Once again, it’s time to track our Green New Deal meme through the headlines.
First off, Matthew DeBord at the Huff Post says that a bail-out of the American auto industry could be a decent launch pad for a GND. Professor William Ayers (a.k.a. Barack Obama’s ‘terrorist pal‘) has also come out as an advocate of Green New Deal solutions. Reuters’ Paul Taylor also thinks that a Green New Deal would be emminently sensible – but laments that “it takes political courage in a recession to think big”.
At the Independent, Geoffrey Lean reports that Boris Johnson – yes, Bush-backing, Kyoto-bashing Boris Johnson – has undergone something of an eco-conversion and will now call for a Green New Deal in his speech to the Environment Agency this week. Boris says he wants London to become the greenest city in the world. Lean also maintains faith that Barack Obama will deliver the GND goods: the President-Elect promises that 2.5 million jobs will be created over the next two years via spending on green infrastructure.
But the Economist says that we should stop comparing Barack Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They once again dismiss the notion of a Green New Deal, arguing:
the election result was more a verdict on the incompetence of the Bush administration than a plea for an era of activist government. Forty-three per cent of voters (and 27% of Obama voters) have told pollsters that they think government is doing too much.
But there are a couple of problems with this argument. First of all, there’s no distinction made between good intervention and bad intervention. To be honest, it’s not surprising that US voters are unhappy about the way in which the government has stuck its fingers into the economy: we’ve just seen a $700bn bail-out of the big banks without any provision for homeowners or small businesses. But just because people are sceptical about this welfare programme for the rich it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t support a more intelligent and socially-just form of intervention. If anything, they are clamoring for it: 69 per cent of people worldwide want to see their governments doing more to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges, even though it would cost a lot of money. That, by the way, means a Green New Deal.
Second, the article conveniently divorces the disastrous legacy of George W. Bush from the ruthlessly deregulated financial system which he supported. The free marketers at the Economist are keen to wash their hands of Bush’s wars, environmental destruction and torture camps, just as Milton Friedman criticised Augusto Pinochet’s human rights record while praising his neoliberal economic policies. But what Friedman and the Economist fail to see is that Bush and Pinochet committed their atrocities in the service of free market economics. As Naomi Klein points out in her book The Shock Doctrine, Bush’s imperialism and ‘crony capitalism’ isn’t an aberration of Chicago School orthodoxy – it’s the logical result of an ideology based on the notion that ‘greed is good‘.