Jon Rynn Offers Ambitious Vision for Green New Deal

Back in 2010, years before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caught the nation’s attention with her Green New Deal proposal, Jon Rynn was already pushing the plan.

Students packed into a mid-size lecture hall at Santa Monica College (SMC) last week to hear Rynn speak about the Green New Deal as part of SMC’s Earth Week lecture series. The crowd overflow left many standing in the aisles.

Rynn gained recognition with his 2010 book, “Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The Power to Rebuild the American Middle Class.” A doctorate in political science and a lifelong environmentalist, Rynn has been grappling with job growth and the environment for a long time.

Rynn admitted that monied interests would pose a key challenge, and pondered whether it would be feasible to elect enough politicians who would support a plan like his. Rynn addressed the complexities of such large scale legislation, but joked that if people can understand “the weird machinations of Game of Thrones,” then they can get this too.

“Maybe I’m too much of an intellectual,” Rynn said, “but I like to think that ideas can actually move people.”

While he celebrates the work of Ocasio-Cortez and the youth-led Sunrise Movement for bringing the idea into the public discourse, Rynn notes that the congressional resolution is short on details. Rynn contends that his plan provides actionable items to make those goals a reality.

The concept is named after Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s — a wide-ranging series of federally-funded infrastructure projects and programs that provided jobs and relief for millions of Americans in the wake of the Great Depression. A Green New Deal is a similar idea, a federal undertaking to raise prosperity, but with a focus on projects that address the contemporary issue of climate change. It also aims to create more social equity through providing good-paying jobs for members of underserved communities.

Rynn’s plan is six prong: It consists of three major interstate projects - an Interstate Renewable Electricity System, an Interstate High-Speed Rail System and Interstate High-Speed Internet. On top of those, he proposes investments in energy-efficient buildings and urban structure, replacement of industrial machinery for cleaner manufacturing, and regenerative agriculture and restoration projects. Internationally, he suggests that first world countries provide industrial machinery to developing countries (to build their own Green New Deals) in return for agreeing not to destroy natural ecosystems.

This exhaustive program would cost the federal government about $2 trillion a year, per Rynn’s estimation. The idea of increasing federal spending to accommodate such a massive program would be a non starter for many politicians. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham stated on Twitter, “The Green New Deal will destroy the American economy.”

On the other hand, a study published by the University of Chicago argues that programs that invest in green energy will actually save money. Rynn thinks it’s important to admit the cost of proposals like his, but to frame it the right way.

He offers suggestions for how to pay for it, like creating a national infrastructure bank that creates money like private banks do, taxing the upper class and corporations, and reallocating military resources.

“You’re investing in things that generate revenue,” Rynn said. “You’re going to have to go through a few waves of this, of explaining how it’s going to be possible. I don’t have all the answers for you, but I think that basically looking at it as an investment in the economy will make people more comfortable.”