From Yellow Vests to the Green New Deal
The grassroots movement behind the Green New Deal offers a ray of hope to the badly battered establishment: they should embrace it, flesh it out, and make it part of the progressive agenda. We need something positive to save us from the ugly wave of populism, nativism, and proto-fascism that is sweeping the world.
NEW YORK – It’s old news that large segments of society have become deeply unhappy with what they see as “the establishment,” especially the political class. The “Yellow Vest” protests in France, triggered by President Emmanuel Macron’s move to hike fuel taxes in the name of combating climate change, are but the latest example of the scale of this alienation.
There are good reasons for today’s disgruntlement: four decades of promises by political leaders of both the center left and center right, espousing the neoliberal faith that globalization, financialization, deregulation, privatization, and a host of related reforms would bring unprecedented prosperity, have gone unfulfilled. While a tiny elite seems to have done very well, large swaths of the population have fallen out of the middle class and plunged into a new world of vulnerability and insecurity. Even leaders in countries with low but increasing inequality have felt their public’s wrath.
By the numbers, France looks better than most, but it is perceptions, not numbers, that matter; even in France, which avoided some of the extremism of the Reagan-Thatcher era, things are not going well for many. When taxes on the very wealthy are lowered, but raised for ordinary citizens to meet budgetary demands (whether from far-off Brussels or from well-off financiers), it should come as no surprise that some are angry. The Yellow Vests’ refrain speaks to their concerns: “The government talks about the end of the world. We are worried about the end of the month.”