Speaker of the House Leader Nancy Pelosi has missed yet another self-imposed deadline. This time her goal of advancing both a bipartisan $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill as well as the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan (known formally as the Build Back Better Act) is failing in the face of opposition from moderates within her own party. Pelosi is now attempting to salvage Biden’s legislative agenda before her new Halloween deadline. But, as efforts to bring down the overall price tag of Biden’s plan in order to appease moderates have ramped up, opponents of the bill have had more time to review its actual contents, revealing just how radical this legislation truly is.
One of the most scrutinized provisions of the bill is the proposed $10 billion allocation for a “Civilian Climate Corps” (CCC), also sometimes referred to as the “Climate Conservation Corps,” which is billed as a 21st century version of the New-Deal era Civilian Conservation Corps.
The original CCC was launched in 1933 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The program put young, unemployed men across the country on the government payroll, giving them the opportunity to learn skills while improving the nation’s public lands. Members of the original CCC were all males aged 18-25, and they are largely responsible for much of the infrastructure in America’s national parks. The program had an explicit focus on intense physical labor and instilling “manliness” in young Americans. While vocational training and infrastructure projects were later incorporated into the program, there was always an aggressive focus on masculinity, self-reliance, patriotism, and independence.
The new CCC program Biden is proposing would emphasize recruiting young men and women not to act as stewards of public lands in order to preserve them for the enjoyment of future generations, but to “fight climate change.” According to President Biden’s original executive order, the Civilian Climate Corps would:
“…Conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.”
The Brookings Institute, a D.C. based think tank, has noted that to be effective, compensation for members of the new CCC would start at $15 dollars an hour and increase to match the cost of living in each region. This would be in addition to room, board, and an educational grant of as much as $50,000. The compensation plan would give average members a larger salary, more benefits, and more freedom than the average junior enlistee in the United States Military.
In terms of the actual work, most proposals are noticeably vague. The new CCC could not engage in large scale public works without undercutting union labor. Their mandate for other activities would bring them into direct conflict with local projects as well as national programs. There are already numerous service organizations emphasizing conservation, including the Corps Network, AmeriCorps, and the Conservation Network, to name a few.
Additionally, there is little clear guidance as to how this large national program would substantively reduce carbon emissions. Even an advocate for the new CCC, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), has stated that “emissions reduction, obviously, is the goal we need to achieve for the sake of safety…I support a Civilian Climate Corps. It just doesn’t measurably reduce emissions.” In short, there is little a Civilian Climate Corps can do to measurably “save” the climate.
Republicans fear the real effect of the new CCC would be to create an army of state-sponsored environmental activists bent on promoting progressive ideology and initiatives. As noted by the Washington Post, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) questioned what new CCC would mean in practice: “Does it mean a taxpayer-funded community organizing effort? Young climate pioneers in every neighborhood to report on who is watering their lawn, whose fireplace is smoking, who is spreading forbidden climate disinformation?”
As dystopian as that may sound, this wouldn’t be the first such program in the United States. Under a recently enacted New York City provision, citizens are encouraged to report idling cars to the police, and will be compensated twenty-five percent of any fine that the motorist incurs. It’s not far-fetched to imagine congressional Democrats attempting to roll out a similar program nationwide with their brand new army of climate activists to enforce new onerous environmental regulations – especially if other parts of the “Green New Deal” become law.
Regardless, much like H.R. 1, restrictions on gun ownership, defunding the police, and a host of other radical policy priorities, it’s unlikely that the progressive dream for the new CCC is going anywhere, even if it doesn’t make it into the final spending plan. Democrats have labeled climate change a top national security issue. Accordingly, they’re going to need an army to combat the threat – even if that threat is ordinary Americans in communities large and small throughout the country who just want the opportunity to make a living free from government interference.
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