Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff recently admitted that the Green New Deal was not conceived as an effort to deal with climate change, but instead a “how-do-you-change-the-entire economy thing” -- a remark likely to fuel Republican claims that the deal is nothing more than a thinly veiled socialist takeover of the U.S. economy.
“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all,” Saikat Chakrabarti said in May, according to The Washington Post.
He reportedly made the remarks to Sam Ricketts, climate director for 2020 hopeful and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who the Post says greeted the statement with “an attentive poker face.”
“Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti then asked. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
The Green New Deal, once an idea on the fringe left of the Democratic Party, has picked up significant mainstream support this year, with a number of top 2020 contenders signing their names to a non-binding resolution pushed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
Ocasio-Cortez has called the deal “a wartime-level, just economic mobilization plan to get to 100% renewable energy.” The plan, which would cost trillions, sees the U.S. taking a “leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.”
It goes on to say that “a new national social, industrial and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal” is an opportunity to tackle systemic injustices of minority groups, create millions of high-wage jobs and “provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.
Its goals include net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, job creation, massive infrastructure investment, a guarantee of clean water and food, and an “access to nature.” It calls for the government to upgrade buildings and power sources to meet a 100 percent clean energy goals.
But, perhaps hinting at what Chakrabarti said, it also includes a job guarantee plan that would provide “all people” in the U.S. a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security.
Republicans have responded with delight to the Green New Deal, seeing it as an example of how far left the Democratic Party has shifted, citing an FAQ from AOC’s office that said that deal would make air travel obsolete and give economic security to those “unwilling to work.” It also spoke of getting rid of “farting cows.” Her office subsequently distanced itself from that FAQ, saying that it was published in error and was "unfinished."
The deal failed in the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put it up to a test vote, with dozens of Democrats voting “present.”
“I could not be more glad that the American people will have the opportunity to learn precisely where each one of their senators stand on the 'Green New Deal': a radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy,” McConnell said ahead of the vote.
In the conversation reported by the Post, Ricketts was reportedly uncertain about Chakrabarti’s statement.
“Yeah,” said Ricketts, before saying “no.”
“I think...it’s dual. It is both rising to the challenge that is existential around climate and it is building an economy that contains more prosperity. More sustainability in that prosperity — and more broadly shared prosperity, equitability and justice throughout.”
Chakrabarti reportedly praised Ricketts for his team's work in making a “comprehensive plan,” but then added: “I’ll be honest, my view is I still think you guys aren’t going big enough.”