By William S. Becker
Yogi Berra is said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
Author Lou Adler wrote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.”
There appears to be some plagiarism going on here, but never mind. Whoever said it first, it’s a good idea to know where we’re going before we take to the road, unless we have a lot of time and fuel to spare.
Time is not our friend in regard to several of the challenges we must confront in the United States right now. That’s especially true for global climate change and social justice. We have gone from a nation that barely talked about global warming until a young congresswoman from the Bronx introduced something called the Green New Deal. Now we can’t seem to stop talking about it, which is a good thing.
On the other hand, we don’t seem to talk about social justice enough, especially when racism is evident, the wealth gap remains cavernous, and robots are taking people’s jobs.
The Green New Deal, as a congressional resolution describes it, is very specific about what our goals should be, from 100% carbonless energy to a genuine opportunity society. But while its goals are detailed, the Green New Deal resolution does not tell us much about how to get there. Talking about it is one thing, but getting there is everything.
That is why the Green New Dealers and the puerile politicians who mock them should start building bridges across their divides and constructing a road that leads to a much fairer and more sustainable country by mid-century. The road should be well-paved, wide enough to accomodate us all, and marked with mileage and traffic signs so we can check from time to time whether we’re going in the right direction.
If you mention a 5-year or 10-year plan in the United States, the first thing that comes to mind is China. The next thing that comes to mind is Communism. The third thing that comes to mind is that we don’t want to follow the example of our undemocratic rivals.
But having a progress plan is not undemocratic. In fact, we would benefit greatly from a 10-year plan followed by a compass check and another 10-year plan, followed by another compass check, and a third 10-year plan that takes us to 2050. We’ll know that we’ve arrived at our destination when our country is fair and just to all its people, our economy is clean and robust at the same time, and all our energy comes from sunbathing and windsurfing technologies. No more digging. No more blasting. No more fracking. No more wasted water. No more brown clouds. Just beautiful free energy from sunlight and wind.
The idea of roadmaps is not unprecedented here. Congress has embraced it before. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it makes no sense, especially when there is urgency, to go forward, then backward, then sideways again every time our leaders change. When Congress created the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) more than 30 years ago, it obligated each president to submit a National Energy Policy Plan every two years, describing what the United States’ energy mix should be and from where it should come. Congress told DOE to consult with industry and the American people to draw maps for 5 and 10 years ahead.
Presidents took that requirement seriously for a few years before it was more or less forgotten. Roadmaps have been replaced by broad statements like “Green New Deal” and “all of the above” and President Trump’s goal to make America the world’s biggest fossil fuel producer, a wildly irrational objective with the storm clouds rolling in. But how exactly will we get from where we are today with CO2 emissions rising, to an economy that decouples prosperity from pollution, a nation that helps the rest of the world restore the planet’s carbon cycle, and a society that offers every citizen an equal opportunity to reach his or her full potential? Now that the Green New Deal has us talking, how to achieve it should become a national conversation during this 2020 election season.
When we read the Green New Deal resolution carefully, it is difficult not to embrace its social and environmental vision. No true patriot wants systemic poverty, unaffordable education, and legions of idle workers who are can’t support their families because technology has made them obsolete. No fair-minded American thinks that women should be paid less than men for the same work, or that racism is acceptable. The Green New Deal’s goals are consistent with that “shining city on the hill” that Ronald Reagan invoked from the Sermon on the Mount.
Cynical politicians apparently think there’s something to be gained by ridiculing the Green New Deal or writing it off as socialism. They should grow up and engage in a contest of ideas about a uniquely American way to get the Deal done. The rest of us should challenge candidates for Congress and the presidency to skip their attack ads and platitudes, tell us what they think America’s destination should be and describe in detail the road they believe will get us there.
With both the body and soul of America in question, any candidate who ignores the challenge does not deserve the White House or a seat in Congress.