[KAJIAN ONLINE] Green New Deal: The Brand New American Dream 

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For so long America has kept their title as the Land of Dreams, not for nothing:  their government has the much-needed balls to cater to the equally ballsy ideas and seemingly crazy possibilities that the people have to offer. Yet another one of these ideas came up recently, when a house representative made a proposal called the Green New Deal, a proposal intended to resolve climate change as well as other age-old American problems—such as wage stagnation, unemployment, and unaffordable housing—at the same time within the span of ten years. Sounds crazy? Apparently, it is, according to Ben Shapiro, an American conservative political commentator, who thought that whoever wrote the proposal is, to put it kindly, dense. Idiotic. Moronic [1]. Well, this begs the question: if the Americans are truly familiar with such bold ideas, why is this one getting such resistance—most especially from the Republican Party and its followers?

Democrats vs Republicans

Here’s the deal: when talking about proposal and policy, we will unavoidably be talking about conflicts of interest. The question is, whose interest? The clashing interests in America’s political current today are between those of the Democratic and Republican parties. Ever since 1893, the Republicans and Democrats have been in a tight fight for control over the political system with no other significant contender [2], making the impact of their polar interests even more palpable to the public eye. During the Great Depression, the Democrats rose up as the progressive side of American’s politics, what with their pro-people, equality, and social responsibility slogan. On the other hand, the Republicans stood undeterred with their classic and prided pro-business, equity, and socially and fiscally conservative values.

Bearing these characteristics in mind, there’s no doubt that their interests would, at some points, clash. One example can be seen in the case of environmental sustainability: The Republicans have, for a long while, taken the stance that environmental regulations aren’t necessary, for global warming is a natural occurrence—one case in point is Senor Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, which aimed to keep the rise of the global temperature below 2°C [3]. In contrast with their stance, the Democrats are all for environmental sustainability and preservation—shown by Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) action in creating the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) in 2009 [4].

The stance of the blue party (Democrats) indeed sounds more appealing to the public, as it has been proven by Pew Research Centre. Their poll showed a margin of 31-percent advantage point to the Democrats for supporting the advances towards environmental sustainability [5]. This number might just increase a bit more thanks to the newly proposed Green New Deal, as 81% of the registered voters are supportive of said proposal [6]. Good for the Democrats, indeed. But then one thing becomes worth questioning: are the Democrats really for environmental preservation, or is the Green New Deal just another effort in distinguishing themselves from the Republicans to gain voters?

Behind the Dream: Climate Problem

 An additional increase of global temperature above 2°C will cause dramatic destructions in several places globally, and eliminate all possibilities of recovery [7]. Agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement have been made to tackle  these issues and ensure that the temperature stays where it is now, or if possible, decrease. But according to a certain Democrat, America needs to take extreme measures to ensure that the 20% of emission that the USA contributes to the world will not increase, rather decrease. Especially ever since President Trump conveniently pulled out of the Paris Agreement, leaving America bare of a bounding contract on carbon-watch and emission control.

The Green New Deal (GND) is a 10-year resolution proposed by a freshman representative of the Democratic Party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The GND aims to boost advances in environmental preservation and, at the same time, create welfare for the people. In a nutshell, AOC wants the American government to start treating environmental problems seriously, and as urgently as they do  economic issues. Think of it this way: in a regime where the leader doesn’t believe in climate change, one possible way to package an environmental proposal is by covering it up with an economic motion. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Taking a look at the urgency of our climate condition today, it makes even more sense that AOC is urging for the total abandonment of fossil fuels in order to achieve an absolute net-zero emission within the proposed ten years. So yes, no more airplanes. At all. In ten years.

It does sound like the GND is up to something impactful, but is it—financially, and with paying attention to the proposed time constraint —feasible?

 

Beyond the Dream: Money and Feasibility

To some extent we have to admit that extreme measures are needed regarding climate problems. The GND, according to AOC, is the necessary moon-shot that if taken, in the worst-case scenario that it cannot be realized to its full potential, at least it will be able to incentivize further development in the field. In layman’s terms: shoot for the moon—if you fall you’ll still be among the stars. Cute thing is: she’s not even sure that her proposal will be be fully realised

Before delving further into why GND cannot be awarded ‘Policy of the Decade’, let’s move to the fun part of our article on why it’s hard for the House to pass it: cost analysis. AOC proposed a lot of things, but here are several of her most interesting proposals—subjective, yes, but I honestly think you’re going to be equally entertained by these proposals: 1) universal health care, 2) economic security to those who are unable or unwilling to work, 3) upgrading all existing buildings in the US and building new (eco-friendly) ones, 4) achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions [8].

Wow, okay. Not bad, right? Although the thought of having to guarantee economic security to those who are unwilling to work may not settle well in the minds of some—if not many—people. I mean, Edison once dreamed of shiny bulbs; Stanton dreamed of women’s suffrage—and look where we are now! Though it did take them a bit more than a decade—just several decades more—to actually made their ideas happen, but hey, ideas are the root of changes. As the people of a government, wouldn’t you say that GND sounds like a good idea? Paid vacations? Big yes for the Dems.

GND implores for additional policies, not only regarding environmental preservation, but also a bunch of socialist policies that ‘have nothing to do with climate change’ [9]. Subconsciously we know policies which could adhere to various needs of the society will, most likely, cost a fortune—or as Bloomberg said: spend the US into oblivion. Let me give you the play-by-play in this proposal: AOC wants to cater to environmental issues through the catering of other issues. So, that means we have to get through several issues—such as unemployment, health care, and universal basic income—before we can even begin to touch on the environmental issues.

Whip out your abacus, people, it’s time to count.

AOC proposed for a ‘guaranteed job with a family sustaining-wage, paid vacations, and retirement security.’ According to a Manhattan Institute budget expert, Brian Riedl, that proposal alone costs $8.8 trillion for 10 years. Universal health care for all the families in the US would cost around $32 trillion. To guarantee economic security to those who are ‘unwilling to work’ the government needs to pitch in another $40 trillion (for universal basic income), and another $470 billion for free college. $81 billion and we haven’t even begun to talk about the environment!

Switching the US buildings into renewable energy would cost around $17 trillion [10]. That’s around $98.3 trillion of additional expenditures for the next decade now—and that is still not the grand total. AOC has yet to release her own detailed estimation, she did state in her released document, however, ‘funding the Green New Deal requires World War II levels of government spending of between 40 percent and 50 percent of GDP.’

If you’re wondering how AOC is planning to pay for this proposal, I’ll give you a hint: it starts with taxpayer’s and ends with money. More tax for the wealthy. Yes, 70-percent marginal tax rates on wealthy US citizens has been proposed by AOC herself. If you are under the assumption that the wealthy 1% will mind, well, even the 56-percent of taxpayers that supported Medicare-for-all opposed it the moment they learned that it will require them to pay more taxes [11]. But let’s just say that people are willing to pay more taxes to support the GND—which they aren’t. Riedl calculated that the only remotely possible way to touch the low end of his estimation would be for the US to adopt and implement ‘European-style tax of 87-percent taxation on everything we buy, or an additional 37-percent payroll tax for every American’ [10].

The thing is, if the Democrats’ goal is to cater to more issues at once, it won’t be able to be achieved this way. In the best-case scenario that the US government can raise enough money to kick-start the GND, the sustainability of its progress is questionable. We are talking about—financially—dry-squeezing billionaires to keep on funding the GND in years to come. Principle-wise, it is not that wise to provide a universal basic income for those who are unwilling to work. It will reduce people’s incentive in striving for their best in their career, with the thought that they will get paid the same anyway—and trust me it will happen. If the Dems are okay with that, then that’s fine. The thing is they aren’t—proven by their continuous tries in proposing for a job-guarantee, which comes from the realisation that the system of meritocracy will eliminate the incapable few, especially those with no interest in bettering themselves to fit the jobs they seek.

AOC targets not at creating more incentives for people to gradually better themselves so they can get the job, but at the possibility of nobody ever having to do so again. The system of meritocracy will no longer be applied, and everyone gets a free lunch every day! According to the Democrats, that’s the ideal world. Or at least it is, according to AOC. A fellow Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, shadily scoffed the idea of GND in the nicest way possible by saying the green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right? Righty-o, people indeed are up for it. A study on college students by the Daily Wire found that the students were up for GND until they found out the time constraint it proposes, alongside the consequences of each proposal. One even went as far saying that it sounds like a reach and flatly answered no when being asked whether or not it is feasible [12].

It would seem that AOC forgot one important component of policy: trade-offs. In policy-making, there is a very restricting constraint called budget, and there are several agendas that need to be put first. In the process of agenda-setting, the GND  has failed in identifying the existing trade-offs between agendas, thus making it not even remotely qualified to be called  a policy-in-the-making. When there are trade-offs, there will be discourses in the society about whether or not we actually need it—the general society agreed in a research by The Nation that green jobs are important, but not so much with the GND (see graph) [13]. For an agenda to be able to pass, the society has to want it, and the society doesn’t want it: no means no for another tax-raise. That’s three aspects where the GND, principally, has failed in fulfilling for it to be qualified as a policy. But why do they still bother?

Apparently, there is another interest that hasn’t been discussed yet, and that is to gain enough votes for the next period. This is a possible underlying motive for the Democrats due to the fact that they have proposed something similar before: ACESA in 2009. People have bought it, voters voted for their president, it has passed in the House, but there has been no notion to bring it up to the Senate floor up until today. Logically, those who are eliminated by the merit system will be more than grateful to whoever can guarantee a better living quality, so yes, voters will vote. Surprise, surprise, the constructor of ACESA is also a contributor in GND: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). It’s still too early to conclude what the Senator is up to, but for the fact that an agreed act catering the same environmental problems proposed by GND has not been put into action after ten years says something doesn’t really add up well.

Conclusion

The world that AOC and the Democrats are proposing is a very utopic world. Nobody said that it’s impossible, but majority of the people are saying not now, and not this way. In the end of the day, there are only two possible outcomes regarding this proposal: 1) it stays as a Green Dream in the Land of Dreams, or 2) it passes, and becomes ACESA 2.0.

 

References

[1] AOC’s Green New Deal Proposal is One of the Stupidest Documents Ever Written. Diakses dari https://www.dailywire.com/news/43194/aocs-green-new-deal-proposal-one-stupidest-ben-shapiro

[2] Political Parties. Diakses dari http://www.wwnorton.com/college/polisci/american-politics-today3/essentials/ch/06/outline.aspx

[3] The Paris Agreement. Diakses dari https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement

[4] American Clean Energy and Security Act. Diakses dari https://www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/house-bill/2454

[5] Public Opinion on the Environment and Global Warming: Is it Changing? Diakses dari https://www.forbes.com/sites/bowmanmarsico/2017/04/20/public-opinion-on-the-environment-and-global-warming-is-it-changing/#53c205005445

[6] 81% of Voters Support a Green New Deal. Diakses dari https://www.ecowatch.com/green-new-deal-voter-support-2623737355.html

[7] Why a Half-Degree Temperature Rise is a Big Deal. Diakses dari https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2458/why-a-half-degree-temperature-rise-is-a-big-deal/

[8] Green New Deal and FAQ. Diakses dari https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5729035/Green-New-Deal-FAQ.pdf

[9] Green New Deal costs could get Trump re-elected. Diakses dari https://www.bostonherald.com/2019/02/16/green-new-deal-costs-could-get-trump-re-elected/

[10] The Green New Deal Would Spend the U.S. into Oblivion. Diakses dari https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-08/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-s-green-new-deal-is-unaffordable

[11] Medicare for All is Popular Until You Explain How It Works. Diakses dari https://reason.com/blog/2019/01/24/new-poll-shows-medicare-for-all-is-popul

[12] Students Love AOC’s Green New Deal, Till They Hear About Its Goals. Diakses dari https://www.dailywire.com/news/43312/watch-students-love-aocs-green-new-deal-till-they-james-barrett

[13] Young People Really, Really Want a Green New Deal. Diakses dari https://www.thenation.com/article/young-people-really-really-want-a-green-new-deal/

[14] Patton and Sawicki. 1993. Basic Methods of Policy Analysis and Planning. Prentice Hall

 

Writer: Anugerah Pekerti Islamilenia

Editor: Miftah Rasheed Amir

Illustrator: Fanindya Dwimartha

 

Kajian Online adalah program kerja rutin Divisi Kajian B.O. Economica berupa tulisan argumentatif berlandaskan keilmuan yang mengangkat dan menanggapi fenomena sosial, politik, ekonomi, budaya dan teknologi dengan tajam, komprehensif dari sebuah sudut pandang.

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