Happy Earth Day! This Civilian Climate Corps Thing Sounds Great!
People need money in order to live. In order to get money to live, those people need jobs. Not just any jobs, mind you, they need jobs that pay them enough to live on. Unfortunately, in these United States, we don't currently have enough living wage jobs for everyone to have one, which means that 9.71 million American adults are currently unemployed and 30 million American adults are earning less than $15 an hour. That's really, really bad. That's "the population of the state of California" bad. Or "78 Wyomings" bad. We only have 328 million people in this country.
We also need to start doing more to take care of the planet because, well, we live here.
This week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Ed Markey, and other congressional Democrats introduced legislation to do something about both of those problems. The plan is to create a Civilian Climate Corps that will help the United States get its act together environmentally while also providing 1.5 million good jobs for people who need them. Nice!
The Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act of 2021 establishes a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service within AmeriCorps. A diverse and equitable group of 1.5 million Americans over 5 years will complete federally funded projects that help communities respond to climate change and transition to a clean economy. CCC work will reduce carbon emissions, enable a transition to renewable energy, build healthier and more resilient communities, implement conservation projects with proven climate benefits, and help communities recover from climate disasters. At the same time, participants, or "corpsmembers," will receive education and training in coordination with local institutions, including labor unions, to usher them into good jobs, and especially good union jobs. The corps will coordinate closely with local groups to help develop career pathways and union opportunities in new green sectors.
It's like chocolate and peanut butter — two great tastes that taste great together. And America agrees. According to a poll conducted by Data for Progress, 60 percent of us are behind the idea of a Civilian Climate Corp, and only 14 percent strongly oppose it. The Biden administration supports it, progressives like Markey and AOC are drafting it up, and moderates like Pete Buttigieg are behind it as well, so ... unity!
The program will be based on Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, a public works program that provided manual labor jobs related to conservation and development of public lands that was one of the most popular New Deal programs in its day. During the years it was implemented, three million young men (and only young men because "1930s") ages 17 to 28 were put to work beautifying the country, and in exchange for this were given a place to live, food and a stipend of $30 a month (a little over $600 today). Of course, there were things about this program that weren't so great — the aforementioned sexism, the fact that it was segregated, but those things can be fixed and it's a good model to build upon.
However, unlike the Conservation Corps, which was designed to help people survive the Great Depression, the jobs people would be doing would be jobs meant to help them establish actual careers. It will also provide workers with "educational grants of $25,000 per year of service, up to $50,000, eligible for further education at any level or to pay down student debt."
Also unlike the Conservation Corps, the Climate Corps will be deliberately anti-racist.
Explicit antiracist language ensures that environmental justice communities receive benefits of at least 50% of CCC and Partner Corps projects, and 50% of corpsmembers will be recruited from these same communities, with no age limit for participation in at least 50% of Partner Corps.
The Climate Corps will also work with labor unions.
Labor groups prioritized and integrated into CCC and Partner Corps planning and operations, with DOL registered pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs prioritized for grants, required coordination with local labor unions, buy American provisions in procurement, and advisory board representation from labor groups. The corps, partner corps, and any private companies partnered in corps activities will adhere to neutrality and card check agreements.
The fact is, programs like this basically pay for themselves. They give people jobs so they can earn money, which they then have to pay taxes on. They can then also spend that money at places that will have to pay taxes on that money. These jobs will also provide people with training and education, which they will then use to get better jobs than they would have otherwise, meaning that they will pay more in taxes than they would have otherwise. Additionally, when people are able to support themselves, that means that they are less likely to need government assistance. There really is no downside, unless you are someone who just really hates the planet and wants to destroy it, in which case there's not a lot that is going to make you happy.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse