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Time for a Green New Deal

Written By: - Date published: 6:46 pm, November 15th, 2008 - 34 comments
Categories: climate change, economy, Environment, International, workers' rights - Tags:

With a masterful awareness of the import of his actions, President Roosevelt termed his economic program to lift the US out of the Great Depression ‘the New Deal’. Laissez-faire capitalism, whereby the ‘invisible hand of the market’ ruled, had failed to fulfil the conditions of the social contract (a fair distribution of wealth between capital and workers). A new deal was needed to restore the living conditions of workers and, ultimately, to protect capital from revolution. The New Deal replaced hands-off government with active state capitalism – the Government increased participation in the economy by investing in new sectors and job-intensive infrastructure, created better unemployment benefits, and improved regulation of financial markets. It also increased the legal powers of organised labour to put unions on a more equal footing with capital. Corporatism – active, cooperative economic management by capital, labour, and the State -was introduced. New Zealand’s First Labour Government followed the Democrat’s lead with their own program of infrastructure investment, work rights, and improved social security.

Now, we face a crisis on a similar scale to the Great Depression. Neoliberal capitalism has failed. Not only have gamblers masquerading as financiers crippled the world’s credit markets but we are hitting up against the reality that the natural resources on which we build our economy are limited and in decline. The credit meltdown, peak oil, the food crunch, and climate change all look like very different things but the problem arises from the same failed model(s) of economy management. Luckily, we can solve all these problems with the same set of solutions.

The idea of a Green New Deal is gaining momentum in political circles around the world. The United Nations Environment Program has released a template for this Green New Deal, focused on getting us off unsustainable economic practices, creating jobs, and building natural capital. It highlights five areas that we need to make centre-pieces of our economies in the 21st century:

– Clean energy and clean technologies including recycling
– Rural energy, including renewables and sustainable biomass
– Sustainable agriculture, including organic agriculture
– Ecosystem Infrastructure
– Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)
– Sustainable cities including planning, transportation and green building

Add to that stronger workers’ rights and greater restrictions on the concentration of wealth and control of resources in a few private hands.

Luckily too, we have a leader for the times. Obama is the person with the power and vision to lead such a program, and the leadership and oratory to bring the world with him. If he fulfils his promise. We can look forward to the emergence of exciting and forward looking innovations in the coming years.

There’s no reason why the National/Act government can’t follow the same path but, unfortunately, ideology isn’t always subject to reason. With a money-man heading a government of climate change deniers, free-market radicals, and head-in-the-sand conservatives we are unlikely to see the change we need in New Zealand in the next three years.

So, the Left needs to start building its own Green New Deal plan with which to contest, and win, the 2011 election. We will be starting from behind other countries and we’ll need to hit the ground running. In the meantime, the Left parties can get elements of the program on the agenda with private members’ bills. Thought also needs to be given as to how the Left will win control of the councils in the 2010 elections – councils have a lot of control over infrastructure and urban planning, central aspect of the Green New Deal. Right now, the Left is too fractured at local level, the Left vote is split between too many disorganised candidates, allowing rightwing candidates to prevail with minority support.

The neoliberal system has failed. To protect our standards of living with we need to rebuild the foundations of the economy and ecology that underpin it. The Green New Deal is coming.

34 comments on “Time for a Green New Deal ”

  1. gingercrush 1

    And how does one make money? Looks to be a pipe dream if ever I’ve seen one.

    Right now, the Left is too fractured at local level, the Left vote is split between too many disorganised candidates, allowing rightwing candidates to prevail with minority support.

    No just the right won. Its called an election, get used to it.

    Further to that. When you have Obama still largely using the neo-liberal model of economics, one isn’t exactly going away from such ideals. Adaptive change sure. But there is no majority in this country that will ably support such strategies. You won’t even find it in Labour. And last I looked, the Greens only received 6.3%. That most certainly is a minority if I ever saw one.

  2. Byron 2

    “Luckily too, we have a leader for the times. Obama is the person with the power and vision to lead such a program”

    Reminds me of something I read on Lenins Tomb earlier today;

    “I was convinced we’d have a revolution in [the] US and I decided to be its leader and prevent it. I’m a rich man too and have run with your kind of people. I decided half a loaf was better than none – a half loaf for me and a half loaf for you and no revolution.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    Moral of the story: if you really want Obama to be like FDR, threaten him with revolution.

    Also, I noticed Matthew Cutler-Welsh had a blog post up with the same title this morning.

    Capcha: dreadful 20
    hmmm?

  3. Ianmac 3

    gingercrush: Steve was talking about the local bodies. I don’t think the Left lost at all.

  4. gingercrush 4

    Yes I know he was talking about local bodies but really he was talking about Auckland and John Banks. Because elsewhere councils I think you will find are predominantly leftist or at the least centrist.

    Interesting stuff article there it says Obama favoured clean-coal. Last I heard that wasn’t exactly celebrated by the Greens here. Also Obama really doesn’t talk about a new Green Deal like SP describes it whatsoever. He talks about an environmental policy, something National also has. Also SP seems to imply Obama won’t follow neo-liberal ideas and won’t be a market driven person.But that doesn’t stack up. In fact you’ll find the hard left such as travellerev even agree with me on this. Obama and John Key aren’t that different. And if your great hope is that Obama leads such areas, you’re sadly mistaken.

  5. rave 5

    SP:

    FDR was a corporatist, correct. But as the quote cited by Byron above makes clear, FDR brought the unions into a ‘new deal’ with the bosses and state to stop a revolution threatening the rule of capital.

    If this had not worked then FDR would have moved in the direction of Italian corporatism or German fascism using the powers of the Executive to suspend Congress.

    In his first inaugural he said:

    “…if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good… I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems….in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for… the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

    In other words, if we aim at a “Green New Deal” we are inviting such an anti-worker dictatorship to come down on the heads of workers.

    We should aim higher: “For a Socialist Republic” based on organising fighting, democratic unions and a program that includes much of the ‘new deal’ legislation to create decent jobs and a living wage, but recognising that to enact such legislation we would need to spring the trap of the ‘new deal’ and take over the banks and monopolies under workers control.

    If it is good enough for FDR to take war time powers to discipline the working class under the iron heel of capital, then it is necessary for workers to propose the concentration of power in their own hands.

  6. Pascal's bookie 6

    I’m not convinced you know what neo liberalism is ginger. nor am I convinced you understand what his ‘environmental policy’ would mean in practice. So I’d hold back on the ‘sadly mistaken’ talk unless you are really sure you know what you are talking about.

  7. obama and key are completely different. in every aspect they move in opposite directions.

    as for ‘national has an environmental policy too’ nonsense. The US has a defence policy, so does Switzerland, doesn’t mean they are anything alike.

    The Green New Deal concept is not just an environmental policy, it’s an economy policy focused on sustainability. You’ll find that Obama has been talking about the need to move to a sustainable economy (and yes that would have to include clean coal in the medium term in countries like the US that get more of their power from coal).

    I wasn’t taking about Banks, I was talking generally. In Wellington, for example, the left candidates won 25000 ‘1’ rankings between the 6 of them, three of them ‘serious’ candidates, whereas the Right got 24,000 between 3 candidates, only one of them serious – Prendergast, who won at a canter. If Pepperall and Ritchie, and the others, had put themselves behind Ahipene-Mercer, we would have an environmentalist mayor, not a rightwing wife of a property developer.

  8. gingercrush 8

    And isn’t it strange how the right wing of America far more conservative than the left wing also speak of sustainability. Indeed you’ll find the right wing of American politics are most intrigued by it. Now yes their main issue is to no longer be dependent on foreign oil but the concept is the same.

    You continue to talk about Obama no longer following a neo-liberal line, that is nonsense. Obama’s messages are of hope and a greater future but that does not mean he is following any workers revolution. Nor does it mention a view to environmentalism as a way for American’s economic policy to follow. Such an idea is absurdist at best. Its not even possible in America’s Federal system. There is still no evidence provided pointing to Obama economic policy has a focus on sustainability.

    On his environmental policy platform Obama speaks of the creation of new jobs in Green Energy etc. And yet its written vaguely lacking any amount of detail. In fact it rather reminds me of National’s messages. But wait a minute you have the nerve to attack National for lacking policy and yet here Obama does the same thing and you are silent?

    More to the point, Obama never emphasized his green policies. They may be there in policy but they were never his main focus during the campaign or since. Yet you seem to hold him in such high regard and yet not willing to give John Key a chance whatsoever? Your first instance is to attack John Key for everything and anything.

    If you accuse John Key of offering too much and of making too many promises. Surely that same principle must also be applied to Obama. Unless, of course you’re so taken in with his policies that share shall we say, your views. But his plans are even more ambitious than Keys and yet you still say Key offered too much. Does Obama have any greater mandate than John Key? Well yes because of America’s electoral system. But if John Key is under pressure by the left. Then Obama must surely be pressured not only by the right, but with the centre and largely the left as well.

    The people here at The Standard criticise everything John Key does and you all point to him not willing to do anything. And yet Obama has that same vagueness as Key if not more vague. At least with New Zealand’s system of governance it is possible. The way America works is quite different. Their system prevents change, New Zealand welcomes change. Where those who hold power can make swift changes. America is stuck with having to work with two parliaments.

    Further, people in New Zealand don’t share the green policy thoughts nor was there much mention of sustainability by Labour itself. Here in New Zealand the Greens offer such a platform. But at best they can garner 6.3% of the vote. Surely not a mandate by New Zealanders for us to go in such an area.

    The fact New Zealand industries are agriculture, dairying, forestry, seafood and Tourism. Those are out main industries and what we export. All those would surely be damaged in such a plan. So do you really want to kill what we export so we end up exporting nothing. Or do you expect some miracle to happen and suddenly though being environmentally friendly we’ll become rich? I’m afraid such thought tends to be nonsense and cannot be applicable here or anywhere else.

  9. Pascal's bookie 9

    Here’s that far leftist radical moonbat Joe Klein, writing for that fringe samizdat publication Time magazine about Obama’s neo liberal environmental policy

  10. Pascal's bookie 10

    “Indeed you’ll find the right wing of American politics are most intrigued by it. Now yes their main issue is to no longer be dependent on foreign oil but the concept is the same.”

    “Drill baby drill “? Is that how it went?

  11. randal 11

    ginggacrunch looks to be another ct spammer filling up space with stuff that looks intelligent but after one tries to read it then finding it to be mindless mush
    go away willya
    not are you on the downside of the bellcurve but you are also in the place where the crack is

  12. gingercrush 12

    The word, “radical” is meaningless and rarely applies to anyone. Also please don’t sound like Fox News its scary. I read the article. Interesting but the message boards I’ve been going to (most of whom heavily favoured Obama), environmentalism rarely got discussed. They talked about taxes but nothing in regards to his environment and economic plans. In fact there must be something about discussions in regards to American politics, in that policy is never discussed. We think we’re bad here but in comparison to American politics, at least policy gets discussed.

    But I’m not talking about this Green New Deal. So back on point, yes Obama mentions it. But this very crisis and the nature of politics in America tells me that his chances are unlikely. I studied American politics and change is America happens very slowly. In fact the systems is set up largely to prevent change. So if somehow this becomes his top priority (I doubt it is), even then the system in America is largely going to prevent it. The only advantage he may have is that both the Senate and house have majority of Democrats. But still even then, each of them have a single vote on everything so it would only take a few who either don’t see it going far enough or see it going too far and suddenly it is stopped. That is going to be his challenge.

    Do you really think had it been Labour in office that this so-called Green New Deal would be a reality here either? Yes they’d have to depend on the Greens but I can hardly see Clark ever wanting to go that far.

    —-

    And surely rather than saying: So, the Left needs to start building its own Green New Deal plan with which to contest, and win, the 2011 election.

    Wouldn’t it be best first for Labour to adopt this, since their election promises certainly never had anything like this. And I doubt Goff and King are in a position to be willing to adopt such ideals either.

    Good luck convincing the left. It has some validity but doesn’t actually point to how the deal creates job or even makes money. Economics is the most important aspect of any policy. Unless you can make a case economically it isn’t going to happen.

    —-
    randal before attacking others perhaps you should have a hard look at yourself. It isn’t pretty.

  13. randal 13

    LPRENT
    gigacrucnh is spamming again
    writing meaningless diatribes that have no intellectual content

  14. gingercrush 14

    That’s fine randal. The left have all those intellectuals and they lost. Tis a pity.

  15. Camryn 15

    Use of the word corporatism re: New Deal is interesting. Luckily, there’s a wikipedia article on exactly that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Deal_and_corporatism

  16. Pascal's bookie 16

    “The word, “radical’ is meaningless and rarely applies to anyone.”

    If it’s meaningless then it could apply to everything or nothing actually, but it’s not meaningless (what a stupid thing to say). It certainly doesn’t apply to Joe white bread Klein though. As you are a student of America, I would have thought that you might have picked up that pretty obvious clue ginger. Next you’ll be telling me that Time magazine isn’t a fringe samizdat forum of agitprop for anarcho syndicalyst revolutionary thought.

    Care to tell me what you think neoliberalism is, and which policies of Obama are neoliberal?

  17. randal 17

    well its not really fine gineercruch
    if it was fine then the left would have the same freedom you enjoy here on kiwiblag and whale oil which they do not
    the assymetry is jarringly obvious but to you and your ilk thats ok because at heart you are bullies so if you think it is fine then there is something wrong with you r basic concept of fairness

  18. Bill 18

    gingercrush

    I agree with your basic thrust that Obama is just another from the same basic mould as previous US presidents. Sections of he Left in the US appear to be aware of this and are attempting to generate a mass grass roots campaign/movement that will pressure him to follow through on the hope he has generated.

    http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=511

    http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/19595

    (The top link was the wrong one, but it’s a goodie, so I’ll leave it…)

    To others on this thread on the matter of a ‘Green Deal’ gaining prominence in NZ by 2011, I think there may well be a different battle to be fought, one more crucial to our everyday life’s if Gordon Campbell’s piece over at Scoop is at all accurate. Sorry to paste such a lengthy quote from that article below, but the implications are, IMO enormous.

    Briefly. When the state takes care of social provisions it is nominally accountable insofar as a government running unpopular policies can be voted out at the end of the election cycle. When a corporate is given cash and targets to deal with social provisions there is no accountability. I’m not going to state what corporate welfarism is ’cause I want to avoid moderation….just think of a certain Italian gentleman from the ’30s.

    “Under the Bush administration, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives ( led by its director Jay Hein) sought to promote and to expand public-private partnerships with frontline nonprofit organizations, to more effectively address “community challenges.’

    In the New Zealand context, a more active role for the state in faith based welfare delivery would open up fertile ground for National within Maori and Pacific Island communities that are both heavily dependent on welfare, and widely unsympathetic to some ( but not all ) of the secular civil rights issues that have been promoted in recent decades by the centre left.

    That process is already well underway. A few months ago, Key had begun discussing the potential for a highly centralized, ” super contractor’ model of welfare delivery in New Zealand. To that end, discussions were held mid year between the National Party and representatives of the Mission Australia organization – a huge church-based provider of family, community and employment services across the Tasman, with an annual turnover of some $A250 million”

    http://election08.scoop.co.nz/gordon-campbell-on-the-new-breed-of-conservatives/

    We already have one faith based provider in the shape of the Salvation Army and Drug and Alcohol treatment. No other provider can get a look in, in that area ’cause all the funding is tied up. Importantly, in my mind, if you want on a programme to get off drugs you have to accept or succumb to the concept of ‘A Higher Power’ in order to undertake the 12 step programme. That trips a lot of addicts up and leaves them at square one or going it alone.

  19. gingercrush 19

    Care to tell me what part of Obama’s policies are not neo-liberal?

    I’m not even sure why we’re having this argument. Obama is a neo-iliberalist just like Cullen and Clark were neo-liberalist. The old rhetoric of neo-liberalism does not apply anymore because over time the extremes of neo-liberalism, those being the opening up of all markets, the selling off of public assets, rampant welfare reforms and non-investment in private businesses have stopped and was adapted. So the basic essence of neo-liberalism exists but the extreme aspects have stopped. Can one be a neo-liberal and still have strong environmental policies. Of course. Neo-liberalism is thought process very open to change and adaptation. It can be adapted to foreign policy, environmental policy, education etc etc.

    You can still be Green and be neoliberal. There is no crime in that. You can still engage in this so called Green New Deal and have a system set up neo-liberally. So I ask again, why are we even arguing over this?

  20. rave 20

    Bill:
    Destiny Church as the highest form of faith based provider?
    Or would that be the Maori Party?
    The missionaries are still pointing to heaven.

    randall:
    I loved the image of Ginger on the left of the bell curve falling into the crack.
    That explains the hollow echo.

  21. Quoth the Raven 21

    Indeed you’ll find the right wing of American politics are most intrigued by it.
    Yes they are intrigued by these quaint notions that the plebs have thought of in their squirrelly little minds.

    Here’s Obama’s bit on energy and environment. Pray tell us in your infinite wisdom what part of it is neo-liberal and similar to National.

  22. Bill 22

    rave.

    Parents Inc https://www.parentsinc.org.nz/home/ Corporatism with a colgate smile. Although that guy from Destiny (mental blank) does have a pretty bright smile. John’s is nice too apparently. Yep. The smiles have it.

    “The missionaries are still pointing to heaven.” That would be towards the pie in the sky you get when you die?

    ON FDR and the New Deal. According to research done by MIT economist E. Cary Brown, there was no massive investment made as part of the New Deal. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/10/news/edkrugman.php

    So equating a Green Deal with the New Deal doesn’t carry.

  23. gingercrush 23

    http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/ – And what part of this isn’t neo-liberalist?

    http://www.barackobama.com/taxes/ – What isn’t neo-liberalist?

    http://www.barackobama.com/issues/fiscal/ – I think you’ll find this is relevant neo-liberal thinking.

  24. randal 24

    yes well neo liberal THINKING is not going to pay the food and electricity bills and the school fees and buy shoes for the kids after the user pays manques have taken as much money as they can
    thinking does not pay bills

  25. gingercrush 25

    What are you talking about randal. They’re saying Obama policies aren’t neo-liberal when its evident that they are. User pay already and will continue to exist in the United States. Unless of course you think Obama said he would stop user pays. Which he hasn’t.

  26. Quoth the Raven 26

    We were talking about the environment. Maybe you’re confused by what neo-liberalism is. As to the environment what I’m seeing is more taxes not less. I’m seeing more regulation not less. I’m seeing greater government spending in that area not less. I’m just seeing plain greater government intervention fullstop. So i ask you agian what part of that is neo-liberal. You’re a classic right winger avoiding the question.
    Did you look at their union plans. They are diametrically opposed to what National is doing in this area. Read what he’s doing.

  27. gingercrush 27

    And you avoid my point completely in that the basis for neo-liberalism takes place in regards to economics and taxation. Then is adapted to other areas. Take a look at Obama’s policies in regards to economics and taxation. They’re largely neo-liberal.

    Also you could take all of National’s policies on Energy and the environment and its not exactly awash in neo-liberalism either.

  28. Quoth the Raven 28

    http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/ – And what part of this isn’t neo-liberalist?
    Well I’ve had a read which I think you didn’t.
    Ensure Freedom to Unionize
    Fight Attacks on Workers’ Right to Organize
    Protect Striking Workers
    Raise the Minimum Wage
    Restriction on unions was one of the pillars of Thatcher and Reagan and our own National party.
    Enact a Windfall Profits Tax to Provide a $1,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to American Families
    End Tax Breaks for Companies that Send Jobs Overseas
    Reverse Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
    What’s neo-liberal about that?
    Right through this I’m seeing more regulation and intervention.
    As to the taxes you could hardly call it flat could you.
    This is what neo-liberalism is about. The onus is on you to explain why this is all neo-liberal. You’ve just made the claim and haven’t backed it up with anything. Sorry if this comment is a dupicate captcha is giving me trouble.

    [lprent: The base problem was that you were using raw links and getting caught by the spam trap. Have a look at this link]

  29. Steve. I try to explain some of what’s wrong with your understanding of the Great Depression here.

  30. TimeWarp 30

    Nat/ACT announced their agreement today. We could have three years trapped on the planet of the damned, and the arguments are about who understands neoliberalism, and what it might be?

    Dead men walkin’…. we got dead men walkin’ here..

  31. Pascal's bookie 31

    As QtR points out ginger, much of what Obama is talking about is decidedly not neo liberal.

    Neo lib’s believe in flat taxes. Obama is raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting them for the middle class to make the system more progressive. That is exactly what neo-liberals set out to eliminate. You seem to think that unless one is a communist, or unless one rules out any role for markets then one is a neo liberal. That just robs the term of any meaning. Keynes believed in markets, was in no way a communist, and is one of the guys whose ideas the neo liberals were a reaction against.

    If you are a keyensian, you are not a neo liberal. Simple as that really. If you believe in progressive taxation, you are not a neo liberal. If you believe in redistribution, you are not a neoliberal

    Read about Obama’s environmental policy. All those tax breaks for certain things, not neo liberal. Neo libs hate that shit. Let the market decide without the government picking winners, that is what neo liberalism is about.

    Neo Liberals believe in supply side economics, Obama is talking about stimulating demand. That’s heresy to a neo liberal.

  32. rave 32

    Paul Walker:

    Just goes to show that FDRs intention was to prevent the worst excesses of competition from creating deflationary conditions that would end in a workers revolution. He succeeded and the price paid by the monopoly capitalists was a little bit more monopoly.

    Such ingratitude.

    All the more reason why the unions should not have been fooled by these so-called reforms, and organise for their own plan, not just regulation of monopoly but nationalisation of monopolies under workers control.

  33. Macro 33

    I think JK and RH have quite a different mindset on this Steve 🙁

  34. rave 34

    A good article on the New Deal as ‘safety valve’

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