Green tooling, green growth, organizing

Obama is giving a lot of signals that his agenda is going to be to link massive fiscal stimulus to projects that are intended to address global climate change. As policy, this strikes me as exactly right. Politically, well, we shall see what we shall see.

For my part, I'm optimistic. I think Obama's political initiatives are often best looked at through the lens of his background in community organizing. In that vein, one of the pieces of wisdom that gets handed down in the organizing business is that a campaign needs two kinds of hooks. There has to be, on the one hand a piece to satisfy the self-interest of supporters, and on the other a piece that appeals to some sort of moral cause or principle. Purely from the point of view of building strength, the closer the link between the two the better.

In this case, the faltering economy makes the self-interested piece possible. Unemployment just hit a 16 year high. The middle class has been shrinking for a decade and buying power, already in long decline, is threatening to dive off a cliff. A green jobs program, in this context, is first and foremost a jobs program.

The moral piece, obviously, is the green. You need the moral piece because it addresses supporters who need to be reassured that the benefits they receive from the fiscal stimulus package -- which have no doubt about it, is going to require deficit spending -- are deserved. People care about their own self-interest, but they also care about fairness and the common good. Put another way, "give me a job!" is a less ennobling demand than "give me an opportunity to save the fucking planet!"

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