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From the Green New Deal to the Inflation Reduction Act

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Hegemonicon - An Investigation Into the Workings of Power
Hegemonicon - An Investigation Into the Workings of Power
From the Green New Deal to the Inflation Reduction Act

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is touted by the Biden administration as “the most significant action Congress has taken on clean energy and climate change in the nation’s history.” It promises a $370 billion investment to help lower energy costs for families and small business, while accelerating private investment in clean energy throughout the US economy. The IRA is a direct outcome of the movement for a Green New Deal, which was led by activist organizations like the Sunrise Movement and championed by members of Congress like Rep. Alexandria Occasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey. However, the final signed bill has been described as a “pale facsimile” of what was originally proposed in the Green New Deal. Core participants in the climate Left hold varying opinions on this result; assessing whether and how it can be seen as a victory requires considerable thought and nuance.

As a leader in the Sunrise Movement at the time, William himself played a part in the Green New Deal story. For this episode he brings in two other experts on the program’s progression and evolution through Congress, Adrien Salazar and Tim Sahay. They trace the IRA’s political journey from sit-in protests at Nancy Pelosi’s office by young climate activists in 2018 to the legislation that reached President Joe Biden’s desk in August of 2022.

Adrien is policy director at Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, chairs the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity, and serves on the board of the Sustainable Economies Law Center. He convenes the Green New Deal Policy Nexus network of movement leaders and policy experts to advance climate justice policy and strategy.

Tim is a climate organizer and policy manager as well as writer of The Polycrisis newsletter with a focus on the global economy’s impact on climate change.

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[00:00:00] Adrien Salazar: You look at what they put in the Build Back Better Act, if you compare it to what was in the Thrive Act, the 10 trillion package, it’s very clear the proposals we put on the table, our fingerprints are on that bill.

[00:00:13] And ultimately things were cut and trimmed and not without political consequence. But The proposal that Biden put initially put forward was very impressive, and I think it’s a result of the movement pressure that we had put on him.

[00:00:35] William Lawrence: Hello and welcome to The Hegemonicon, a podcast from Convergence Magazine. This is a show about social movements and politics, strategy and ideology, the immediate present and the rapidly onrushing future. I’m your host, William Lawrence. I spent my 20s as a member of grassroots social movements, most prominently as a co founder and national leader of Sunrise Movement, the youth organization that put the Green New [00:01:00] Deal on the political map.

[00:01:01] I talk with activists and researchers on the left, exploring the guiding theme of power. What it is, how it’s exercised, and how it’s used. and how it’s distributed.

[00:01:16] I am recording this in the fall of 2023, midway through the second Congress of Biden’s presidency, a split Congress whose agenda is dominated by right wingers in the House. And it already feels like a long time ago, but it was really only a year ago that Democrats still held Congress. And in August of 2022 passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the signature legislative achievement of the Biden presidency.

[00:01:43] The Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, was a direct outcome of the movement for a Green New Deal that I helped lead with Sunrise from 2017 to 2021. One journalist called the IRA a pale facsimile of the Green New Deal, and that seems about right to me. The [00:02:00] IRA and its outcomes have been stunning, but poor.

[00:02:03] Bittersweet victory for us on the climate left. If we’re ready to call it a victory at all, the climate movement lived through more political ups and downs in this period to sum up in one episode. And I’ve been back and forth again about how to actually get into this whole topic. So we’re just going to start today with an overview of how the IRA developed with an emphasis on the congressional process in 2021 and 2022.

[00:02:30] Today, I am joined by Tim Sahay and Adrian Salazar, each of whom had a close view of the political maneuvering that led from the Green New Deal to the Inflation Reduction Act.

[00:02:44] Welcome, Tim and Adrian. I really appreciate the work you’re both doing and the effort you’ve made to be here. Let’s just start by having each of you introduce yourselves, beginning with Tim. 

[00:02:53] Tim Sahay: Hey I’m Tim Sahai and I’m the co editor of this online magazine that I started called The Polly [00:03:00] Crisis, which works on economics and politics of climates.

[00:03:05] Adrien Salazar: And I’m Adrienne Salazar. I’m policy director at Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. Which is also a member of the Green New Deal Network and many other coalitions and formations. 

[00:03:18] William Lawrence: And this episode is about the story behind Bidenomics. How the major legislative accomplishments of Biden’s first two years actually went down.

[00:03:27] Both Tim and Adrienne had a view of those negotiations from their respective posts. Let’s just do have Tim. Comment on how it feels to see the product of so many years of really complex and arduous negotiations being touted. 

[00:03:43] Tim Sahay: Yeah. It is fun to see the president take credit for something that was.

[00:03:47] It’s such a sort of a narrow victory with Joe Manchin, you could say it’s the Green New Dealers had a hand in creating all of these legislative bills and [00:04:00] like the fate of many things that originate from the left. It starts out as a fringe idea. It’s pushed by a bunch of committed activists.

[00:04:07] It’s taken up by politicians and then we have the president taking the credit for it to win a bigger mandate after the 2024 elections. So I don’t see, I don’t see that as a negative. I think you do need political leadership to take credit for. the dollars that they’re driving into so many communities across the country.

[00:04:31] William Lawrence: We said from the beginning with the fight for a Green New Deal that it would be not one bill, but have to be dozens of bills over a governing agenda lasting decades. And so we would hope that one bill could lead to many bills and importantly bills that are even more in the direction of our vision of justice and a truly sustainable economy.

[00:04:52] We’re this episode is really talking about the story behind how we got here. And over the first two years of the Biden [00:05:00] administration, the most significant policy battle was over the build back better act, which was the centerpiece of Biden’s domestic agenda, which had been negotiated to appease progressives and unified Democrats after the Biden beat Sanders in the 2020 primary.

[00:05:14] And from the beginning of Biden’s presidency, the goal of the left in Congress was to Passed this agenda in full while the goal of mansion and cinema was essentially to kill it. And through 18 months of really agonizing and uncertain political maneuvering, Build Back Better died only for part of it to be reborn and then passed into law in August of 2022 as the so called Inflation Reduction Act.

[00:05:36] Almost all of the funds that had originally been in Build Back Better for care, healthcare, education, and housing had been stripped out, and what remained were extensive subsidies to support clean energy, along with Some provisions mandated by mansion in support of fossil fuel development. And then since then the IRA has driven promise investments at an unprecedented scale to certain green [00:06:00] sectors as was promised, but it’s also become the cause of much geopolitical conflict as countries around the world jockey for their share of the green economy of the future with some concerning consequences.

[00:06:11] Adrian and Tim, I’m just really excited to have you both here and talk about all of this. So let’s start with the Green New Deal. Bernie Sanders 2020 platform included a 16 proposal. Elizabeth Warren’s was around 10 trillion. Each of these platforms ended up shaping Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which came in at a relatively modest but still unprecedented 4.

[00:06:35] 5 trillion. So Could you tell me how this happened, including some keynotes from the primary and the so called Bernie Biden task forces in summer of 2020? 

[00:06:45] Adrien Salazar: Yeah. I think we arrived at this moment as a result of movements, as Tim outlined earlier, that this. Bill this legislation and the scale of funding [00:07:00] that is coming to address the climate crisis and many other needs it.

[00:07:06] These are things that folks have been demanding for many years preceding even the Build Back Better Act. You have grassroots environmental justice movements, climate movements, young people who have been calling for a scale of action from the government that meets the crisis that we’re facing. And we, today are seeing the climate crisis, bringing every part of the globe to extraordinary levels of temperature rise of heat this summer.

[00:07:45] Extraordinary wildfires, storms, floods, heat waves, all of this has been accelerating in the recent years. And this fight has been ongoing and communities have been impacted on the ground by the impacts of climate [00:08:00] crisis already for, I would say, well over a decade. And so we have been seeing actually the federal government slow walk the action it’s taking on climate crisis.

[00:08:13] But it was really a pivotal moment In 2018 2019 when the Green New Deal emerged as a political vision as a sort of orienting set of principles for how we address the climate crisis in a way that also addresses economic inequity, racial injustice, care, Thank you And the needs of communities across the multiple crises that they’re facing.

[00:08:43] And this again is, it was, it’s not a new set of principles that from the civil rights movement to the environmental justice movement, people have been talking about the need for intersectional solutions for decades, but what it became was actually orienting for the climate movement to be aligned on try [00:09:00] effect of climate jobs and justice.

[00:09:02] And I think that became what. Was the beginning of a major set of political shifts that created the opening for what was build back better. And then ultimately, the Inflation Reduction Act. 

[00:09:15] William Lawrence: So along the way, Adrian, you and I were involved in efforts to Translate the sort of demands and aspirations of some of these groups you mentioned, environmental justice groups, which you’ve done a lot of work with, labor unions, youth organizations, and climate hawks, trying to translate that into Policy that could actually pass Congress because whereas the Green New Deal resolution at the end of 2018 was aspirational and broad strokes, then there was the matter of actually legislating on that vision.

[00:09:49] So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how that process was and in particular the Thrive Agenda, which was an attempt to state Congress to certain [00:10:00] bold principles on climate jobs and justice early on in the Biden administration. 

[00:10:05] Adrien Salazar: Yes. So When we face this moment coming into 2020, an election year, and the emergence of the Green New Deal as a vision that was grounding on these sets of principles, we knew that we needed a vehicle with which to push a political agenda That presidential candidates would take on.

[00:10:31] And so my organization as part of the green new deal network, which is a national coalition of labor, environmental groups, frontline, environmental justice groups, political organizations decided to put forward a vision of the scale of the transition of our economy that we need. And this happened to [00:11:00] also be in the period when the pandemic was just emerging the COVID 19 pandemic.

[00:11:06] So we talked about the kind of just recovery and investment in infrastructure that would address both the climate crisis and create jobs to uplift the economy from the collapse it was facing imminently. And so we put together the Thrive Agenda in collaboration with organizations like Sunrise Movement, Working Families Party, the Climate Justice Alliance, People’s Action, and many other members of the Green New Deal Network.

[00:11:40] And the Thrive Agenda which we eventually worked with legislators to introduce a bill called the Thrive Act, set forth a multi trillion dollar vision for this just recovery that invested that funding in, Sectors [00:12:00] all over across the board from energy to buildings to agriculture to conservation, you name it.

[00:12:07] And that was because one, we saw that these solutions had to be intersectional in the period that we’re facing multiple crises and people are not Unable to access health care and unable to put food on the table and facing these climate impacts every year that we knew that investing in the economy wholesale across sectors would address all of these issues and that the climate crisis was a critical opening with which to push through that kind of intersectional policy.

[00:12:41] And so the Thrive Act we thought would Put forward a counterpoint to what has been a very incremental debate around climate policy that was tweaking at the edges of markets like address trying to put in place carbon markets and so on and [00:13:00] so forth, which many of the Frontline impacted communities see as false solutions and putting forth actually large scale economic planning that we would need to actually advance a just transition and to have a progressive progressive offering.

[00:13:16] And that was what the Thrive Act was that 10 trillion package. 

[00:13:21] William Lawrence: Thanks, Adrian. Which elements of the original vision of the Green New Deal and some of the specifics from that Thrive Act then made it into Biden’s Build Back Better platform that he introduced, and then the Build Back Better bill that was later introduced early in his presidency?

[00:13:37] And which elements of the Green New Deal and Thrive Act were left on the cutting room floor? 

[00:13:43] Tim Sahay: But I, I just want to step back from the climate point and just go back to the Green New Deal as a solution to a kind of a problem that the Democratic Party had identified, which was stagnation, low growth, a climate crisis, and [00:14:00] racial injustice.

[00:14:01] And, this kind of becomes the organizing way in which the Biden administration thinks of what it has to do when it gets into power. So the very first speech that Biden gives in his inaugural speech is all about framing this as my administration and my Congress, Democratic Congress, is going to try and solve four problems at the same time.

[00:14:22] This problem of racial injustice, this problem of total jobs collapse, like an economic collapse during the pandemic with. Tens of millions of people unemployed and racial injustice. This was the sum of the George Floyd protests and, a whole new push to, to reverse, the terrible racial injustice and policing in this country.

[00:14:42] And so he comes in really thinking that every bill, his entire legislative agenda is going to be trying to solve all of these problems at the same time. And that’s why the Thrive Act and the Green New Deal. Seemed like the right large scale solution to a problem because we just had a [00:15:00] Republican president, Trump, during COVID in 2020, pass gigantic bills, right?

[00:15:07] Kind of 

[00:15:07] William Lawrence: broke the seal on the big spending. 

[00:15:09] Tim Sahay: Just broke it. So you had this sudden sense of, no, actually it’s the government that is putting money into people’s pockets.

[00:15:19] It’s the Trump Congress that is, giving the Trump bucks and 400 a week for everyone who is unemployed and checks. So the Democratic Party really felt that it had a moment that when it gets into power, especially after they actually won that 50th Senate seat in Georgia, that they could do something at least as big as what the Republicans did.

[00:15:42] But they had this. It’s a clear set of problems that they wanted to address. 

[00:15:47] William Lawrence: Let me ask the next question then this way. What does the choices about what actually made it into Build Back Better, what does that reveal about the move that Biden and his team [00:16:00] were trying to make at that time and some of the moves they weren’t trying to make?

[00:16:04] Tim Sahay: Yeah. I think we really have to think of this. That four and a half trillion dollar build back better package with the American jobs plan and the families plan as a synthesis of Bernie. Bernie’s like giant green new deal bill, the Warren bill, and the Biden bill. They really bring together that task force to really synthesize that.

[00:16:24] And for a moment, it seems that they are adopting the entire, we’re going to fix the welfare state. We are actually going to do Massive amounts of environmental justice. This cannot be fiddling around the edges as Adrian said, of just a few tax credits here and there, it has to be very ambitious.

[00:16:41] So it is, it has childcare, it has housing, it has environmental justice, it has paid family leave, this really crazy social welfare state, which is what the Green New Dealers have been pointing out right from the start that actually, if you want climate action You really need to fix the welfare system because we are going to [00:17:00] have this crazy amount of unemployment in some sectors, growth in some regions, decline in some fossil fuel regions, and you need a large safety net so that people Feel comfortable and leaving a job and moving to another place and finding a better job for them.

[00:17:16] So that vision in the American families plan of social provisions was hugely important, and the Democratic Party actually adopted it, which was a sign that, progressives were, if not in charge, at least ascendant in that progressive mode coalition that Biden had built up. 

[00:17:38] William Lawrence: And the moderates were forced to admit that the progressives had some of the right ideas for the right time.

[00:17:45] And that’s very I’m appreciate hearing you say that, they took it up and they were true believers in this, in a sense, at the scale that they offered it, not at the scale necessarily that Bernie had or Warren had offered it. Yeah. I 

[00:17:56] Tim Sahay: mean, even if you think about Warren the reason I bought Warren, because she had [00:18:00] a super ambitious tax the rich, close all the corporate banks.

[00:18:03] loopholes, reverse the Trump era tax cuts, which Democrats are really mad about in 28, that’s the one big legislative accomplishment of the GOP was just like massive two and a half, 3 trillion tax cuts. So the Democrats were like, no, we need to reverse this and plug the holes. Otherwise we have no way to do social spending.

[00:18:23] And so it’s the Biden people that come up with not just four and a half trillion dollars of spending, but four and a half trillion dollars of taxes. And so they’re willing to go after Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Fortune 500 companies, millionaires, dollar millionaires and they are willing to tax them to pay for the American jobs and family spending.

[00:18:42] William Lawrence: Mhm. So Adrian, would you add anything to that on this transitional period from the end of the primary to the beginning of the Biden administration? 

[00:18:54] Adrien Salazar: Yeah, I think Tim is absolutely right that it’s it appeared in that moment that this [00:19:00] administration was taking seriously the Pressure that we were putting on it on as movements, from the sit ins that Sunrise held in Nancy Pelosi’s office to folks coming out into the streets, demanding investments in care and national actions, addressing climate crisis, youth showing up in the millions demanding climate action, and that there was a mandate, it had been, over a decade since the last opportunity to pass the, a big climate legislation, which was the Waxman Marquis bill, ultimately failed.

[00:19:41] And I think the Democratic Party was clear. This was, this is the party of the folks who take climate crisis seriously. And that in this new administration that they would put forward a proposal that would address that. And you look at what they put in the Build Back Better Act. If you [00:20:00] compare it to what was in the Thrive Act, the 10 trillion package that it’s very clear the proposals we put on the table.

[00:20:08] Our fingerprints are on that bill, and ultimately things were cut and trimmed and not without political consequence. The proposal that Biden initially put forward was very impressive in the scale of energy investments, in investments in the care sector, in addressing environmental justice and all of the kinds of programs that Tim was outlining.

[00:20:35] And I think it’s a result of the movement pressure that we had put on him and that, in effect, at that time, he, his administration felt that it was our movements that helped get him into office.

[00:20:55] William Lawrence: It was a really impressive and hopeful moment because [00:21:00] we had to go so far to be able to move a democratic president to that place. And I had the same impression at the time that his team is very serious about this. They’re thinking about this seriously. Like lots of really truly movement aligned progressive people are even in the room or their ideas are being taken up and this is where the legislative politics in Congress start to come in and now the right starts to have its say.

[00:21:24] So Build Back Better was introduced to Congress in March of 2021 and asked them basically to pass it immediately. American Jobs Plan and Family Plan. And the task immediately was to try to get the final two senators, because it was pretty clear that there were 48 senators in his corner Sinema were going to be the barrier.

[00:21:43] And so this is when we get into the stage of the so called two track strategy, because Manchin said. Let me pass the bipartisan bill. Let me slice off some of this American jobs plan and pass it as a bipartisan infrastructure bill. And then we can do the other [00:22:00] stuff later. And the progressives congressional progressive caucus rightly said, that’s crazy.

[00:22:06] Why would we give up all of our leverage because you don’t want to pass the rest of this stuff. And so they insisted that they would sink mansions bipartisan infrastructure bill if it were to move. And for a while, This seemed to be like they were holding and Biden and Pelosi explicitly said, we endorse the two.

[00:22:23] We endorse the CPC’s effort to have both of the bills pass at the same time rather than letting mansions bill go first. But then there was a reversal in, I believe, October. Of 2021 and all of a sudden Biden and Pelosi decided that their priority was to pass the mansion bill and they started to whip against the CPC was what it looked like from my perspective from the outside of people were saying at the time.

[00:22:49] I wonder if you could comment on the dynamics in this period and particularly who are the interest behind the scenes who are having this big brawl between the [00:23:00] conservative senators and then the progressive members of the House. 

[00:23:04] Adrien Salazar: Yeah, so from the beginning, when we heard about the infrastructure bipartisan effort, we knew that this was going to be a effort that would try to undercut the, Progressive investments that we are trying to advance and that having Republicans at the table would lock in some pretty bad stuff into this package that mansion was trying to lead in, in negotiating.

[00:23:33] And so we worked with our allies in the congressional progressive caucus, trying to persuade them to hold the line. That was what we told them. And that was our messaging. Hold the line against this bipartisan bill and demand that we move from actually our position was pass the full package first before moving a bipartisan package.

[00:23:56] And then politics happens and where they [00:24:00] landed was let’s Demand a two track process where they both move at the same time. From our vantage point, the moment we gave any leverage to the Republicans was the moment the package would start to get weaker. And that’s exactly what happened.

[00:24:13] That’s what we saw. And so we tried to work very hard lobbying members of the congressional progressive caucus and other. Members of Congress to try to oppose this package and ultimately only the members of the squad ended up voting No against the bipartisan deal and that’s because we said we will back you We will we as movements will back you if you vote no on this and it’s important to draw the line in the sand and say how we Oppose the investments in this package that increase, fossil fuels that increase You Funding for false solutions like carbon capture and storage and many other things.

[00:24:53] Tim, what did you think happened? 

[00:24:55] Tim Sahay: I think what became interesting was just like, the road to [00:25:00] 218 votes in the house and the road to getting all 50 senators on board. And these, and it was clear that the Biden White House was on the side of the progressives like were laid out. They were willing to back Our efforts to pass a big package because they felt the same thing that they would lose all of the the jobs plan and the family plan and the climate stuff if it became bipartisan.

[00:25:25] And I think like the Biden people would say something strange if you ask them, they would say we want something bipartisan because after the riots in June, in January 6th. We want to show that we can work with our groups across the aisle. And it seemed completely crazy, that, that was what, and I always felt like that was just some, a way of them to just like.

[00:25:48] make themselves like, look nice. But they he’s always serious about this democracy versus autocracy and I need to show the rest of the world that the United States is still a functioning democracy. And it just [00:26:00] seemed crazy because you aren’t going to get half the things that you said are a bigger threat to your democracy, which is this enormous unemployment and the fires of racism and how could you possibly abandon all of those things in, in, in a decision to, to work across the aisle?

[00:26:17] So I thought It was definitely interesting and the Biden cabinet and Biden himself, they never really went on a road show across the country, if they’re doing this now, it’s because they want to win the elections. They also wanted to win the win terms, right? 

[00:26:31] William Lawrence: They were very passive. They were very passive. It seemed like they were content to let drive, Manchin drive the timeline in the news cycle. 

[00:26:36] Tim Sahay: Yeah. And, I think like most progressives just like Bernie was on the road, he was trying to sell it. He was, he’s trying to talk about why this is the, once in a generation chance to actually expand the American safety net and welfare system and expand our economy.

[00:26:53] New pre K childcare, free community college, like all the stuff that he had been fighting for. So it was a big moment where, [00:27:00] Biden could have tried to involve movements and try and use that public pressure on Manchin. But he did not have the appetite for it.

[00:27:15] William Lawrence: Adrian, you mentioned that it was only the squad that ended up taking the tough vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill once the White House and congressional leadership had decided to pass it. What do you think that reveals or what lessons does that give us about the differences between the squad and the rest of the members of the C.

[00:27:33] P. C. Who had previously been trying to hold out? And I’m particularly interested in this because I think you know, we need more members who are going to be willing to take the tough votes in the future. And if we had maybe 15 or 20 rather than only six there could have been a different outcome.

[00:27:48] But what lessons do you draw from that 

[00:27:52] Adrien Salazar: up front? I’ll say what it shows me is that the left does not have the power to block votes in Congress. And when I say the [00:28:00] left, I don’t mean the squad, right? They represent A certain moment in which we’re actually be able to build electoral power and candidates who reflect that more left values, but our movements have don’t have the power to actually or have not been able to organize to solidify that block to grow that block to an extent, like four or five members of Congress is not enough to stop anything in the current political conditions.

[00:28:27] And. I will also say that in, in that time rep Jayapal was in the process of building the muscle of the progressive caucus. She just. Entered the solo chairship and was trying to really solidify wielding it as a block. And we were working with progressive caucus members.

[00:28:51] We were lobbying them in a very, I think, unique co-governance sort of moment when, there is now a trifecta in [00:29:00] both houses of the of Congress and with the White House. And so we didn’t know, and Jayapal didn’t know, how much she would be able to hold together this caucus.

[00:29:11] I think we were all testing and we were trying to reflect, do we have the power to actually come down on votes? And on important things that matter to us, the scale of this package the kinds of investments in these programs that Tim outlined that our communities need. Yeah. And can we persuade individual members to take that risk?

[00:29:35] And we all learned, right? I think in that moment, we flexed a muscle and we didn’t we our eyes went farther than our hands could reach. And I think that Jayapal also found that she wasn’t able to hold the caucus together for a no vote. And yeah. And it landed where it landed.

[00:29:53] And I think it’s important that the members of the squad who did voted no to reflect an [00:30:00] alignment and a solidarity with movements who are saying, this is a bad package. This is a bad deal. History will prove us right. And that is the case. They made the bet. That this to track process would allow us to pass the full scale package that Biden and the rest of the progressive members of the Democrats wanted.

[00:30:21] And we didn’t get that. We actually handed all the leverage to mention in that moment, and everything that followed was a consequence of that. 

[00:30:32] William Lawrence: Tim, anything to add? 

[00:30:33] Tim Sahay: Yeah I think just like going back to that calculus of how do you get, how do you get 50 votes? I think, so we had the first phase of the progressives being ascendant, and then the second phase when the centrists and the mod, moderate Democrats are ascendant and more powerful.

[00:30:49] And the Build Back Better package just slams into these two veto votes from Manchin and that really cleverly worked almost as a two step. [00:31:00] So Manchin is clamping down on social spending. Oh my God. If you give money to like the people who aren’t employed and the child tax credit, like they’re just going to get drunk and paid all on drugs, right?

[00:31:10] Like he’s got this extreme social conservative Democrat, but Manchin is willing to tax the rich. He’s willing to tax corporations. And then on the other side, you have Cinema, who’s. It’s, unwilling to tax the rich, unwilling to tax the corporations, is willing to like basically kill all of the tax provisions.

[00:31:28] So between the two of them, one is cutting out the spending what you can spend on social welfare and the, and obviously on green stuff, because Manchin is not particularly happy with green stuff. And then Cinema is clamping down on where you’re going to get the money from. So between the two of them, they’re just crushing the bill like a boa constrictor.

[00:31:47] Like a clamp like I started out with and that just like destroys the coalition that Jayapal and Biden were trying to build out to get the votes. Because if you have big important things like [00:32:00] public housing and housing being cut out of the bill, childcare being cut out of the bill, child tax credits being cut out of the bill, you also lose people who have the, who have the political sort of appetite to get those things done.

[00:32:14] That’s their sort of big torpedo topic. And now it’s gone. 

[00:32:20] William Lawrence: We mentioned earlier how you like the fingerprints of the movement left and was all over the build back better package. And then a lot of that got squeezed out. by that clamp. Even though the fingerprints were all over the package, it wasn’t as if there was a really broad and deep force in the streets that was fighting for some of the contentious provisions in this package at this time.

[00:32:46] This was 2021. It was the second year of COVID. It was like a pretty dark time, I think, for a lot of people. So that’s In my experience, a big part of it, but I don’t think it’s the whole story. So I guess I would ask each of you starting with [00:33:00] Tim do you have a theory about why it was tough to get the grassroots involved in this push to get Build Back Better over the line in Congress?

[00:33:08] Tim Sahay: Right from the start, there were a lot of people calling their congressmen and senators. This was a big, at least on, on calls and emails. But I think you’re right. Not much actual like public pressure. On the streets as not, huge, for instance, the George Floyd protests had, tens of millions of people out on the streets.

[00:33:29] We didn’t have tens of millions at all during the entire Biden first two years. So there’s definitely been an inability of both centrists sorry, progressives, centrists, and Biden himself to actually get people out onto the streets. To support that package. I don’t know, I don’t know how to describe it as what’s the reasons except that, they’re able to talk up a big game now.

[00:33:56] And I just wish that they had been talking up that [00:34:00] big game before when the builds were actually being fought over. 

[00:34:04] Adrien Salazar: Yeah, I would echo Tim that in that moment there the. There wasn’t a lack of enthusiasm for getting this package done. And especially because we were in the middle of a pandemic crisis, I think the salience of these sorts of cross sectoral investments in healthcare and childcare and community resources, as well as climate investments was very clear.

[00:34:31] It was clear to our members as a member based organization and to Many of our allies and we were contending right as Tim said, with the pandemic as organizers, we were testing a different set of strategies and tactics under a new political context where most of what we could do in the early part of that time from 2020 to 2021 was virtual.

[00:34:56] We were trying to mobilize people to make calls. We did [00:35:00] online lobbying, and I think there was a lot of effort there. But certainly because of the clampdown and the quarantines that were all over the country, you would, you did not see the level of turning out people into the streets as could have been possible.

[00:35:16] And I will say that also doesn’t mean that we didn’t do that because as the pandemic progressed and things started to open up and people were comfortable with being outside again, there were actions. There were distributed actions calling for climate care jobs and justice or addressing the climate crisis at the scale that we needed.

[00:35:37] We were a part of a coalition Called care is essential. And I remember in 2021 in the summer, we brought a lot of our members to Washington, DC, and we have members who are domestic care workers, home care workers, who were part of this coalition with SEIU, the national domestic [00:36:00] workers alliance, demanding 400 billion in care investments for care workers as part of this package.

[00:36:07] And we turned out people. That was one of the. Biggest early actions coming out of that opening period of the pandemic that I can remember and we were all masked, outside. And so it was something that we were assessing. This is risky, but fighting for it is worth the risk in this moment.

[00:36:24] And then in the end, some of those pieces didn’t make it, the care investments actually were one of the pieces that were locked off. But to, to your point Tim this was a period in which we were trying to turn out people in the streets. And I think the particular political conditions and the level of getting people to be together physically was challenging.

[00:36:49] William Lawrence: Yeah, thanks for that. So let’s skip over all the rigmarole with Manchin in 2022 because I never want to think about it again and get to the Inflation [00:37:00] Reduction Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, which is what we got. It was largely negotiated between Manchin and Schumer and people connected to each of them and was presented to the world in August of 2022.

[00:37:13] What’s in the Inflation Reduction Act? Let’s start with Tim. 

[00:37:18] Tim Sahay: The main thing that it has is for the first time ever. Climate investments. So one shouldn’t like, one shouldn’t forget that like the United States is the world’s largest oil producer, world’s largest gas producer. And over the Obama years, the fracking boom made it one of the world’s largest gas exporters as well.

[00:37:40] So there’s a reason why we’ve never had a climate bill. There’s just huge. fossil oil and gas interests expressed in Manchin, the entire GOP as well. So the fact that this bill even exists, After Manchin had killed it is already something sort of something to register. And I don’t want to shift the baselines to be happy with [00:38:00] whatever you just got.

[00:38:00] I’m just saying that, it actually died. It died in December, 2021. It’s somehow resurrected after the war in Ukraine. And it’s resurrected because Manchin basically says, Oh, wow, now’s the time to get more oil and gas to Europe. And, and he’s okay, maybe I’ll be fine with a few more green.

[00:38:18] Energy tax credits this time around. So it’s a mystery that it comes back and you could say that the energy security concerns after the war is one of the reason why Manchin decides to bring it back. But what’s in the bill is this whole sort of artillery of Public money and public money can go out in all sorts of ways.

[00:38:38] What we would like is a lot of grants, straight up grants by a government agency so that people can say, Hey, like this is working. This is not working. But it also has these sort of diffuse tax credits, which is just a completely Uncapped tax credits, what I’ve been calling sort of bottomless mimosas of [00:39:00] green subsidies for all sorts of entities to do green projects with.

[00:39:04] So if you’re a school, if you’re a local hospital, if you’re a local government, if you’re a state if you’re the Tennessee Valley Authority, all of these agencies, local governments, NGOs, Can go and get those bottomless mimosas if they do green projects. Incidentally, 

[00:39:20] William Lawrence: Tim, I heard somebody use your phrase bottomless mimosas at a meeting this morning with the city official here in Lansing.

[00:39:26] So the word is getting around. 

[00:39:28] Tim Sahay: That’s great. And the reason why I call it bottomless mimosas is because, what if it just turns into champagne for the rich, right? Or what if it just turns into carbon sludge if all sorts of people say, Hey, my thing is green, whereas it’s actually a false solution full of carbon in it, right?

[00:39:42] So we have to be really attentive and monitoring and hold these agencies accountable that are giving these out and because they could be giving it out just exclusively to big companies. Private capitalists. And that’s not what we want. So one of the big wins in this [00:40:00] is a direct pay, which is what I was talking about, which is every NGO and local government can get it and school can get it.

[00:40:07] And then the other thing to also remember about the IRAs, it’s not just the climate bill. It’s a health bill. It’s a tax bill. It taxes the rich. It closes a few loopholes. That’s how it’s paid for. And, it’s a health bill. It actually gives Medicare negotiating power to negotiate the prices of extremely expensive drugs.

[00:40:28] And, it puts, 10 or 15 of those drugs under price control. So it’s like an Obamacare. As big as Obamacare health bill in itself, but, we are here to talk about the climate elements in the bill. And so it’s the modeling that you see on how much fossil fuel emissions it’s actually going to cut is totally up in the air because it depends upon whether organizers and individuals and state governments can actually drink those bottomless mimosas.

[00:40:56] It’s because there’s no, it’s just a model that [00:41:00] says. 10 million people will go get an EB and 20 million people will put solar panels on their roofs, but those numbers could be much, much larger if we make sure that they are easy to drink and easy to find. 

[00:41:12] Adrien Salazar: This is where things get exciting, Will, because I think from the moment we saw what was in the Inflation Reduction Act, you heard all sorts of interpretations about what kind of bill this was, depending on what piece people were looking at.

[00:41:31] And there are, they continue to be up to now competing narratives about how much of a victory this package was. And yes, Tim is absolutely right. This is, there are the largest scale of climate investments that we’ve seen In our lifetimes in this package and for an organization like mine that represents communities on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction and pollution.

[00:41:58] There are parts of [00:42:00] this bill that we could not accept. You know that there were. Again, strong investments in environmental justice that we fought for and that we won, but there were also investments in technologies that could harm communities, like carbon capture, sequestration, hydrogen. There were, because of the negotiation with Manchin, mandated fossil fuel expansion.

[00:42:25] There were lease sales that were required and, this what we could go into a whole spiral about this side deal that mansion tried to negotiate to get even more of a locked in fossil fuel development that we had to resist afterwards. But there were all sorts of poison pills in this package.

[00:42:44] And so our assessment in the end was the good, the bad and the ugly, right? There are this is a mixed package and ultimately organizations like mine, the Climate Justice Alliance, the Movement for Black Lives, Indigenous Environmental Network. We came out in opposition [00:43:00] to the bill. When we saw it, we said we cannot support this package that will produce any harm In communities on the front lines of climate crisis and pollution and extraction.

[00:43:10] And that is not to take away from the pieces that we were able to win, right? Because of the work of our movements and our folks who made those calls, who turned out, who showed up and who’ve been fighting for years for some of these elements. But I can’t, on good faith, tell you that this is a fantastic bill today.

[00:43:29] There are pieces of it that are being implemented, that we’re continuing to fight right now. And that we as Tim said, we don’t know if it’s going to actually fulfill all of its promises because some of these things, including like, How this bill is going to meet the President’s Justice 40 commitment to direct some of these investments to frontline communities.

[00:43:52] We don’t know how well they’re going to do that, how well agencies are set up to track and implement directed [00:44:00] spending on many programs that don’t have requirements for directed spending, and whether or not some of these programs some of these funds might be subsumed or co opted by developers who have no interest or no affinity for actually thinking about environmental justice or climate justice at all.

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[00:45:09] William Lawrence: So Adrian, maybe you could continue that by going into some of what the members of your network and the communities they represent are doing to fight that fight for the investments to go into the right place where the investments exist, but also to ensure that some of the regulatory guidelines and so forth that you mentioned are being implemented.

[00:45:28] Followed to the spirit of what you originally intended in the law. 

[00:45:33] Adrien Salazar: Yeah, so this is happening on multiple fronts right now, right? So we are tracking the programs as they roll out. We have deep investment in the oversight. And the monitoring of the impacts of the spending on all sorts of standards from labor standards, environmental standards, equity standards.

[00:45:56] So we are trying to work with [00:46:00] agencies like the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office to see how are they? These are the offices. Responsible for oversight of legislation and investments. How are they going to be monitoring and tracking the outcomes of the spending?

[00:46:14] How are they committed to minimizing harms? How are agencies going to be held accountable? And that’s at the federal level. And then at the state level, in which many of these programs are going to be implemented, a lot of members of our organization and many others are actually trying to navigate the very complex issues.

[00:46:35] Processes of accessing funding, and in many cases, our individual organizations like 501 C three’s community based organizations are not the entities that are eligible for grants. They’re not going to be applying for large scale funding for the transit authority, for example. And so how do we Navigate those processes to make sure that [00:47:00] our members are community members are a part of the decision making by working with their state agencies by working with state legislators who are trying to access these funds and then putting in place the kind of requirements and guidelines to make sure there is tracking of potential harms, but also directed investments to the communities that need them the most and in cases where they’re, is opportunity to access funding.

[00:47:26] How do we make sure that the communities that are impacted that are actually working with environmental justice communities are are eligible and able to access those funds. It’s a lot of work. It’s actually a posture. I think that many of our organizations are not used to or are well positioned to, which is navigating federal implementation of investments.

[00:47:46] And so there is a whole infrastructure and ecosystem That is mobilizing to try to make sure these investments go to the communities that need them right now. 

[00:47:56] Tim Sahay: Yeah. So when the Biden people like go on this road show, like I was [00:48:00] just pulling up a sentence that he said, which kind of blew my mind.

[00:48:02] He’s like 435 billion in private investments representing over 240 projects in dozens of States. And he says, these investments are creating good paying jobs and jobs that don’t require a four year degree. And actually cutting pollution, right? So we, if you’re saying that we are supposed to be holding you accountable, are these projects actually and we can use that to build economic democracy, power and social power in every community that these drivers that these dollars are going into?

[00:48:35] And you could think about each of the entities that get the money if the money is being going to an NGO. Community groups can help with grant applications. If they’re going to a company, by law that company has to sign a project labor agreement with workers and it has to sign a community benefit agreement with the community.

[00:48:56] That accepts the money and says, Hey, like you’ve screwed up this part of the town. You [00:49:00] need to spend on a park. You need to spend on a school. You need to give money to, to and do local hiring, et cetera. So those are all opportunities. And if the dollar is going to a state, a lot of these dollars are just going to state governments.

[00:49:13] It shouldn’t just be the governor’s office that just gives it to his friends and companies, right? Like you want a lot of local advocacy, putting pressure on the state. On that state government to use that money. Not for highways, for transit, et cetera. And if the money is going directly to individuals, as many of these tax credits are, then you need to get people to that bottomless mimosa and show them that this is available and they can drink it because as we know, it’s very hard to navigate to a government website and find it.

[00:49:44] And so these are big opportunities for organizers and the IRA shouldn’t be seen as a win or a loss zero one. It has to be seen as a terrain of struggle full of organizing toeholds. 

[00:49:56] Adrien Salazar: If I could jump back in here, I think that [00:50:00] it’s important to recognize that this administration, the jury is still out whether or not Biden is a climate president or a fossil fuel president.

[00:50:10] And This is where I think the narrative battle continues to play. And as Biden goes on this roadshow and the Democrats are going to be trying to wield this piece of legislation as a major victory in addressing the climate, it’s not just our job. As organizers to try to make sure that the government gets this money to the people who need it the most.

[00:50:32] It is Biden’s job to continue to demonstrate that he takes this crisis seriously, that they recognize that by they, the democratic leadership, that the scale that they have put on the table through this bill is a drop in the bucket for what is actually needed. When you started this conversation we were talking about a decade of a green new deal.

[00:50:54] The. The trillions of dollars that is actually needed when you do the economic modeling for [00:51:00] a transition to a renewable energy economy, a just transition. And so we know that this bill is actually just a start and that this administration has been giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

[00:51:14] As in the last several months, you’ve seen them opening up new oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf Coast, in Alaska. up the willow project, which allows oil and gas exploration in one of the last vast swaths of public lands in Alaska. And all of these actions that the administration is taking to lock in further fossil fuel infrastructure in a moment when we’re having the hottest summer of our lives.

[00:51:43] Every day as the heat increases. And we don’t know if we can say Biden is a climate champion. At this point, we had hope when he got elected, when he was working with us. Yes, exactly. So this is where I think. I think it’s very [00:52:00] important as we continue to fight this fight to recognize that the Democrats are going to be doing something political with that, with how they talk about this bill.

[00:52:08] But there are folks on the ground who are continuing to fight pipelines, who are continuing to push their local governments and state governments to pass even bolder legislation than this. Because we know that the window at the federal level is closing or has closed on bigger and bolder climate bills.

[00:52:25] Legislation in this Congress, but that there is more to be fought for. And Biden himself has a lot that he can do with his own executive authority to continue to make strong advances on addressing climate crisis. And so it’s not just up to us as organizers to say, give us the money, but it’s up to Biden and his administration to continue to demonstrate how seriously they’re taking this crisis.

[00:52:53] William Lawrence: So Biden do better. We got to fight for more. Get that money. I’m working on housing, green social housing [00:53:00] issues here in Michigan now, and I tell you what, we would love to see that IRA money actually coming down to be able to build efficient housing and have solar and efficiency, heat pumps and so forth built in.

[00:53:11] We absolutely need it. I think we need to be able to do all those things at once. 

[00:53:16] Tim Sahay: Oh, and we absolutely can’t let him eat. So on fossil fuels, I totally agree with it. And this is a crazy expansion of fossil fuels. But also, we can’t let him get away with saying, I’m the jobs, president.

[00:53:27] And these are all good paying jobs. These are a lot of them are shitty jobs. Lee Harris at the American prospect had this great report on the jobs in the solar industry. And workers are basically being hired through temp contractors, staffing contractors, you can yeah. They hire them at a moment’s notice, they make them drive across the country to the job sites on their own dime, harassment and abuse are rampant these are like temporary gig jobs and they aren’t becoming union electricians they’re being trained as solar installers, which is like a new jobs description, which is, that they’re trying to [00:54:00] create because they don’t want to pay people well.

[00:54:02] And yeah. Even on the labor side, which is what Biden really is talking up talking up how these are all good paying jobs. There’s a lot that labor unions and organizers have to do to hold their feet to the fire. 

[00:54:18] William Lawrence: So I want to turn then to the international implications of the Inflation Reduction Act and Bidenomics as a whole, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the CHIPS Act.

[00:54:28] This economic package cumulatively is now causing a, an international stir and contributing to conflict with both China and Europe, which I have to admit, as someone who was a Organizer still is an organizer for the Green New Deal is not something that I don’t think we anticipated in 2018 and 2019 that then they would take on all these geopolitical implications of the new American green industrial policy if we can even call it that.

[00:54:54] So starting with Tim, I wonder if you could speak to some of these international [00:55:00] Yeah, 

[00:55:02] Tim Sahay: I think it’s important to like, forget what we want to say think about what, how the Republicans message this, right? So the Republicans basically want to say Biden is a shit president domestically. Look, unemployment is high and wages are bad and inflation is high, etc.

[00:55:17] So that, that’s one line that they have taken. And the second line they’ve taken is Biden is blowing up America’s position in the world. Like the Chinese can do whatever the Saudis can do, whatever. Like we are going around like destroying America’s foreign policy and creating enemies and upsetting the rest of the world, right?

[00:55:35] So that’s what the Republicans. Are going to message for elections. Shit precedent domestically, shit precedent internationally. And as far as like social Democrats and progressives we thought we were fighting for things like the IRA, but what we also have gotten is not just make an America and not just give more money and run harder ourselves, but also [00:56:00] kick the other guy down.

[00:56:01] We are explicitly kicking China and kneecapping China in The chips export control policy, which was just announced, last October. And all that says is China cannot get access to any high end semiconductors. And we’re going to tell American companies and other firms that use American semiconductor.

[00:56:22] Technologies to stop selling it to the Chinese and stop doing business on the Chinese and pull out. And, it’s, we aren’t just trying to run harder. We also trying to smack the other guy behind us on the knees. And so that’s why the Chinese have responded extremely aggressively saying that, this is a system that you want us to be permanently a junior member of.

[00:56:45] And so that’s just on the Chinese side and on the European side, we are caught in this battle where for the Democrats to win those jobs at home and to get investment at home, they’ve put in all of these make in [00:57:00] America and buy American provisions, and that is directly against what the Europeans want, which is being able to sell European made batteries into the American market.

[00:57:11] and get American taxpayer money. And that has been the deal with Europe and East Asia since World War II, which is that America keeps its domestic market open. And allows foreign firms to come in and sell their goods and in return, we provide them security and they join our coalition against the Soviet Union before 91 and join our coalition right now against Russia and China.

[00:57:39] And so the Europeans are just basically saying, we don’t, if you don’t allow us access into your markets, we are not going to be anti China. And we are not going to join your coalition there. So even though Congress has been extremely protectionist, the White House has tried to placate its allies in Europe and in [00:58:00] Asia because they really want them on board this anti China coalition.

[00:58:05] And it’s not at all clear to me that progressives have any control over the national security state at all. We shouldn’t even pretend. This is really that is going to be run out of the White House and is capable of taking unilateral actions without much approval from Congress or from society.

[00:58:24] William Lawrence: Do you think the goal needs to be to change that calculus and find a way for progressives grassroots progressives to have some say over foreign policy? Obviously that’s a kind of outlandish idea on if you consider where we are now, but what’s the solution to this problem you’re outlining?

[00:58:43] Tim Sahay: Yeah, broadly, I think we basically have to go back to the vaccine, what happened with the vaccines and the vaccine sort of apartheid that we saw in the world, where the rich world, including America and Europeans hoarded all the vaccines, and you had a virus raging and no one in [00:59:00] developing countries could get their hands on vaccines.

[00:59:02] That is if that’s the way in which we want things to go with the energy transition and with green. That is extremely troubling. We are leaving behind not only our front lines where we’re expanding fossil fuels in Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast, but we are also leaving behind the rest of the world.

[00:59:20] And that and for vaccines, what did progressives want? They said, Hey, stop putting like IP rights on a vaccine. This is a matter of life and death. Just get it into people’s hands who want it. And so we could be pushing for, Hey, we’re giving you all of this public money to a company that is coming up with whatever green technologies, batteries and solar panels and whatever, like you’ve got in public health.

[00:59:44] Now go and give it and do co production and co installation in other countries, because if you don’t do that, this looks like straight up colonialism, right? Like the straight up colonialism is you just take the raw materials out of the colonies, you [01:00:00] process it at home and you sell it. The colony is the finished goods, right?

[01:00:04] You take the cotton out of India and you sell them the t shirts from Lancashire. Is that what we wanted the sort of the energy, the global energy transition to be? And so the progressives can push for an alternative vision, which is we are creating a global value chain where we may be coming up with some technology.

[01:00:23] We may need some of your raw resources, but we are going to combine them together so that each of us can win. So if we are going to be, for instance, when a Germany’s Chancellor Schultz went to Brazil, he didn’t just say, Hey, I’m going to take, sorry, he went to Chile. He didn’t say, I’m just going to take all of your lithium.

[01:00:40] He said, I’m going to have Volkswagen build a battery factory in Chile so that you can take the lithium out of Chile, process it. And you guys get to know the know how and the factory that processes it as well. And that’s something that, there’s a lot of international pots of money that. That are now being created that progressives [01:01:00] need to keep their eyes on and push for something like that.

[01:01:04] Adrien Salazar: I appreciate Tim’s explication of the protectionist implications of Biden’s posture on the IRA and climate policy. And I will add as an organization that works in the International climate negotiation space and brings frontline communities and tracks some of the elements of policy that the U. S.

[01:01:28] And other countries are trying to position in those negotiations that the U. S. Is using this bill as a platform. To showcase what it’s calling its own leadership in the international scene, right? And Joe Biden and John Kerry are coming into that. We just had the conference of the parties or the cop of the U.

[01:01:50] N. F. Triple C in Egypt. Last fall they were there and then they’re going to come to the United Arab Emirates again in this next cop [01:02:00] to talk about what they’re doing to advance the climate goals of the United States. And I think what is important to note is what pieces they, they’re showcasing.

[01:02:11] And one of the things that we are. carefully tracking and very concerned about is how the United States is actually peddling some of the worst false climate solutions that were that can threaten communities. And when I say false solutions for listeners, that means things that we hear about like carbon offsets.

[01:02:31] Sets carbon capture that sound good, but actually have deep equity implications and can potentially harm communities, and particularly because of their potential to prolong the life of fossil fuel industry and fossil fuel extraction. And so you have secretary ground home of the Department of Energy.

[01:02:52] And John Kerry coming to these international meetings talking about how the U. S. Federal government is investing [01:03:00] in carbon capture and storage infrastructure. It’s putting the dollars on the table. It’s putting the tax incentives and it’s even creating administrative policy through the recent EPA rule that it’s offering on power plants.

[01:03:15] To try to incentivize the use of this technology that basically scrubs carbon and then tries to store it somewhere deep in the earth or in the ocean. And there’s so many implications of that technology. In fact, there’s a lot of study that shows it doesn’t work. And that a lot of the places that have tried have.

[01:03:35] failed to meet the minimum targets for reducing carbon through CCS. But you have folks from the U. S. coming into these spaces, offering that they are going to be piloting the next wave of technology that is going to get us to the global emissions reduction targets that we need. And so when I talk to allies from other countries, from the global [01:04:00] South, they are very shocked to hear how advanced the CCS infrastructure and development discourse is here in the United States, because they know that this stuff is going to hurt them and that it’s coming to their communities.

[01:04:13] And then I have to tell them, yes, The U. S. Is on a road show for this technology, and it is because they got it passed in this legislation. And you have John Kerry going out there talking about projects like the energy transition accelerator that they’ve introduced, which is basically a finance mechanism that trades carbon for investments in the global south in, in communities that are more vulnerable, more impacted.

[01:04:44] And we know that carbon offsets don’t work. So here you have this multi million dollar proposal on the table rehashing solution schemes that we know are not going to work. And this is what the federal government is [01:05:00] trying to position its climate leadership on. It’s something that’s very concerning.

[01:05:06] William Lawrence: Kerry’s ability to sell this stuff with a straight face, I have found to be particularly just enraging. And the offset sparkets, in particular, are just, inexcusable. Amidst a lot of other inexcusable things. We’re running up on time here, so I want to move us towards concluding. Let’s try this as a final question for each of you briefly, if you were to each share, what’s one big lesson that you take away from this whole trajectory from the Green New Deal to build back better to the IRA?

[01:05:36] And what’s one big unanswered question that you have about what comes next?

[01:05:43] Adrien Salazar: This is a good question. I 

[01:05:45] Tim Sahay: do, I do have to think but I’m just going to go with my God, I think the one big lesson is we Those social Democrats and us in communities are the people who have come up with ideas that actually [01:06:00] match up our community’s needs. And the Biden administration has got two sort of big powerful groups of people that have tried to put that clamp.

[01:06:12] One are these kind of fossil capitalists and fossil fuel companies. And the second one are these deficit hawks that are in Congress that include Biden himself that are afraid of doing public spending. So their sort of slogan is always crowd in private capital, do most that they can. Enrich these bottomless mimosas and let companies do most of the heavy lifting instead of letting the public do the public sector and the government itself take on that responsibility.

[01:06:42] And, and that’s the reason why I think we have so much more left to fight for, because I think our vision is actually the one that is not just like a just transition, but an actually effective transition. It’s not clear to me that this transition is [01:07:00] actually going to be able to meet Biden’s own stated goals of cutting emissions in half by in, in 10 years.

[01:07:06] So we should be, when we’re talking about the just transition, we are really talking about, is it even going to be an effective transition? He’s left. public transit completely unsupported, right? All of the money has been given for EVs and car emissions are, half of U. S.

[01:07:23] Emissions. They’re much larger than the power sector. So it’s not clear to me that this is going to be an effective transition without, fleets of clean electric buses and high speed rail and public transit. All the stuff that was left on the cutting room floor. So that’s my sort of big sense that, actually, I think we are right.

[01:07:40] We have to keep pushing and fighting and win. And the second lesson is you just need a larger majority in Congress. If you need 218 votes in the House and you cannot rest upon Manchin and Sinema, you need a bigger majority in the Senate. Because otherwise a lot of these big bills just don’t go anywhere.[01:08:00] 

[01:08:00] William Lawrence: Thanks, Tim. Adrian. 

[01:08:02] Adrien Salazar: Yeah. I think that one of the biggest lessons for me is that we are able to win. And despite how critical I am of what we landed with, and I will hold to what I’ve said about how there’s really terrible stuff in this package. There are things that we fought for and won. And that they’re only there because we won.

[01:08:29] And you can trace that where we are in 2023 with the Inflation Reduction Act is a direct result of this three year arc, four year arc, of organizing around pandemic recovery, around the Thrive Act and positioning demands for Biden to be a climate president. And because of the clarity, I think, of our movement’s alignment in that time across movement [01:09:00] sectors, actually and the political opportunity that we had given the conditions with a trifecta of democratic control, we were able to get something.

[01:09:09] It was not what we wanted of course at the scale that we wanted but we won something. And I think that the lesson from that is to not underestimate. I’m going to start off by saying that we can’t underestimate our power to win when we have a level of alignment and a strategic clarity about the political opening, with which we can get a victory that will take us a step forward.

[01:09:29] And so for from a movement’s perspective, from a coalition’s perspective, I think we’re in an actually challenging place now with the IRA, place now with the IRA. Being implemented this government saying that, they’re basically wiping their hands and said, we’re we’ve addressed the climate crisis.

[01:09:46] Nothing else to do here. And so we are trying to reorient ourselves. I think a lot of our organizations and coalitions are looking at what’s next, and I think that’s the big question is, are we able to [01:10:00] come back from this fight and lick our wounds and also, pick up the crumbs of what we won And say, okay, let’s get organized and map the road ahead for the next three year arc, the next five year arc of the things that we need to still win at the scale that we need, because even though the political I know that this forecast is difficult and challenging.

[01:10:25] Not looking good. I bet you that we will have another opportunity to pass something and to organize bigger coalitions and to build power at the scale that we need to win these things. And I think those are the lessons that we have from the last three years. If we do our assessment and take them seriously, are going to set the roadmap for how we win the next big thing.

[01:10:51] William Lawrence: Adrian and Tim, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for all of your tremendous work. 

[01:10:56] Adrien Salazar: Thank you, Will. for this opportunity. Thanks again to[01:11:00] 

[01:11:05] William Lawrence: Tim Sahay and Adrian Salazar for that conversation. In listening back to our chat, a few major themes and lessons stood out for me, lessons we ought to be reflecting on for the future. Tim did an excellent job of bringing matters back to 50 senators and 218 house votes. The majority needed to get anything done in Congress and anyone who’s lived through the experience of trying to pass a bill in Congress has these numbers seared into your minds and you can actually really identify the interests at stake by paying attention to these numbers and how they played out through the process.

[01:11:41] The difference between 48 and 50 Senators was the difference between a 4. 5 trillion Build Back Better package and a 400 billion Inflation Reduction Act. And in those two votes, you can see the interests of private equity finance and fossil fuel extraction [01:12:00] directly having their say through Sinema and Manchin, respectively.

[01:12:03] At every stage, even at the state level and the federal level, as long as we’re dealing with legislatures, we need to learn how to count in this way. And, as always, be making judgments about what concessions are worth it to keep that number going up towards the majority. Adrian did a really good job of drawing out some of the new challenges facing social movements who helped to win the Inflation Reduction Act, even in its limited form.

[01:12:31] Grassroots organizations are now working with agencies like the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office to do their best to ensure that programs are well administered and in the interest of the frontline communities and other working class communities that these groups serve.

[01:12:48] And on the one hand, this is encouraging because it offers at least the prospect or the opportunity we’re seeing of so called co governance between sympathetic allies on the inside and organized groups on the [01:13:00] outside. But it also raises questions about whether our organizations are currently designed or really well suited for this work.

[01:13:07] The risk of incorporation or bureaucratic capture of our movements and the always present risk of having such work wiped out by a change of administration. And I know these are tensions that these groups are grappling with, even as they step into this space to try to take advantage of this opportunity.

[01:13:23] We didn’t get so much in this episode into the unfolding tensions within the climate coalition that are happening now as green business gets a huge boost from the IRA. Some in that sector are openly wondering if they still need to be in alliance with the left wing climate justice oriented groups who helped to till the soil for these victories in the first place.

[01:13:44] So you’re seeing a potential split between green capital and the other entities. Climate hawks and climate justice advocates. Meanwhile, the green new deal vision is facing challenges from some on the left, including some who argue that its vision of a big green social [01:14:00] democratic state still doesn’t go far enough to address the climate crisis or the underlying crises of capitalist extraction and worker exploitation.

[01:14:09] Folks also disagree or aren’t yet sure what to do about The fact that U. S. climate policy has now become articulated and a part of the increasingly dangerous geopolitical rivalry with China. And that’s something I think the climate movement as a whole is only just beginning to grapple with, but all of this will have to be stuff that we take up in another episode.

[01:14:30] This has been the hegemonic con and I’m William Lawrence. Let’s talk again soon.

[01:14:38] This podcast is written and hosted by me, William Lawrence. Our producer is Josh Elstro, and it is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights. You can help support this show and others like it by becoming a Patreon subscriber of Convergence for as low as 2 per month at patreon. com slash convergence mag.

[01:14:58] You can find a direct link in the show notes. [01:15:00] This has been the Hegemonicon. Let’s talk again soon.

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