June 4, 2019

June 4, 2019

They Got Plans! By one metric, at least, the still-developing 2020 Democratic primary process is already a stunning success. I speak here of the so-called Ideas Primary. Prodded in part by Elizabeth Warren, but not only by Warren, an increasing number of Democratic candidates are coming up with genuinely progressive, in-depth proposals that were nowhere in the Democrats’ playbooks just a few years ago. 

Just today, for instance, Warren released a detailed outline of how the nation should combat the climate crisis—an interlocking series of proposals that would require federal outlays of $1.5 trillion over the next decade. A couple of hours later, Joe Biden came out with his own Green New Deal proposal, which sees Warren’s $1.5 trillion and raises it to $1.7 trillion. Clearly intended to swat down criticisms that Biden is soft on climate, the proposal goes well beyond the actions taken by the Obama administration, and even won praise from the Sunrise Movement.

Warren’s and Biden’s proposals follow by one week that of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who has made meeting the climate challenge the central theme of his campaign. All three proposals involve massive commitment of resources to a clean infrastructure and clean energy, and detailed plans for holding workers in the fossil fuel economy, and regions that center on those economies, as harmless as possible.

Cumulatively, the effect of these proposals, as well as the less systematic climate-related plans of most of the other candidates, is to move the Green New Deal from the presumed margins of Democratic thought and action to its very center. To complete that journey, the candidates—and most certainly, the eventual nominee—will have to sit down with the unions that represent impacted workers to develop policies and programs that ensure those workers won’t end up on history’s scrapheap. But many of these programs—particularly Warren’s plan for domestic manufacturing, which was also released today, and which my colleague Bob Kuttner wrote about this morning—mandate the massive creation of new, good-paying jobs. And a common theme to these various Green New Deal programs is what we might call a carbon tariff: If, say, a steel import was produced in a coal-fired plant, while U.S.-made steel is required to be produced in a clean (or cleaner) process, a tariff will be slapped on that import. (Of course, the Warren Plan in particular has far stricter domestic-content rules than anything we’ve seen before.) That’s a tariff not just workers but climate activists, Democrats, and garden-variety humans should all support.