Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Is Powered By Unicorns

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Is Powered By Unicorns

Even if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s fever dream were technologically feasible, the burden of funding it would land on the middle class as well as the uber-wealthy.
Warren Henry
By

The idea that conservatives are generally upset over a video of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez imitating the dance scene from “The Breakfast Club” may be a textbook example of fake news. In contrast, her proposal for a “Green New Deal” is real news, but fake policy.

In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, the darling of democratic socialism proposed eliminating carbon emissions within 12 years. Ocasio-Cortez has previously avoided specifying how she would pay for her “Green New Deal.”

The “Frequently Asked Questions” section accompanying her draft resolution claims it could be funded in the “same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.” The war metaphor is among the classics of collectivism.

Ocasio-Cortez now falls back on the comforting myth that everything is affordable by soaking the rich with higher income taxes. She told Anderson Cooper that “once you get to, like, the tippy tops, on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.”

Ocasio-Cortez half-concedes her plan is a fantasy: “It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now. What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?”

In a nutshell (where Ocasio-Cortez is dwelling, policy-wise), the problem is that our technological capacities are not quite what they are in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research: “One hundred percent renewable energy defies the laws of physics. It would be impossible to achieve.” There is no Tony Stark here with an Arc Reactor for everyone. Instead, we have Elon Musk, sparking up like Bob Marley after years of government subsidies.

For an idea of how detached Ocasio-Cortez is from reality, consider that we get only 17 percent of our energy from renewables. As Paul Bledsoe, a strategic adviser at the Progressive Policy Institute, notes, setting entirely unrealistic goals undermines the credibility of any effort to address climate change.

Vox’s David Roberts, who is as green as the Hulk and usually as angry regarding the status quo on our environment, summarizes the Green New Deal as follows: “Ocasio-Cortez’s plan actually calls for decarbonizing not just electricity but the entire US economy in 10 years, which is almost certainly impossible absent radical reductions in Americans’ energy consumption, something like imposed austerity — and nobody thinks Americans are that scared of climate change. Even decarbonizing the economy by 2050 … is an extraordinarily daunting challenge, involving hundreds of discrete policy problems, each facing their own dilemmas and entrenched interests.”

Given that not even leprechauns are as green as Ocasio-Cortez, it almost seems like piling on to mention the math. But the pot at the end of AOC’s rainbow is more likely to be filled with Lucky Charms than gold.

The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein estimates that raising the marginal tax rate to between 60 and 70 percent on incomes above $10 million might raise as much as $720 billion dollars in a decade. Stein also acknowledged that “[t]he real number is probably smaller than that, because wealthy Americans would probably find ways around paying this much-higher tax.”

That concession is probably a vast understatement. It is fairly well-established that as marginal tax rates rise, the income taxpayers report goes down. Moreover, according to physicist Christopher Clack, who has studied rapid deployments of renewables, the cost of building out generating capacity by itself would cost trillions, not billions.

In short, even if the golden geese of capitalism were to continue laying eggs in Ocasio-Cortez’s command-and-control economy, there will not be enough to make her statist omelet. Even if Ocasio-Cortez’s fever dream were technologically feasible, the burden of funding it would land on the middle class as well as the uber-wealthy.

France discovered this the hard way, as the government’s magical thinking on carbon taxes and rapid conversion to solar and wind sparked middle-class street riots, which continued this past weekend.

Such are the predictable results of what Roberts refers to as “something like imposed austerity.” Ocasio-Cortez’s colleagues know this. Rep. John Yarmuth (D), the new House Budget Committee chairman, recently referred to the Green New Deal as “probably something that is totally impossible to do” and that “nobody could afford.”

Similarly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned “Select Committee on the Climate Crisis” is not directed to draft Green New Deal legislation and lacks subpoena and deposition power. It is weaker than a similar committee formed a decade ago. As Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman put it, “This committee, if it turns out that the rumors about it are true, sounds about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.”

This is not the first time Ocasio-Cortez has tried to pass off a fairy tale as a white paper. She recently claimed the $32 trillion cost of a Medicare-for-all plan could be funded by curbing fraud at the Pentagon. Not even PolitiFact could make that math work, given that our nation has not spent $32 trillion on defense since its founding. Blue states like Vermont, California, and New York cannot get the single-payer math to work either.

Yet the reaction from Very Serious People is not to ask Ocasio-Cortez when she plans to stop snorting the pixie dust, or to remind her she is not the representative for Neverland. In the world of Very Serious People, the idea of Mexico funding a border wall is fantastical, but the idea of going carbon-free in a decade is visionary. The Green New Deal will sound far more plausible when democratic socialists figure out a way to burn the unicorn flatulence generated in promoting it.

Warren Henry is the nom de plume of an attorney practicing in the State of Illinois.

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