Green New Deal to test America’s appetite for socialism
Earlier this month, several US legislators proposed a radical resolution calling for a “Green New Deal,” which may become a pivotal issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.
This Green New Deal is named in homage to the original New Deal, which was a collection of programs instituted in the 1930s as the US was trying to recover from the Great Depression. The original New Deal was meant to kickstart a flailing economy, find new employment for Americans, improve infrastructure, and reform failed economic regulation. The New Deal continues to be a symbol of great pride for the liberal side of American politics, though historians debate its actual effectiveness and conservatives bemoan the sudden increase in government power over the lives of citizens. Americans tend to be naturally suspicious of government control.
The Green New Deal is an even more ambitious concept and presents a debate with the potential to be even more fractious. It is purportedly intended to save the environment from climate change. While it has no chance of passing in Congress, and as a resolution would never have the force of a law, the radical ideas within it have grabbed attention among both liberals and conservatives. Many liberals are excited, and many conservatives are terrified.
The greatest immediate impact of the Green New Deal proposal will actually be in shaping political debate. The primary sponsors were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the popular young congresswoman from New York, and Ed Markey, an older senator from Massachusetts. There are also several co-sponsors, including three front-runners for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
This Green New Deal essentially calls for a wholesale change in the American economy and the way of life in America — all in only 10 years
Ellen R. Wald
This Green New Deal essentially calls for a wholesale change in the American economy and the way of life in America — all in only 10 years. It calls for the practical abolition of cars, trucks and buses with internal combustion engines. It calls for the reconstruction or renovation of every building in the country to increase energy efficiency. A document briefly released by Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s office also indicated an intention to eventually end airplane flights and the farming of cows (because their flatulence is a major contributor of greenhouse gas). One document even called for providing “economic security” to Americans who choose to refrain from work — something anathema to the American cultural ideals of hard work and self-support. The ultimate goals seem to be to end the use of hydrocarbon fuels in America in 10 years and to transform the economy to a more socialistic system. The first goal is impossible, and the second would be a shock to American voters.
Ocasio-Cortez is an energetic speaker with a wide smile and a large social media presence. She is also a determined advocate for her beliefs and for herself. She ascribes to the new democratic-socialist wing of her party — a political designation that appears to mean that her beliefs lie somewhere between the views of a traditional Democrat and those of a full-fledged socialist, a la Karl Marx. She won her congressional seat in 2018 by upsetting a powerful Democrat congressman who thought his power was entrenched. Her surprise victory immediately made her a national political star within the left. She even has a snappy nickname, “AOC.” However, she has also become the nightmare of much of the Washington elite because of her radical ideas and her willingness to take on both Republicans and Democrats.
AOC cannot run for president yet, because she is almost four years too young, according to constitutional requirements. Nevertheless, she is already impacting the 2020 race. Democrat candidates seem to be scared of her. They do not want to be controlled by AOC or her followers, but they believe they will need the support of her followers in the various state Democrat primary elections. For the next year or so, Democrat politicians will be vying with each other for the opportunity to take on Trump in the general election. Only one Democrat will prevail in the primaries, so they must appeal to the liberal base.
Today, a large part of that liberal base seems to think it is reasonable to outlaw internal combustion engines, to alter every building in America and to construct enough solar and wind power facilities to blanket open land around the country. They seem to ignore the limitations of renewable energy power and demand fantasy solutions. They seem to think that all of this — and more — can be paid for with imaginary money. For example, Senator Kamala Harris, one of the presidential candidates who co-sponsored the resolution, said this past weekend that adopting the Green New Deal and socialized health care for all Americans (with a combined cost of several trillion dollars per year) was “not about a cost.” Maybe to her it is about getting elected president, but to American taxpayers it is surely about a cost.
Only a few years ago, American voters were strongly supportive of the capitalist system that had built the world’s most successful economy. Suddenly, with the introduction of the Green New Deal resolution, AOC and others have dropped the concepts of socialism and centralized economic control into the middle of the US political debate. Americans have always been uncomfortable with government power and with any use of socialism. Now, as we head into 20 months of intense presidential politics, we will see if that is still the case.
• Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a historian and author of “Saudi, Inc.” She is the president of Transversal Consulting and also teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. Twitter: @EnergzdEconomy