The folly of the Green New Deal


As an aspirational ideal, the Green New Deal that has been percolating on the far-left for at least the last 10 years has a lot going for it. Now, with the publicity-seeking freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) taking up the cause, the plan has gotten additional attention. It would reduce the United States’ net carbon output to zero emissions by 2035, commit the country to the achievement of 100 percent sources of renewable energy, and provide a living wage to every family in America.
But utopian ideals don’t always make good policy. And therein lies the problem.

While conservative commentators have railed against the 14-page “manifesto” posted online by Ocasio-Cortez earlier this month (and quickly taken down) as a study in the unhinged musings of a decidedly unrealistic Democratic socialist — its focus on the ongoing problem of bovine flatulence didn’t help anyone take it seriously — the real issue we have with the Green New Deal is it’s all or nothing approach. By insisting on 100-percent compliance with program goals, it sets up an impossible standard for the country to meet.

Do we want a better environment and a more responsive (and fairer) economy for our next generations? Absolutely. Is there a role for government to help by embracing sound policies? Certainly. But the Green New Deal’s embrace of idealism through legislative fiat is remarkably naïve, and somewhat reminiscent in approach to then-candidate Donald Trump insisting on building a “great, beautiful wall” and that “Mexico will pay for it.”

As with the Trump promise, which the Great Wall of America supporters believed was both an achievable goal and in the nation’s best interests, there are large swaths of this nation’s left that look to the Green New Deal as the means to save a world careening headfirst into the abyss of environmental ruin. But just as securing the border can be achieved without diverting up to $8 billion of the Defense Department’s budget to build a wall, we don’t need to embrace unrealistic visions to set this nation and the globe on the path to a better environment and economy.

The ideas and overall objectives behind the Green New Deal are worth pursuing. But the plan’s recent rollout and promotion have been an embarrassment. We urge proponents to take a step back and consider a more measured, realistic and workable approach toward their “green dream,” and in a manner that could be embraced in a more bipartisan and collegial spirit.

Politics and public policy does not have to be a zero-sum game. The idea of preserving our environment and doing all we can to make that happen should be something on which we can find common ground. Let’s do that first, and then let those on the fringes fight over the inconsequential stuff. There is simply too much at stake to fumble this opportunity.

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  1. Your editorial “The Folly of the Green New Deal” falls into the same Washington political lens trap from which I have been trying to dig myself for the last few weeks since the resolution was first published. I have spent my professional career as a lawyer and teacher in the energy space–which is increasingly influenced on a policy basis by the imperatives of dealing with climate change. I, too, do not like the heavy-handed and rather unknowing politics of the resolution. Fundamentally, there are two aspects of the climate change challenge that will have real consequences for our children and us. The first is how to slow down man’s contribution to accelerating climate change. The second is how to increase resilience. Younger generations are asking for clear goals; one that the federal government can effectuate within its powers and that will encourage all citizens to participate. With respect to the first and at the risk of drastic oversimplification, such a goal would be to set progressively lower caps for allowable emissions of greenhouse gases. With such clear goals, the market and technology would sort out how to achieve those goals and arguably create many of the benefits sought by the plan. WJW should consider how we can set goals consistent with Jewish values in its editorials instead of poo-poohing proposals as not politically smart.


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