Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal includes a federal jobs guarantee—here's what to expect

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), speaks to reporters, after U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
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New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not afraid of big ideas that get attention. Her latest plan, one which includes a jobs guarantee, is no different—though don't expect big changes soon.

The plan, called the Green New Deal, was written by Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and announced yesterday. It describes a series of large-scale proposals focused on eliminating U.S. carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, while also revitalizing the U.S. economy.

The jobs guarantee, one of the plan's most ambitious proposals, ensures "a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States."

Such initiatives typically use government funds to run large-scale employment projects (often in areas such as infrastructure) to boost employment levels, lower dependence on social programs and increase tax revenue.

A jobs guarantee of this scale would require a type of of program not seen since Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, a project that funded the building of post offices, bridges and schools and was designed to help America recover from the Great Depression.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, leaves a photo opportunity with the female Democratic members of the 116th US House of Representatives outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 4, 2019.
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The concept of a Green New Deal has existed for over a decade and has its share of backers, according to one recent poll conducted last month of nearly 1,000 registered voters by the Yale Program on Climate Communication.

That survey found bipartisan support for a Green New Deal among voters polled, with both 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans saying they were in favor of a plan that created jobs and boosted the economy while transitioning the country to clean, renewable energy.

Additionally, the 2018 National Youth Poll from Harvard the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics found that 56 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 and 63 percent of likely voters from this age group support a federal jobs guarantee.

Furthermore, several Democratic presidential hopefuls support a jobs guarantee, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Cory Booker.

Still, the scope of the resolution announced yesterday is broad. An FAQ provided to NPR explained the framework called for updating all "existing buildings" in the U.S. for energy efficiency and expanding high-speed rail in such a way that "air travel stops becoming necessary."

This scope has earned its critics. Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn, for instance, called the plan "unrealistic."

As Politico quoted him saying this week: "What I don't understand is adults, grown-ups who are older and more mature are also advocating something that is impossible, and I see that in some of the presidential contenders."

Others say that despite its merits, the odds of the proposal actually passing are slim. "There's little chance of a Green New Deal getting a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate," writes Danielle Kurtzleben for NPR.

Ocasio-Cortez, who's dubbed the plan "our moonshot" admits the proposal is ambitious, but says that's by design.

"Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us," Ocasio-Cortez tells NPR. "It could be part of a larger solution, but no one has actually scoped out what that larger solution would entail. And so that's really what we're trying to accomplish with the Green New Deal."

Regardless, don't expect big changes yet. The Green New Deal was introduced as a non-binding resolution. Such measures don't have the force of law, but instead express the "sentiment" of the lawmakers.

Other recently introduced resolutions have run the gamut from addressing rising sea levels and flooding in Florida to celebrating classic cars.

Should the resolution pass, as pointed out by NPR, it would not create new programs as the resolution provides a "loose framework" and not guidance for how these goals would be carried out.

Non-binding resolutions can give a sense for which direction a party might be headed and legislation to come, however.

Explained one writer yesterday in GQ: "If a majority of Democrats were support the resolution, it would at least send a powerful message about the direction in which the party's rank-and-file—especially its younger future leaders—hope to take it in the years to come."

CNBC Make It reached out to Ocasio-Cortez, but did not receive an immediate response.

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