What even is the Green New Deal?

For all the talk we keep hearing about the Green New Deal (GND), there seems to be little understanding of what it actually is. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the GND is a bill, and that passing it would result in the implementation of several expensive new laws and regulations. I can’t blame anyone for thinking this, as the press has done a decidedly poor job of covering the proposal. Meanwhile, most politicians and pundits have sought only to use it—rather cynically and often in bad faith—as a political prop. 

On the whole, there has been much discussion about the proposal’s perceived viability in a competitive political context, but very little substantive discourse about what’s in it or what passing it would actually mean.

The GND, often noted for having been introduced in the U.S. House by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka “AOC”), is not a bill. Rather, the proposal is what’s known as a “simple resolution.” While the distinction may seem subtle—perhaps even inconsequential at first glance—it isn’t. 

According to the official website of the U.S. Senate, simple resolutions are “used to express the sentiments of a single house, such as offering condolences to the family of a deceased member of Congress, or it may give ‘advice’ on foreign policy or other executive business. Simple resolutions do not require the approval of the other house nor the signature of the president, and they do not have the force of law.”

To clarify, the point of a simple resolution is to express collective intent and purpose. Therefore, the GND merely represents, as AOC has described it, a “vision document.” The proposal lays out a set of goals geared toward fostering social equality and protecting the environment. 

So what are these goals? There are several outlined in the GND, but here are some of the most noteworthy:

  • Create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States

  • Enact and enforce trade rules to stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas and grow domestic manufacturing in the United States

  • Guarantee universal access to clean water

  • Reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from human sources by 40 to 60 percent of 2010 levels by 2030

  • Reach a state of net-zero global carbon emissions by 2050

  • Ensure that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change

  • Upgrade existing buildings and construct new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification

  • Work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the U.S. to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible

The document is broad, and a comprehensive list might be a bit much for Facebook. I would encourage everyone to read the full document at the following web address: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109/text

The fact that this resolution would not carry the force of law is particularly notable, as breathless coverage of the GND often frames the proposal as providing legal mandates that would enact wildly expensive new policies. Conservative media outlets in particular often insinuate—or outright claim—that passing the GND would be akin to immediately dissolving the free market and converting the U.S. economy to a fully socialist model. These claims aren’t true, but they’re certainly persuasive. They’re also telling of how resistant the American political machine is to having so much as a conversation about these kinds of issues.