As part of my ongoing interest in direct job creation and the ongoing debates between the Squad and the Mods of the Democratic Congressional Caucus, I thought it was worth noting that today a bicameral group of Democrats representing everyone from AOC on the left to Chris Coons over on the center got together to announce their joint support for a major jobs program as part of the infrastructure bill:
A group of more than 80 House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday laid out their vision for a climate jobs program called the Civilian Climate Corps that is expected to be part of a sweeping $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill filled with Democratic priorities.
A new letter from Democrats spanning the ideological spectrum pushed for the program to prioritize natural climate solutions, clean energy, climate resilience and addressing environmental justice.
The lawmakers also called for “ambitious” labor standards, including a living wage and an award to help participants pay for college or pay back student loans. The letter did not specify how much money should be provided for that program.
They said half of the climate program’s investment should be directed into front-line communities disproportionately impacted by environmental issues and that half of the Corps’ members should be recruited from such communities.(Source: The Hill)
For those who’d like to read the letter for themselves, you can read it here.
To my mind, this is both a demonstration of how the Democratic Party is shifting on jobs programs in general and a useful sign of where the Caucus is at when it comes to the climate portions of the infrastructure bill. On the one hand, we’ve been seeing quite a lot of interest on the left of the party about direct job creation – Ayana Pressley’s Job Guarantee resolution offered back in February, for example – and it’s worth noting that the center of the Party isn’t exactly squirming about these proposals, because jobs bills generally poll really well and don’t really raise the same culture war concerns that other progressive priorities might lead to. On the other hand, it’s really noticeable that this letter basically involves a good chunk of the Democratic center signing on to a major chunk of AOC’s Green New Deal resolution without showing much worry that they’re going to be tagged for outlawing Big Macs or something.
That’s because green jobs are both the most popular aspect of a job guarantee and the most popular aspect of climate change legislation, whether you call it the Green New Deal or the American Jobs Plan. Voters generally see the idea of hiring the unemployed to improve the environment to be a win-win. It’s not a completely controversy-free subject matter – there is the tricky issue of a lot of these green jobs not being that unionized out in the private sector compared to fossil fuel jobs, hence why the labor standards are framed so prominently in the joint letter – but it’s about as close to one as you can get.
I’m not the first or the last person to realize that climate change efforts do a lot better in the public consciousness when they foreground the carrots – in this case, hundreds of thousands of new, good jobs – of hundreds of billions of new social spending over the more controversial sticks of regulatory reforms that are going to mean parts of the carbon economy getting squeezed. But it’s good to see the Democratic Congressional Caucus getting with the memo, because hopefully it means some real climate content to the forthcoming reconciliation bill(s) on infrastructure.