Jon Rynn's blog

A new eco-economic paradigm

Originally posted at Foreign Policy in Focus. Reposted at Common Dreams

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again,” Thomas Paine wrote in 1776. Unfortunately, we also have it in our power to kill the planet. Which one will we choose?

Our choice depends on our economy: one that’s ecologically sustainable or one that gives profit-obsessed corporations overwhelming decision-making power.

What should a Green New Deal look like?: Putting the pieces together

I have been writing about ideas similar to a Green New Deal since contributing to the environmental website in 2007, in 2010 in the book “Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The power to rebuild the American middle class”, in a chapter in 2014 in a book co-edited by a member of the UN’s IPCC, and in various posts and articles, most recently in American Prospect. In all of these venues, I have been calling for the Federal government to spend close to 10% of GDP per year -- close to $2 trillion -- in order to directly build a green infrastructure that will guarantee that in 20 years the United States will be virtually greenhouse gas free. This will create over20 million jobs, including a revived manufacturing sector, but only if all production for a Green New Deal occurs within the United States, unlike the Obama-era stimulus in which wind turbines were made in China.

What else could we do with $1.9 trillion?

Together, infrastructure and manufacturing create a virtuous circle of economic growth because the development of each reinforces the other. Long-term infrastructure outlay provides a stable market for domestic manufacturing firms, reduces investment risk, and gives these firms the opportunity to develop new technologies. This production base in turn enables the creation of the services that make up most of our national economic output. We are living in the age of the internet and smartphones because of this very process: By researching and developing the internet infrastructure, the government provided a foundation for the production of trillions of dollars of equipment, goods, and services. This self-reinforcing process of infrastructure building and manufacturing innovation has been taking place since the start of the Industrial Revolution and is still very much in evidence today.

What should progressives stand for? A survey and a proposal

What do progressives stand for? What does the Democratic Party stand for? Can Democrats and progressives win the House and eventually the Senate and presidency just by standing back and letting Trump and the Republicans self-destruct? And if the Democrats do gain power, will they do something or will the Republicans just come roaring back in a few years?

I’ve taken a look at the platforms of the Democratic Party and the Green Party, the agendas of the Bernie Sanders-linked Our Revolution and the Movement for Black Lives (Black Lives Matter, or BLM), the budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), and various other statements from progressive groups. While they all do an admirable job of listing myriad solutions for myriad problems, I find that they are all lacking a central organizing principle about what to do about an economy that is not working for most of its citizens. While they all acknowledge ever-increasing inequality and the economic difficulties that the great majority of the public are experiencing — indeed, this was the central principle of Sanders’ almost successful run for the Presidency — these groups, to varying degrees, lack an alternative framework to the neoliberal/conservative story that markets are always superior to government. There is no explanation of how the government could fix the economy.

Published at Counterpunch

More power to the workers: The political economy of Seymour Melman

Seymour Melman was one of the most important political economists and peace activists of the 20th century. He would have been 100 years old on December 30, 2017 (he died in 2004), therefore this is a good time to consider his legacy, and more importantly from his point of view, to think about how his writings can help us achieve a more just world.

Published at Counterpunch

Re-posted at Naked Capitalism

Resist and Replace: How progressives can defeat right-wing nationalism

Progressives are resisting Trump, but we need to come up with a replacement for his noxious agenda if we are to turn back the tide of bigotry and 19th century ideology that he has unleashed. We can resist while at the same time we build a movement to replace Trump’s right-wing nationalism with a bold progressive agenda that concentrates on creating millions of good jobs. Trump has been able to act like the pied piper of the working class by holding out the hope of creating jobs, as have other nationalists like Marine Le Pen, but progressives can put forward a reality-based jobs program.

The Turquoise Society

The following is an essay I wrote for the 2016 essay competition by the Next System Project.

The Turquoise Society: From self-destruction to self-regeneration

It is possible to build a better world. We have the technology, but we are missing the framework of ideas that we need to create global civilization 2.0. This essay will present a political/economic/environmental framework, or paradigm, that I hope will contribute to the project of turning our state of affairs around.

The progressive movement needs a new way to understand both the economy and the state. Mainstream economics, as I will argue, lays at the center of the conservative assault on the state, but mainstream economics also ignores the environment. We need a new economics which is centered around production, not exchange as in mainstream economics. Production means not only the ability to generate goods and services and thereby create the conditions for widespread prosperity, but also the production of life in ecosystems. In other words, production means producing life, both for people and for all other living things on the planet.

I am calling a society that produces prosperity for both humans and all life a ‘turquoise society’ because turquoise is a combination of the green of environmentalism, as well as the blue of the blue-collar worker in manufacturing. I will argue that manufacturing is the central process in a human economy, and manufacturing must and can be done in such a way that manufacturing supports the environment, instead of destroying it.

Climate Change and DiCaprio's "Before the Flood"

“Before the Flood” is a well-done documentary on the facts and dangers of climate change, and Leonardo DiCaprio does a great job galavanting all over the world to show its effects and talk to effective speakers. I particularly liked the way he opened and closed by talking about Heironymous Bosch’s triptyque, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.

However, I knew that it would raise my blood pressure when he started going into the solutions for climate change, because I know the conventional solutions are completely inadequate, and that my preferred solution, a Green New Deal centered on massive direct government infrastructure spending, will not even be mentioned — mainly because hardly anybody is mentioning it (except for theClimate and its supporters, Goddess bless them).

A Jobs program to defeat Trump

Donald Trump offered a solution to the problem of not enough good jobs, and Hillary Clinton did not. That is the core of what happened. Democrats need to offer a better solution than Trump, and then they will take the Presidency and the Congress. Sure, he stirred up racism, sexism, xenophobia and other bigotry, but progressives are not going to compete to be the best bigot. They can compete to be best at creating jobs, and by creating jobs they will clear away the bigotry. I will argue that the best way to create jobs is to spend trillions on a massive green infrastructure building program, which will revive manufacturing and the Democratic working class coalition.

The State, Brexit, and Jobs

In all the hysteria about Brexit, there seems to be a lack of a discussion of what is probably the ultimate driver of ‘Leaving’: the leaving of good jobs for about half of British voters. While there is a certain amount of racism and cultural xenophobia that is part of anti-immigration feelings, if everybody in the UK — or the United States — knew they could always have a good job, I think it is fair to say that anti-immigration votes would dry up into an irrelevant fringe. I will argue here that the Left could revive itself if it would propose a government-led plan to build a green infrastructure, rebuild manufacturing, and thereby guarantee a good job for anyone who wanted one — and provide an attractive alternative to the Right and to neoliberal ideology.

The real cause of income inequality

Bernie Sanders has stirred the passion of many voters by concentrating on the problem of growing income inequality. Inequality, he points out, leads to stagnating and declining income for most people. The higher income for the top 1% completely distorts the political system. With more power for Wall Street and billionaires, politicians who depend on the rich and powerful for campaign funds pass more bad policies, leading to even worse income inequality, in a vicious cycle.

Why Manufacturing

The wealth of our nation has always been based on manufacturing. A country that has no manufacturing is not post-industrial, it is pre-industrial, that is, poor. The people of the United States are perfectly capable of rebuilding the manufacturing sector by concentrating on high-skill sectors such as industrial machinery and digital technology, among others. For most of our history, these statements would have been been greeted with a shrug, as if the speaker was stating the obvious.

Only the government can build our way out of climate change

Recently we have been warned that the global emissions of greenhouse gases, continued unabated, will result in more extreme climate events, until finally global warming will run out of control with gruesome consequences. We can’t afford to wait. Michael Mann urges scientists to speak out. Most environmental organizations call for some kind of carbon taxes, or cap-and-trade schemes. Some even advocate the construction of nuclear power plants. We are called on to have the kind of urgency we had when we won World War II, or at least, to have the fierce urgency of now.

And yet the one thing no one seems to be calling for is the one set of policies that could actually solve the problem — a nationally, government-planned reconstruction of the energy, transportation, urban and agricultural infrastructure that would result in zero emissions.

Are U.S. manufacturing jobs still important to the economy? Yes

The following was published in the Costco Connection, a magazine that, according the editor, "is mailed to over 8 million businesses and their employees and family members across the country and is read by close to 20 million people."

We use manufactured goods for almost everything we do. Factories, in turn, need the workers who use their skill to operate the machinery that creates the goods. If we want economic growth, we need more manufacturing jobs.

We Need FDR-Style Proposals to Solve All Our Big Problems

Both Democrats and environmentalists seem to be searching for new sources of support, according to articles from Thomas Edsall and Leslie Kaufman. For Democrats, the problem is the state of mind of the “white working class,” while for environmentalists the problem is to convince the public that something should be done about climate change.

We Need a World War II Effort to Tackle Global Warming and the Great Recession

The news from the world of global warming science is grim. We need to keep the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees centigrade or the climate could become extremely dangerous. To stay below that level would require a drastic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in the next several years.

How the top 1% ripped off the bottom 99%

Occupy Wall Street has put a spotlight on the vast and growing economic inequality in the United States. It now takes its place as a top progressive priority — perhaps the highest priority it has experienced since the Great Depression.

China Cheats --and so should we

The looming global warming catastrophe could be worse, in the long term, than any war, social collapse, or single famine in human history. We need to scale up renewable technologies as quickly as possible — by any means necessary. And that is exactly what the Chinese are doing. According to Steven Lacey at Climate Progress, while world solar cell manufacturing capacity was only 100 MW in 2000, it is now 50,000 MW –- and China by itself accounts for 57 percent.

We Won't See Mass Prosperity Until We Rebuild Manufacturing

Recently, a crop of articles has appeared that argue that “our economy will thrive only when we make what we invent,” as Susan Hockstein, President of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, recently concluded in a New York Times op-ed. Hockstein is challenging the idea that the United States can somehow be a world-class source of innovation without actually producing the new products.

The Trade Deficit is the Most Important Deficit

Between 1962 and 2009, the cumulative trade deficit of the United States almost exactly equaled the cumulative Federal budget deficit: 7,426 billion for the budget deficit, a couple of billion less for the trade deficit. That is, when you add up all the deficit numbers for those 28 years, both the trade deficits and the budget deficits have generated the same amount of red ink. The Republican House members, in particular, use fear-mongering to convince the public that the federal budget deficit is going to destroy the economy. But what about the trade deficit?

A Fracking Mess: Why natural gas is not the fuel of the future

Natural gas is being touted as a fuel of the future, a way to bridge the gap between a dirty energy and clean energy economy. But according to numerous articles and a report from David Hughes at the Post-Carbon Institute, what we may have is another bridge to nowhere (page numbers in this post refer to Hughes’ study).

Manufacturing-centered economics: A primer

The following is a slightly edited version of a set of articles that appeared on, the blog site for the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Institute.

A manufacturing-centered economics, government edition

The current conventional wisdom for many in the U.S. is that the less government is involved with the economy the better. But this is precisely the moment in history when more government is needed. Without government intervention, the recovery will continue to stagnate, the economy as a whole will remain off balance, and we won’t be able to meet the challenges facing the country.

Originally posted on

Wanted: A manufacturing-centered economics, part two

Originally posted on

Underlying most debates about economic policy lurks a single question: what causes economic growth? This question is key when an economy is stagnating or declining. The answer decides the fates of Presidents, political parties, and whole nations.


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