If there’s one thing that people across the political spectrum probably can agree on these days, it’s that common sense is in desperately short supply among our political figures and officials. Whether it’s Donald Trump claiming in the State of the Union that had Hillary been elected we’d be in a “major war with North Korea,” or freshman Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweeting about Israel “hypnotizing” the world into supporting it, our political discourse has gone off the rails. Politicians can’t even keep the lights on in government these days, with shutdowns depressingly becoming the norm (yet still breathlessly reported by a pliant media).
Which is why it’s hard to decide whether the Green New Deal floated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is hilarious or horrifying. It’s probably a little of both. The one thing it is not is a serious policy proposal. The Congresswoman’s first major initiative was greeted by most Americans with bemusement. Does a 28-year-old bartender really believe she is qualified, this early in her political career, to reorganize the entire economy? Is she staggeringly arrogant or breathtakingly ignorant? Again, a little of both.
Take the “Fact Sheet” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez released to promote the bill. Aside from being inconsistent with the actual proposed legislation, it reads like a term paper proposal crammed on a Sunday night by a hungover sociology undergrad: “The Green New Deal resolution a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all.” No, that’s not a typo on our part.
The plan will “ensure a just transition for all communities and workers to ensure economic security for people and communities that have historically relied on fossil fuel industries.” Your guess is as good as ours.
And it will “ensure justice and equity for front line communities by prioritizing investment, training, climate and community resiliency, economic and environmental benefits in these communities.” She’s, like, super into community.
The plan also promises “economic security for all who are…unwilling to work.” How it’s green to subsidize lazy people goes unexplained.
The document is rife with inconsistencies. It compares the GND to the moonshot and World War II, noting that by the end of the war the U.S. had produced 300,000 aircraft, proof that when this country harnesses the will of the people it can accomplish anything. Then, a few paragraphs later it calls for the elimination of airplanes. It also implausibly claims that 64% of Republicans support the GND.
You get the idea.
At this point anyone with a functional frontal cortex should be shaking their head. Yet the GND has quickly become gospel on the progressive Left, which has been hankering for something like this for decades. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, said with a straight face to Joy Ann Reid on MSNBC, “The Green New Deal is a mission to save all of creation by engaging in massive job creation.” He really wants those Millennial votes.
What are level-headed Americans to do? On one side of the political aisle is a President content to govern via Twitter while claiming nonexistent Constitutional “emergency powers.” On the other is a cohort who thinks Marxism just hasn’t been done right.
What this country needs is a Common Sense New Deal, one that balances the need for action on the environment and economic justice with the needs of ordinary Americans just trying to live their lives. One that encourages alternative forms of transportation without stranding millions in gridlock.
A Common Sense New Deal should be like a hybrid car: A bridge between the fossil fuel past and a clean, renewable future. It would acknowledge promising new technologies while accounting for their limitations. Most importantly, it will emphasize solutions to problems Americans face everyday, and account for the fact that many issues are intertwined. For example, we’ll never build a high-tech, clean future unless our schools produce graduates with the knowledge to do it.
Unlike the Utopian GND, the Common Sense New Deal acknowledges reality. The vast majority of Americans prefer to get around town in cars and travel long distances by airplane. People like to eat hamburgers and hot dogs. Parents want the right to decide where to send their children to school, and to have a say in what goes on in the classroom. In short, rather than trying to change the behavior of 360 million people it will produce solutions adapted to their individual choices. Accordingly, it would:
- Encourage not 19th century modes of transportation like trains, omnibuses, and bikes but 21st century technologies like electric cars, hyperloops, hybrid airliners, electric self-driving flying cars (yes, they’re a real thing), and a new generation of all-electric passenger planes.
- Encourage the development of electric drones to replace the fleets of FedEx, UPS, and USPS vehicles that deliver online orders that will dominate retail in coming decades.
- Establish a Manhattan Project for synthetic, clean-burning fuels like the ones under study at Princeton University and a consortium of Boeing and JetBlue.
- Accelerate the process of industrial-scale recycling, such as turning waste created by the manufacture of composite materials into consumer goods, as Boeing already is doing.
- Vastly expand the use of nuclear power, which is clean and safe. France produces 72% of its electricity from nuclear power plants; the U.S. should follow suit.
- Promote eco-friendly cattle production such as adaptive multi-paddock operations.
- Encourage responsible stewardship of forests and national parks.
- There would have to be a foreign policy component: 90% of the plastic in our oceans comes from just 10 rivers, five of which are in China. India and China account for half of global deaths due to air pollution. The U.S. should consider environmental tariffs.
- Revitalize our crumbling public schools so that they actually prepare young people for the challenging jobs and careers of the 21st century, and produce leaders who are up to the challenges of the Common Sense New Deal.
- Promote school choice and charter schools to foster healthy competition in our dysfunctional and moribund public education system.
- Overhaul our nation’s social safety net programs so that they encourage rather than discourage work, independence, and family unity.
- Create an independent regulatory reform commission to overhaul the nation’s ossified administrative state. The commission should be comprised of members of all three branches and should be vested with real authority, not just advisory powers.
These are just a few ideas. The point is we don’t need to ban plastic straws and force people out of their beloved cars and on to mass transit in order to save the planet and resuscitate the country’s manufacturing sectors, any more than we need just to “Drill, baby, drill” (although in the short term drilling is necessary: California, which has the biggest fossil fuel reserves in the county, currently imports nearly 60% of its petroleum. Again, how it’s green to enrich the likes of Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Iraq, and Angola by shipping millions of barrels 15,000 miles across the planet on tankers powered by bunker fuel is anyone’s guess).
The Common Sense New Deal would focus on the amazing technologies under development in the private sector, the shoot-for-the-moon ideas that always have this country the most innovative and exciting in history. And it would benefit hard working Americans who all too often find themselves last in line when it comes to government policy. The Common Sense New Deal would be what it says: A renewal of the relationship between the people and the government that serves them.
Which is where we agree with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez: Americans love a challenge. And history shows that more often than not we get it right. The solutions to our current conundrums, from climate change to homelessness and education, will be found where they always have: In the risk-taking of entrepreneurs and individuals, not the collective bludgeon of the federal government.