I’ve been inveighing for weeks that greens need to get involved in the coming battle over fiscal policy — to argue that the economic crisis militates for big, immediate (green!) public spending rather than the belt-tightening Beltway pundits reflexively demand from candidates.
As I’ve been documenting, it seems elite opinion is generally swinging in the right direction, at least in terms of accepting the need for stimulus. Sam Zuckerman in the SanFran Chronicle says that it’s part of a larger swing against Reaganism and back toward "big government."
The next big fight will be over what kind of stimulus. Republicans are pushing for … tax cuts for rich people. (Broken record much?) Democrats are all over the map, as usual.
One point of growing consensus seems to be that infrastructure is a good place to put public money. The usual argument that infrastructure spending doesn’t get money in the economy fast enough is a bit moot — this downturn promises to last plenty long.
And as McClatchy documented last week, the nation’s infrastructure is in poor, poor shape. Happily, the experts quoted in the piece seem keenly aware of the green connection:
“There are new realities,” said Robert Puentes, a fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. “Energy realities. Climate realities. We need an updated infrastructure plan for this nation that meets the realities of today. We simply don’t have one.”
Other nations, meanwhile, are aggressively pushing new projects, mindful of the economic benefits of improved transit and green energy.
“They target their investments to meet those goals,” said Polly Trottenberg, the executive director of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials concerned about infrastructure. “We don’t. We divvy up the pot.”
If I had my druthers, every U.S. voter would unite around a simple call: Green the grid. It would stimulate the economy, increase energy security, enable money-saving efficiencies, and accelerate the growth of renewable energy (grid capacity is one of the great undercovered barriers). It’s a win-win-win-win.
There’s bipartisan consensus on the issue, both candidates agree, and even conservative think tanks have been getting in on the action. There’s the possibility here for a large and powerful coalition. Sure would be nice to see something actually happen.