wells Fargo Center on the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaks during a rally of Bernie Sanders supporters outside the Wells Fargo Center on the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

Expansion of the Federal Government

In one section of the 2016 Green New Deal language titled “What the Green New Deal Will Do,” writers lay out several ways the deal will expand the Federal Government. It states that the deal will:

  • “Create a Commission for Economic Democracy”: This new commission would “provide publicity, training, education, and direct financing for cooperative development and for democratic reforms to make government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises more participatory.”
  • “Establish a Renewable Energy Administration”: Designed to be “on the scale of FDR’s hugely successful Rural Electrification Administration, launched in 1935, that brought electrical power to rural America,” the new agency would use the same model to expand the reach of “eco-friendly energy sources.”
  • “End unemployment in America once and for all”: The “Full Employment Program” would provide jobs to all able-bodied Americans and would guarantee a living wage. According to the plan, it would “create up to 20 million jobs, both directly and indirectly, by implementing a nationally funded, locally controlled, direct employment initiative replacing unemployment offices with local employment offices. The government will be the employer of last resort, offering jobs meeting community-identified needs in the public.”

Increased taxes

The 2016 Green New Deal would rely on some increased taxes, specifically:

  • Carbon: Beginning with a rate of $60-per-ton, the 2016 Green New Deal anticipates a carbon tax that would increase by an additional $15-20 per ton annually. For the sake of comparison, a $50-per-ton carbon tax implemented in Canada is expected to cost the average family $600-$1120 annually. And experts agree that to effectively reduce emissions, those taxes must necessarily be increased dramatically over time.
  • Higher estate: The “death tax,” which already hovers around 40 percent in the United States, would see an increase in order to sustain the Green New Deal.
  • Income: Most advocates of Stein’s Green New Deal or subsequent similar plans have called for tax increases that specifically target the wealthiest Americans with rates as high as 70 percent. But when one takes into consideration that the annual cost for the Green New Deal is estimated at $700 billion to $1 trillion, one must also ask how much Americans can make before they are considered “wealthy” enough for their income to be needed to help offset those costs. Also worth considering is the fact that a tax hike on the wealthy in Canada actually resulted in lower tax revenues in 2016 — and the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act inacted by President Donald Trump was followed by record tax revenues. (RELATED: Taxing The Rich Probably Isn’t Enough To Fund Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Who Else Could See Higher Taxes?)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (L) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (C) join their fellow House Democratic women for a portrait in front of the U.S. Capitol January 04, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (L) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (C) join their fellow House Democratic women for a portrait in front of the U.S. Capitol January 04, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

New regulations

Stein’s New Green Deal would put new regulations into place, including:

  • Replacing “non-essential individual means of transport with high-quality and modern mass transit.” But there is no clarification as to what constitutes “non-essential individual means of transport,” nor is there any indication as to who would be responsible for making that determination.
  • Eliminating “fossil-based fertilizers and pesticides,” which could have a great impact on food production in the United States. Agriculture currently accounts for approximately 17 percent of the fossil fuels used on an annual basis.

Cuts

And on top of tax increases and new regulations, there would be cuts made to the following industries:

  • “Fossil fuels, fracked gas and nuclear power”: A “complete phase-out,” in the words of Stein’s deal. While the Green New Deal touts the transition to “clean, renewable energy,” there is no mention of a plan to employ those who would necessarily be cut from jobs in fossil fuels (around 3 million), fracking (1.7 million) and nuclear power (nearly half a million), putting heavy strain on the newly created “Full Employment Program.” Not to mention the fact that fossil fuels, fracking and nuclear power currently account for 80 percent of America’s power — and all of that, under both the old plan and the new, has got to go.
  • The military: A 50-percent cut would be made to the U.S. military’s budget, as well as a withdrawal of all overseas troops. The Green New Deal suggests that energy independence would supposedly eliminate American interests overseas because there would no longer be any reason to protect access to oil. There is no consideration, however, for the fact that not every military action overseas is undertaken to protect oil. According to the text, returning service-members and those stationed stateside — some 1.3 million active duty alone — will be “re-deployed” within their communities to serve local interests.
Soldiers from the Kentucky-based 19th Engineer Battalion are unloading a truck full of barbed and concertina-wire work to be deployed in a public park in Laredo, Texas, on November 17, 2018. THOMAS WATKINS/AFP/Getty Images

Soldiers from the Kentucky-based 19th Engineer Battalion are unloading a truck full of barbed and concertina-wire work to be deployed in a public park in Laredo, Texas, on November 17, 2018. THOMAS WATKINS/AFP/Getty Images

In spite of these prospective issues that remain unaddressed in Stein’s proposed Green New Deal, a similar plan has been championed by newly-inaugurated Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar — along with another thirty-plus veteran members.

The outline of this newest iteration, like its predecessor, sets a “goal of meeting 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources,” calls for the elimination of greenhouse gases from transportation systems and strives to make “green technology” a major U.S. export.

The plan also focuses heavily on enabling unions and enforcing racial and gender equality in the labor market — and includes several key points that appear to reflect Stein’s vision:

  • “a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one”;
  • “decarbonizing industry and agriculture”;
  • recognizing the extent to which climate issues are “intertwined” with other social and economic issues and responding accordingly;
  • and implementation of the necessary new regulations and taxes to further those goals.

A number of potential contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have voiced support for the initiative — although some have stopped short of official endorsements.

  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro
  • Former Texas Senate candidate Robert Francis ‘Beto’ O’Rourke
  • California Rep. Eric Swalwell

Several other potential 2020 contenders — California Sen. Kamala Harris, Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown — have also not officially endorsed the Green New Deal, but have voiced support for similar agendas that would prioritize a response to Climate Change. (RELATED: Progressive House Democrats Warn Colleagues Not To Stand In The Way Of Green New Deal)

The initiative may face a few hurdles in the House, however. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her support for the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — but Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, who has been chosen to lead the committee, has not yet adopted the Green New Deal as a legislative priority.

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