Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

The Green New Deal is Failing: Here’s Why

By Garry BlumPublished April 27, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Occasio-Cortez advocating for the Green New Deal.
What is the Green New Deal and why is it already on its last legs?

The Green New Deal (GND) is the Democratic Party’s first substantial initiative in its fight against climate change – and it’s filled with hot air. H.Res.109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal, is sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D- NY) and an additional 91 Democrat co-sponsors. This resolution is essentially the same call-to-action that Al Gore has been making to Congress for the last 20 years, differing only in that it seeks to codify Congress’ commitment to trillions of dollars in as of yet unfunded policy goals.

Before discussing feasibility, it is important to understand what the bill is asking for. The bill itself is a nonbinding resolution, meaning that it does not establish any programs or appropriate any funds – it is largely symbolic. However, H.Res.109 specifically calls for “10-year national mobilizations” towards goals set out by the bill. These goals include:

Rep. Occasio-Cortez’s office has additionally provided NPR with a FAQ sheet that further details goals of the legislation.

It is apparent that this policy will cost the federal government trillions, so where will the money come from? Rep. Occasio-Cortez suggest three sources from which the policy can at least become economically feasible. She first promotes a carbon tax at an unspecified rate, arguing that companies that have left us in a climate crisis should help pay. Secondly, she points to the cost savings in defending against climate change. The bill itself points to an estimated “$500,000,000,000 in lost annual economic output in the United States by the year 2100,” implying that a climate forward policy would mitigate these losses. Finally, the representative is a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a new and yet-to-be-proven economic theory; discussions of including more traditional methods, like the implementation of a more progressive tax system, have occurred as well. Without specifics, it is impossible to precisely gauge the economic feasibility of this plan.

It is unlikely that even Democratic leadership will concede to such a liberal platform. Many of the GND’s lofty goals – including those stated above – have received immense pushback from both sides of the aisle. However, those to the left of the Democratic Party continue to brashly demand the GND’s realization, and it is this blunt approach which will ultimately kill the bill.

How did the policy pick up so much attention? Freshmen Democrats came out hard and fast. Creating demands for the party and the career politicians lead it is no way to push legislation. This is especially true of ambitious goals without concrete plans – this bill was impossible to back. The sponsor’s push was messy and irresponsible and endangered the promising goals of the policy, and Republicans easily killed the bill in the Senate. Essentially, Democrats have shown their hand before securing the pot.

This resolution is simply coming at the wrong time to be politically feasible. Even when comparing it to FDR’s New Deal, one must consider that his coalition came to power at a time of extreme crisis. Anything plausible was passed, and many policies failed even then. Barring another US economic catastrophe, if the left wants to secure change, it must do so slowly and surely. Plans must be made, numbers crunched, and votes counted. Otherwise, we may never see the changes this country needs.


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