CHRIS EDWARDS, CATO INSTITUTE
A contradiction in left-wing politics for decades has been the professed support of community, diversity, localism, and democracy on the one hand with the advocacy of federal power to address society’s ills on the other. The Green New Deal (GND) issued by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and co-sponsors illustrates the contradiction in spades.
The proposed scope of new federal authority under the GND is remarkable. The plan demands a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II” and a “10-year national mobilization.’’ The use of the war-like “mobilization” is particularly aggressive when talking about peacetime domestic policymaking.
The plan would push the nation to reach zero greenhouse gases, upgrade all buildings, generate all power with zero emissions, overhaul transportation, and generate “massive growth” in clean manufacturing. It would supposedly provide all people education, training, a good job, high-quality health care, affordable and safe housing, economic security, clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.
It would do all this with spending, regulations, and government “ownership stakes.”
Yet even as the central government’s power was hugely increased, the GND promises “transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership” with everybody. As bureaus all over Washington were formulating one-size-fits-all plans to control our lives, the GND promises, “all people of the United States may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization.”
The GND has lots of warm and fuzzy language. It would ensure “the use of democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities and workers.” And it would implement “community-defined projects and strategies.”
However, long experience shows that when the federal government subsidizes and regulates local activities, decisionmaking moves from local elected officials to unknown and inaccessible federal bureaucrats. The GND would replace local and voluntary interactions with top-down coercion.
The exercise of vast federal power under the GND would steamroll collaboration, partnership, diversity, localism, and participatory processes.
In the language of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal: Whereas the Green New Deal is supposed to help society in many ways, be it resolved that the plan would be a Grand New Disaster for liberal values such as community and democracy.
Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at the CATO Institute and editor of www.DownsizingGovernment.org. He is a top expert on federal and state tax and budget issues. Before joining Cato, Edwards was a senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and an economist with the Tax Foundation.