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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez | Wiki­media Commons

Decar­bonization, a federal jobs guar­antee, large-scale public investment, and election reform: What do these have in common? They’re all part of the Green New Deal.

The GND plays off of former Pres­ident Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which com­bined eco­nomic reforms like the Social Security Act with public works projects like the Civil Works Admin­is­tration. It seeks to revive this type of gov­ernment while going even farther to address fun­da­mental issues like climate change and poverty.

One problem with dis­cussing the GND is its ambi­guity; spe­cific policy pro­posals change if you ask Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D‑N.Y. or Jill Stein, the Green Party’s 2016 pres­i­dential can­didate. Either way, the GND’s prin­ciples coa­lesce around rapid action on climate change, large public spending to address job­lessness, and reforms to the U.S.’s democracy itself, which address the major societal and eco­nomic problems facing the country today.

First, the GND addresses several facts about the world we live in: If our current carbon habits con­tinue through 2100, large parts of major cities like New York, Mumbai, and Miami will be com­pletely sub­merged, according to EarthTime, which col­lects data from sources like NASA and Harvard Uni­versity. Many parts of the Middle East and North Africa may become unin­hab­itable in just a few decades, according to a study in the Cli­matic Change journal. The Food and Agri­culture Orga­ni­zation of the United Nations reported that acces­sible fresh water in the Near East and North Africa has already fallen by two-thirds in the last 40 years, which has already con­tributed to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.

The Green Party’s version of the GND plans to incen­tivize “green” business models with low-interest loans, to redirect research funding from fossil fuels toward wind, solar, and geot­hermal projects, and to ded­icate 16 million jobs to trans­forming the coun­try’s energy infra­structure. Ocasio-Cortez wants to tran­sition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030. This is ambi­tious, but many policy experts believe it’s pos­sible to achieve 100 percent carbon-free (not renewable) energy by 2035.

The GND also calls for serious election reforms. The first change amends the U.S. Con­sti­tution to clarify that cor­po­ra­tions cannot give unlimited money to Political Action Com­mittees. The pro­posal would also change how elec­tions work by reducing bar­riers to vote, which con­tribute to the U.S.’s hor­ribly low voter turnout rate. Specif­i­cally, the GND would turn Election Day into a national holiday, offer same-day voter reg­is­tration, replace winner-take-all races with ranked choice voting or run-off races, and restore voting rights to ex-con­victs who had them revoked.

Two other important aspects of the GND include massive public investment, similar to FDR’s pro­grams in the 1930s, and a federal jobs guar­antee. These pro­posals work in tandem, pro­viding well-paying jobs (even manual labor jobs would pay around $15 per hour) to those who want them.

The Green Party plans to convert all existing unem­ployment offices into locally-con­trolled employment offices, esti­mating 25 million created jobs. Com­mu­nities can decide what improve­ments they want to focus on, like roads or schools.

Ocasio-Cortez’s GND sug­gests exploring another anti-poverty measure: a uni­versal basic income. A UBI would give a small salary to every American res­ident regardless of his or her job status or age. First, a UBI would serve as a method to roll all of the U.S.’s nec­essary welfare pro­grams, like food stamps or the earned income tax credit, into one single payout, elim­i­nating unnec­essary spending on bureau­cracy and means-testing.

At first glance, the UBI pro­posal may seem out­landish and irre­spon­sible, but major figures have endorsed it in the past. Martin Luther King, Jr. endorsed a UBI and former Repub­lican Pres­ident Richard Nixon con­sidered it during his pres­i­dency. Famous lib­er­tarian econ­o­mists like Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek sug­gested ver­sions of a UBI as well. Even Thomas Paine, in a pam­phlet titled “Agrarian Justice,” wrote that, since so many lived in poverty, everyone should receive a grant at the age of 21. The U.S. already pays a basic income to cit­izens over the age of 66 through Social Security.

Besides lifting 40 million Amer­icans out of poverty, UBI would also neces­sitate a balance of power between workers and employers. Since a UBI recipient no longer needs a wage to live, big business would need to shift its model to pri­or­itize workers at the bottom rather than paying grandiose salaries to its exec­u­tives.

Finally, Ocasio-Cortez sug­gests a 70 percent mar­ginal tax rate on income over $10 million to help offset the deficit expansion asso­ciated with the GND. Once again, this policy appears irre­spon­sible. However, the top mar­ginal tax rate in the U.S. was pre­vi­ously 70 percent, and in parts of the ’50s and ’60s, during high GDP growth, the top tax rate was 90 percent.

Ocasio-Cortez, Stein, and others who endorse the GND under­stand that the Earth is not des­tined for death by heat, nor will the U.S. cease to function without 20 percent of its children growing up in impov­er­ished house­holds. Each of these facts is a political choice that the country makes, and the GND makes strides toward solving them.

Cal Abbo is a sophomore studying Pol­itics and Psy­chology.