Jobs for All with a Green New Deal

by Jill E. Stein
September 5, 2011

President Obama’s new job proposals are intended to send a political message that the President cares about the dismal state of the economy. But America needs a decisive and immediate solution, not a limited gesture for the unemployment emergency facing 25 million workers in need of full time jobs that aren’t there.

We need a Green New Deal that will establish government’s responsibility to guarantee the right to a job for every American willing and able to work. The roots of this lie in the Employment Assurance concept that the Roosevelt administration used to tackle the great American depression in1935. Let’ s turn the unemployment office into the employment office: if the private sector fails to provide you a job, you go down to the employment office to get work that keeps you afloat until things turn around.

The “green” in the Green New Deal means that we can solve our jobs problem as we build the economy of the future – a sustainable, green economy that protects the environment as the core foundation for economic prosperity. The Green New Deal would tackle multiple environmental threats to our economy – not only climate change, but also the converging water, soil, fisheries, forest, and fossil fuel crises that imperil our fundamental needs for food, water and energy. Other countries are already making major investments for a secure, carbon-free future. America needs to catch up.

The Green New Deal would enable us to build sustainable energy, transportation and production infrastructure: clean renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, intra-city mass transit and inter-city railroads, “complete streets” that safely encourage bike and pedestrian traffic, regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture, and clean manufacturing of the goods needed to support this sustainable economy.

The Green New Deal would also address the enormous, urgent need for social infrastructure – for public education, health care, child care, elder care, youth programs, and arts and culture. Since a Green New Deal would go where the unemployment is, severe pockets of joblessness – where the poor and people of color are suffering rates as high as 30% – would not be bypassed.

It is time for the White House and Congress to admit that Obama/Bush approach of showering money on Wall Street has failed. Decades of hard-won experience – plus basic economic theory – show that government spending is essential in a recession to stimulate demand and put people back to work. Both major parties, as well as Obama, instead have used the recession caused by Wall Street abuse, costly wars, and bogus trickle-down economics as an excuse to slash funding for vital programs. As a result, seniors, working families and the poor are footing the bill for tax giveaways to the wealthy and large corporations. This is not only wrong it’s also guaranteed to destroy jobs and weaken the economy.

We have put America to work through public works programs many times since the 1930s. We did it with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the 1930s and CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) of the 1970s. These programs employed millions of workers to provide socially needed public infrastructure and public services like education, health, child care, elder care, youth programs and arts and cultural programs. How much would such a full employment policy cost? Surprisingly, the final cost is almost nothing. It pays for itself over the course of the business cycle according to Philip Harvey, a professor of law and economics at Rutgers in his paper, Learning from the New Deal.

Assuming that for every two public jobs created, an additional job would be stimulated in the private sector, we would need about 17.5 million public jobs. Harvey notes that all these jobs increase tax revenues that defray the cost of the program. Government saves money on unemployment insurance and other safety net programs. As working people spend their earnings, business booms and stimulus programs can be curtailed. The bottom line is simply this: Full employment through a Green New Deal is cheaper than rampant unemployment.

An initial investment is required, of course. The first year net cost for 17.5 million living-wage public jobs, $666 billion, would be less than Obama ’s ineffective $825 billion stimulus of 2009. The net cost per job would be only $28,600 compared to $228,055 per job cost of Obama’s indirect stimulus.

The cost could readily be covered through a combination of needed tax reforms – such as taxing Wall Street speculation, off shore tax havens, millionaires and multimillion dollar estates – in addition to a 30% reduction in the trillion dollar bloated military-industrial-security complex budget. A Green New Deal that decisively ends unemployment and the escalating Bush/Obama recession is within our reach – technically and financially. All that ’s needed is the political will to stop throwing money at Wall Street and start building the sustainable prosperity American workers deserve. In spite of Washington’s slavish addiction to serving Wall Street, that political will may finally be catching fire in the American electorate.

Jill Stein is a medical doctor, an environmental health advocate, and former candidate for Governor of Massachusetts for the Green-Rainbow Party. She can be reached at

7 Comments on "Jobs for All with a Green New Deal"

  1. An excellent concise presentation.

    I do wish there were a Video “fireside talk” or equivalent version. Keep in mind that when Obama or any Republican competitor gives a jobs presentation it’s not limited to a text document. Humans impart emotions so well and so vital for heartfelt communication. Please consider doing a video version if it’s not already done and posted elsewhere. If it’s done it should be viraled.

  2. Whether you call it liberalism or a “Green New Deal” the agenda is the same and is a departure from the Key Valiues of Decentralization and Community-Based Economics and Social Justice. The advantage of the proposal is that the political feasibility of it is so small that it will never be judged based on real results. We face an economy with profound structural inequalities. These will not be addressed through temporary construction jobs. During her run as the Green Party candidate for Governor of California, Laura Wells presented the concept of a state infrastructure bank as the engine for investment and a provider of new revenues. We would do better to aim lower in regards to the mechanisms that we recommend for economic recovery.

    We need to address the corruption and nepotism inherent in the Democratic Urban Machines that dominate the allocations of these funds. The Green Party would do better to recognize that in regards to infrastructure we need to establish 3 priorities in the states where we have candidates. 1. Education 2. Water 3. Urban Reconstruction. These issues will not only enable us to broaden our appeal as a party to new voting bases but it will also distinguish us with a real vision and not simply rely on prior historical models.

    If this proposal continues to be floated by progressives within the state Green Parties, it will only result in the marginalization of Greens from the ongoing economic debate. See What we are getting from progressives is “Roads, Roads, Roads”.

  3. On the issue of jobs, I like the detail of Jill Stein’s approach. Details places us in the difficult position of addressing all the issues, such as corruption, as Martin points out. There is a growing social movement for jobs, but it does not have a focus. There is also a growing movement to tax the rich which does not have a specific program but does express a powerful sentiment among workers in the U.S. The Green Party of Michigan has basically the same approach as Jill Stein’s and we connect the issue with three other issues. Here is our 2009 Economic Recovery Program for the People. We are updating it now.

    A Safety Net Protecting All People: Everyone deserves adequate income for decent food and shelter. Greens support unemployment benefits for everyone who’s unemployed. Medicare for all, not just health insurance for those who can pay. A moratorium on foreclosures and utility shutoffs.
    Civil rights and human respect for all residents, including immigrants.

    Public Works for the People: It’ll take a lot of work to build a Green, healthy economy for Michigan. And that means a lot of jobs for everyone, at a living wage. We need to rebuild our state’s infrastructure and schools – create and support public spaces, gardens, organic farms. We must
    emphasize resource conservation and efficiency, and develop renewable sources of energy – solar,wind, geothermal – to replace fossil fuels. That will help cut greenhouse-gas emissions, and stop global warming.

    A Peaceful and Democratic Foreign Policy: The less oil and other fossil fuels we use, the less tempted we’ll be to fight wars for access to those depleting energy supplies. And the more we’ll be able to invest in more peaceful pursuits. We need to withdraw all US forces and contractors from
    Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. We must also stop subsidizing Israel’s oppressive occupation of Palestine with money or weapons. US diplomacy and aid should provide the world with the basic needs of living, not the latest means of killing.

    Grassroots Democracy and a Focus on the Future: An economy that depends on depleting resources and degrading people makes no sense for the future. We need a sustainable, community-based economy. And we need grassroots democratic control of the resources of society.
    Nationalizing failed banks and the automobile industry can be one step toward filling those needs. Our government and our economy must focus on the needs and potentials of people and the planet – instead of serving a wealthy few.

  4. You left out the part about how our government is FOURTEEN TRILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT! Thats 14,000,000,000,000. How many trees is that gonna cost? Stop growing trees and grow a damn brain lady!
    – D.C. SPEAKS

    • Ignoring the reasoning and information in this brave and wonderful lady’s campaign, plus using violent, insulting language does not further intelligent, compassionate discourse, respect of women, or healthy solutions.

  5. Chip Burcham | February 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    Ideas for jobs: teacher’s assistants in classrooms like say one teacher’s assistant for every 20 students (or portion thereof); persons to be in front of computer screens monitoring parts of the US (like cities, towns, farms, railroads, ports, etc.) for crime and for persons that need medical attention; having persons to use particle accelerators to create lots of gold and jewels.

  6. Chip Burcham | February 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm |

    Ideas for jobs: teacher’s assistants in classrooms like say one teacher’s assistant for every 20 students (or portion thereof); persons to be in front of computer screens monitoring parts of the US (like cities, towns, farms, railroads, ports, etc.) for crime and for persons that need medical attention; having persons to use particle accelerators to create lots of gold and jewels. Kat Swift is the best choice for Dr. Jill Stein’s 2012 running mate because we need jobs swiftly that will be fine for all.

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