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A New Deal for America? Yes We Can!

12/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Matthew Stein Author, 'When Disaster Strikes' and 'When Technology Fails'

Six months ago, I had little hope that we could turn things around in our world to reverse the trends that are bringing us to the brink of economic and environmental collapse. America's historic election of Barrack Hussein Obama as president of our country has rekindled my hope that we Americans will step up to the plate--that we will have the courage and determination to do the right thing, to do whatever it takes to turn our world around! My faith in this great country of ours--the country that voted Lincoln into power and waged a terrible war to end the evils of slavery and maintain this union of states --the country that turned the tide against Hitler--the country that first put a man on the moon and conquered the scourges of malaria and yellow fever to build the Panama Canal--my faith in this great country of ours has been reborn, as has our standing in the eyes of the world!

Now that millions of Americans of all races, creeds and colors have turned out in record numbers to vote for hope and change, we have awakened feeling renewed, recharged, and ready to do whatever it takes to regain our position as the moral and technological leader of the world. This will not be a fight to win the "War on Terrorism" by killing more people and breeding more widows and enemies, but a fight to transform the planet--to regain the trust and peaceful cooperation of other peoples who may not always think exactly the same way as we do. We must take the lead in stemming the tide of ecological destruction and global climate change that is killing our oceans, destroying our forests, and wrecking the natural systems that maintain life, as we know it, on our planet.

So what kind of a "New Deal" are we talking about? We are talking about using this next decade to rebuild America's cities, homes, factories, industries and transportation systems for maximum efficiency, maximum use of renewable energy inputs, minimal use of fossil fuels, as we also minimize toxic effluents and other negative environmental impacts.

In the next ten years we can:
1. Rebuild America's cities to use 1/10th the energy they currently consume.
2. Retool our faltering automobile manufacturing giants, and many of our military suppliers to build super efficient cars, trains, buses, wind turbines, geothermal power plants, etc.
3. Rebuild our factories and industrial systems for maximum efficiency and minimum toxicity. When we do this right, our industrial plants will use 1/10th the energy they currently consume, and their effluent will be clean drinkable water and clean breathable air.
4. Regain our status as the moral leaders of the world by helping the world to finally put the brakes on population growth, and by exporting renewable and sustainable technologies and know how throughout the planet!

So, how are we going to fund all of this? By cutting our obscenely high military budget in half, we will use this money to transform America, putting American workers back to work and save the planet! In 2007, economists at the University of Massachusetts published a study comparing how many jobs were created when $1 billion was invested in various sectors of the economy. They found that we created the least numbers of jobs when we invested that billion dollars in the military sector (8,500) but that we got far more bang for our buck when it was invested in other areas, such as 12,800 jobs when spent on home construction and weatherization; 12,900 jobs when spent on health care; 17,700 jobs when spent on education; and 19,800 jobs when spent on mass transit. These numbers make it clear, we can't afford to not do this!

It has been estimated that we could fund the changes necessary to turn our world around by shifting just 1/6th of the world's military budget into programs that support energy and materials efficiency combined with a huge investment in renewable energy technology to get us off the foreign oil habit and put the brakes on global climate change. Frankly, it would make me supremely happy to watch while Haliburton executives and other Dick Cheney cronies lose their multi-million dollar jobs as we put middle-class Americans back to work building real products of real value. After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt met with the industrial leaders in Detroit and handed them the ultimatum that within six months time they would convert 100% of their production capacity to support the war effort, and that after those six months passed, Detroit would not be making a single car for the private sector. He set targets that most thought were unattainable, yet not only were these targets met, they were far exceeded! If we could step up to the plate then, than we can do the right thing now, both for America and for the world!

To all those naysayer who say we can't do this, I say YES WE CAN!


Matthew Stein is the author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency from Chelsea Green. For more information, visit chelseagreen.com and whentechfails.com.

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