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.