Monday, 20 October 2008

Green New Deal: Draft resolution

Draft resolution, for discussion at our next general meeting, for Blackpool. Instead of just slagging off the Green New Deal as an attempt to stabilise the system rather than fundamentally change it (which it is, of course) it uses rather more positive language about how we need to go beyond it.

I would be grateful for you would comment on the content and approach, and would also be grateful for advice on whether it should be redrafted as an amendment to MfSS, and if so, how.

Sean Thompson
NB GL needs to decide whether to adopt this at its meeting on 9/11/2008

The authors of the New Green Deal report have recognised what most other 'experts' have signally failed to;

that the current crisis is not just imediate and financial, it is the first of three interlocked and global crises that we face. The report is right to say that the current crisis undermines the credibility of the whole neoliberal project and right to point out the need for good old-fashioned direct government spending and job creation, putting new demand into the economy through investing in infrastructure and public services.

The report correctly argues that we should be shifting the focus of the economy away from the financial sector and back to the real economy, where real people produce real goods and services that actually contribute to our collective well being.

The report contains a more far sighted and radical package of proposals than any currently on the desk of any finance minister or central banker in the 1st World. However, its narrow – if entirely understandable – focus on the immediate need for economic stability and rapid reductions in carbon emissions is based on two weaknesses in its analysis.

First, it fails to recognise that the financial system is both structurally unstable and impossibly unpredictable; cyclical instability is an inherent characteristic of the capitalist dynamic, the product of its inherent need for continual expansion.

Second, the report hardly seems to notice the increasing inequality that neoliberalism has manufactured in our society, and which lies at the heart of the most intractable social problems we face. So it makes only a passing reference to the increasing hardships that the most vulnerable in society are likely to suffer as the 'triple crunch' rolls out, rather than putting measures that advance equality at the
centre of its proposals.

What is needed is a programme of infrastructural renewal even more ambitious than that envisioned by the report's authors. Such a programme will require determined government and popular action to end the domination of the market and to use society's resources, including the banks, building societies and most importantly, the pension funds, for the common good. It will require a programme of industrial restructuring of wartime proportions and a detirmined social programme to counter deprivation and inequality.

Therefore, the Green Party will campaign for an emergency programme of economic and social reconstruction, based on the proposals of the New Green Deal document, but broadened and reinforced by the following measures:

In addition to the massive publicly funded programme of energy conservation and reshaping of the energy generation and supply industry advocated by the Green New Deal, it will be necessary to begin the regeneration and radical restructuring of our public transport system, since transport accounts for 24% of our carbon footprint. And it is impossible to develop a sensible energy conservation programme for our
homes and workplaces, particularly the report's 'every building a power station' policy, without dealing with the inextricably linked needs for a renewed and sustainable water supply system and a massive programme of social housing to respond to the aspirations of the five million families currently on housing waiting lists.

There is already a consensus that we cannot trust the market to deliver or maintain a national railway service and that therefore the railways should be returned to public ownership. It is just as self evident that we cannot trust the power companies to develop a sustainable and equitable energy service, nor the water companies to deliver water and remove waste in a socially and environmentally sustainable way.

Therefore, one of the preconditions of the sort of vast infrastructural reconstruction needed is the taking into public ownership, not only the railways, but all public transport services and the power and water utilities.

The long decline of manufacturing industry has led to a situation where we no longer have the capacity to produce basic equipment at the scale needed for the programme outlined above; the micro CHP generators, the large wind and wave power generation plant, the locomotives and rolling stock, nor the environmentally sound insulation products and sustainable building materials we will need for our energy conservation and home building programmes. Therefore, it will be necessary to undertake a programme of public investment in the conversion of existing engineering and construction materials firms to more socially useful production, an increase in their productive capacity and a big expansion in appropriate technology R&D.

Although hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created by such a programme, the major changes in industrial strategy that are required – for example, contraction of the motor vehicle, armaments and aerospace industries and the run-down and replacement of much of the existing electricity generation capacity - would lead to a need to tranfer and retrain workers moving from declining to rapidly expanding sectors. To gain public support, including crucially the support of the unions and the workers effected, such changes will have to be accompanied by an absolute guarantee of jobs and retraining with no loss of pay or security and a guarantee of rehousing rights where necessary.

There is absolutely no point in the state taking all or part of the equity – and toxic debt – of the banks simply to ride this crisis out and then to return to business as usual. We have to find more equitable and publicly accountable ways to create a stable supply of credit without recourse to the anarchic and irrational monster that private finance has become. So we need to develop and strengthen alternative vehicles, including the banks now in effective public ownership, credit unions, building societies and other mutuals and not for profit institutions.

The idea of using government bonds as a funding vehicle for the project is a sound one, and the report is quite right to look to the pension funds as a long term source of funding. However, as the Green New Deal itself says 'Pension funds are not charities.' They exist to maximise the returns on their investments, and in reality, they have tended to be steered more by what is good for the fund managers' bonuses than anything else. Their financial muscle is too great to allow their investment policies to be detirmined solely by the requirement to maximise returns – the wider social good must also be a criterion. Therefore, the government should take powers to direct pension funds to invest a certain minimum percentage of their funds into government bonds each year.

1 comment:

Kenny Smith said...

Your commentary seems to be a recipe for economic disaster. Just as FDR guided the United States not through, but into our Great Depression, so shall your plans for 'economic justice'. Franklin Roosevelt initiated the highest tax rates the US had ever seen at that time (and the Federal Income tax was less than 2 decades old). 75% tax rates destroyed any chance of the economy recovering, and unemployment increased all but two quarters during his presidency. Strangely, it was only World War II that saved the US economy.

When government removes the incentive to prosper by overtaxing the wealthy, by criminalizing success, and rewarding failure through welfare and government subsidies it creates an environment where everyone is is truly equal... equally poor.

Government does not create wealth, it leaches off it. Individuals, through hard work, through ingenuity, and through entrepreneurship create wealth. No one seeks a job from a poor person, and the Government can only provide jobs by seizing the property and monetary wealth created by private enterprise and productive individuals.

With regard to "Green" policies, they are no more than thin veils for socialism and communism. Selfishness, yes selfishness rather than altruism is the key for a clean, healthy environment. The majority of all polluted land belongs in the hands of government (public property). Its is the self interest of the owner to protect the land he or she owns. Public land is not in the public's interest, but rather the public's convenience.