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Six Big Green Solutions to the Economic Meltdown

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If we're serious about reversing the economic crisis and ending the recession, we should take a step back and examine how our taxpayer dollars are being spent.

The recent sit-in at the Republican Windows and Doors plant in Chicago revealed how little the bailouts are helping working Americans who face financial hardship. The plant was shut down and workers were laid off with three days' notice (the law requires 60 days) and told they had no assurance of receiving severance and unused vacation pay.

The company's creditor, Bank of America, received $25 billion from the government's bailout package, none of which helped the Republican employees, until a settlement was reached last Wednesday that met the employees' demands.

One of the contributions of political parties outside the mainstream is that they provide a fresh approach to problems, without the assumptions on which decisions are made in the two-party paradigm. It's unlikely, for example, that most Republican and Democratic politicians will admit that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or our inefficient health care system have aggravated the current crisis.

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In September, 2008 Green presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney published a ten-point list of solutions and reforms in response to the Wall Street meltdown, titled "Seize the Time" (http://www.gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=106). This week, the Green Party published a list of six solutions to the deepening crisis.

The solutions, if enacted, would restore financial security for Americans, but they also address some of the other challenges of the 21st century, including the need to curb global warming. Here they are:

(1) Enact a massive Green public works program, creating new living-wage jobs in conservation (including weatherization and energy retro-fitting); clean and safe energy technologies to replace fossil fuel and nuclear sources and create a carbon-free economy; repair and improvement of America's deteriorating infrastructure (especially water and sewer systems); and improvement of public schools and Green job training programs.

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"The collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis in 2007 was a result of the neglect and starvation of funds for maintaining infrastructure that was built decades ago. The ideology of privatization and hostility to 'big government' is no longer tenable during the financial crisis -- the current White House and Congress conceded as much when they began pushing for bailouts. Public works programs built America, and public works, with hundreds of thousands of new Green jobs, is what America needs now for economic recovery," said Rosa Clemente, the Green Party's 2008 candidate for Vice President (http://www.rosaclemente.com).

"We're encouraged that President-elect Obama intends to launch a public works program along these basic lines, but we hope Congress and his own administration don't undermine and dilute such a program out of traditional Democratic and Republican loyalty to corporate interests and fear of being labeled liberal or socialist. It's time to follow the lead of the Green Jobs For All movement," Ms. Clemente added.

(2) Bail out financially ailing towns, cities, and states before bailing out private corporations: millions of public sector and contractor jobs depend on the fiscal security of municipal and state governments.

Greens noted that municipalities and states are businesses that drive state and local economies throughout the US. They also provide the social safety net that millions of working people need during the current crisis.

(3) Jumpstart our country's mass transit system, giving people an alternative to cars while saving them money and providing jobs.

"Making autos more efficient will only get us part way toward solving our energy and climate challenges. We need to get people out of their cars altogether. Communities need the ability to provide local solutions for mass transprotation: new trains, subways, light rail wherever they fit," said Wes Rolley, co-chair of the Green Party's EcoAction Committee.

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(4) Enact a single-payer/Medicare For All national health plan, providing every American with coverage and removing the burden of health care from small and large private businesses.

"The skyrocketing cost of health care under our private health care system has created much of the economic instability as businesses struggle to provide workers health benefits. If President Obama and Congress have the political will to resist the power of the insurance, HMO, and pharmaceutical industries that siphon their profits off America's need for health care, the relief that single-payer will be a huge economic boost," said Sanda Everette, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States.

Single-payer would cover all Americans regardless of income, employment, residence, age, or prior medical condition, allowing choice of health care provider, and costing working people far less than they now pay for private coverage. In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article estimating that single-payer could cut health care costs by $350 billion annually (http://www.pnhp.org/publications/nejmadmin.pdf).

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Scott McLarty has served as media coordinator for the Green Party of the United States and for the DC Statehood Green Party. He has had articles, guest columns, and book reviews published in Roll Call, CommonDreams.org, Z Magazine, Green Horizon, (more...)

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