[THE THIRD WAY] The Green New Deal

And so, as is the natural effect of a presidential primary, this column will live up to its supposedly-centrist name. Introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who I personally view favorably, the Green New Deal is a jobs program, stimulus package, and green technology overhaul plan, all rolled into one.  Virtually all Democratic candidates, save for our senator, have endorsed the Green New Deal. Here’s the issue with that: the Green New Deal isn’t the best idea. First, the jobs guarantee makes absolutely no sense in a booming economy. Unemployment is incredibly low, and policies that guarantee jobs with government control should only be used in the direst of circumstances (like those of the original new deal).

Second, the transportation plan is virtually impossible to implement. In an FAQ with NPR, Green New Deal Coordinators claimed that the plan would “totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle.”

I understand banning the production of gas-based cars, but after production, banning theuse is completely unfeasible.”

I’m not even sure where to start with this. The high-speed rail section actually makes a lot of sense, since the US is one of the only countries without a good high-speed rail network and those usually reduce the use of cars and planes in other countries. Sense, however, is quickly abandoned when one looks at the rest of the plan.

Electric vehicles and charging stations are produced by companies, not by governments. Since the plan makes no mention of tax incentives for EVs (which, you know, have and will actually help build EVs), we have to assume the plan entails government production of cars and stations. The creation of a state-owned car enterprise would set a couple of terrible precedents. The first is the fact that the money used for building the cars wouldn’t be going to public transportation (which would be far more efficient, EVs are just a band-aid on the pressing issue of American car culture). The second is that the government would somehow have to force people to not have gasoline based cars. I understand banning the production of gas-based cars, but after production, banning the use is completely unfeasible.

Third — and I cannot stress this enough — it will never be passed soon enough. With a Democratic president and House (which is not at all guaranteed), the plan might have support from a thin majority of Representatives. The Senate is where this pipe-dream will die. A plan like this requires 60 votes because of the filibuster. Since Republicans balk at government intervention in the economy and only usually support climate legislation that involves tax incentives or cap and trade, we have to assume none of them would vote for the GND. The implication is that Democrats would have to win 13 seats in 2020 while holding onto Alabama. This would require winning states like Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa, Alaska, and Louisiana. I might be a pessimist, but I’m pretty sure that’s not happening.

Many people on the left denigrate people who don’t support the GND as climate deniers or people in favor of inaction. This is simply not true. There are plans, that could either gain the support of Republicans or be passed through the 50-vote reconciliation process, that would be far more effective at eliminating carbon emissions in the US. A carbon tax, coupled with a subsidy to the people badly affected by the tax, would disincentivize the use of cars among people and oil among corporations. It should also be implemented with one of the GND’s only good ideas — incentives for high-speed rail and public transportation. This way,  we’ll transition away from cars and non-clean energy in a way that’s efficient, proven, and, again, actually possible.