As more candidates announce their intentions to run for president in 2020 and the political landscape heats up, a large portion of media coverage has been devoted to the Green New Deal, introduced by the overly pompous (and tragically uninformed) freshman congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The Green New Deal is her first foray into legislating, and it is eminently clear that her degree in International Relations failed to grant her any insights into common sense policy-making. This laundry list of far-left policy proposals are not only infeasible, but represent a growing coalition of Democrats with seriously dangerous approaches towards government programs and monetary policy. Included amongst this list of impossibilities in the resolution and on her website’s FAQ are a commitment to completely power the United States with renewable energy sources (without the use of nuclear power), create a new sustainable power grid for the entire country, retrofit or replace every industrial and residential building in the country, enact a federal jobs guarantee and “economic security” for all of those who are “unable and unwilling” to work, create a universal single-payer healthcare system, provide free college and reduce emissions from air travel and cows, all within 10 years.
Clearly, this list of policies is a radical departure from both the sane and pragmatic. Despite this, the bill has 60 Democratic co-sponsors, and several Democratic 2020 candidates have endorsed her plan as they rush farther to the left to appeal to their increasingly radical base. While certain candidates like Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have pushed back against the policies themselves and the practice of pandering to voters, most candidates seem to have no cares about what is realistic, only what sounds good and appeals to their base that is jealous of and despises monetary success and those who attain it. Certainly there are ethical issues with such promises, most notably guaranteeing economic security for those “unwilling” to work through entitlements and federal job programs. Providing economic security for those who are simply too lazy or careless to get a job and contribute to society is not only disrespectful to the hardworking Americans whose tax dollars would pay for this, but even more disrespectful to the men and women who came to this country and built it through the spirit of industry.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW YORK MAGAZINE.
The more serious issues, however, arise when it comes to the costs of such a lengthy list of demands. Her website says her plans will require World War II levels of increased government spending between 40 and 50 percent of GDP, with Forbes and other sources estimating increases of $84 to $104 trillion over the next 10 years in addition to current expenditures. Even unrealistic mainstream Democratic plans to increase the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent would only bring in about $2.8 trillion over the next ten years, covering less than 2 percent of what is needed. To cover remaining costs, Ocasio-Cortez and other GND proponents turn to the radically unrealistic Modern Monetary Theory. They believe that debts and deficits do not matter and that governments should just borrow and print more money to cover their increased spending. They acknowledge this could cause increased inflation, but they believe that increasing taxes can offset this inflation.
This theory makes some wildly incorrect assumptions that ignore basic economics. While governments do print their own money, they still play by the same rules of the financial system, they just have a longer “leash” due to their greater implied collateral assets. Irresponsibly printing and managing the U.S.’s money, running up debt and increasing inflation will cause investors to move their money away from assets in the U.S. or backed by USD, decimating the economy. MMT proponents feel the U.S.’s economic strength is infallible, but dangerous management of the USD will cause rapid inflation and lead to the very economic destruction that they believe is impossible. It might take a long period of time due to the economic strength of the U.S., but debt and inflation always catch up eventually. They believe that tax increases can combat inflation, but this will not solve the issue. Not only are they too slow acting, with changes taking an uncertain amount of time to take effect and be collected, but they are also too politically motivated in respect to who or what will be taxed and how much. Higher marginal tax rates or ideas like the wealth tax nearly always lead to the wealthy and corporations finding ways to hide their wealth, leading to actual contributions decreasing despite higher rates. Additionally, these increases in taxes often lead to price increases, as individuals and corporations try to offset the taxes by passing the burden to consumers, which in turn feeds into inflation. Finally, if any of these tax changes are incongruent with the rates of inflation, they could cause the economy to downturn and lead to a recession.
Some Democrats temper their support for the Green New Deal by stating that while unrealistic, it is aspirational in ways this country needs, and that we should shoot for the stars so even if we fall short, we land on the moon. This notion lacks all manner of pragmatism in favor of blindly wayward idealism. Calling the GND a “moonshot” is wrong; when we wanted to go to the moon, we planned for and followed through to do exactly that. We need practical solutions to actual problems. Climate change is undoubtedly an issue that needs to be addressed, but irresponsibly believing that money, debts and deficits do not matter is a way to bankrupt the country and cause quality of life to decreased faster than climate change will. Setting more realistic goals to reduce carbon emissions and increasing investment in alternative energy sources is the path we should be taking, not setting impossible deadlines and tacking on a wishlist of unrelated far-left socialist programs. If the Democrats continue this radical lurch to the left, they will almost assuredly further degrade the political landscape and hand Donald Trump another four years in the White House.
Ryan is a sophomore Political Science major with minors in Law, Justice, Society and Philosophy.