The florid Green New Deal proposed by the newly elected congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has been widely panned by critics on both the right and the left—but perhaps most notably by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Dianne Feinstein. What many critics of the deal fail to note, however, is that the supposed New Deal is the Democrats’ most recent attempt to co-opt President Donald Trump’s populist agenda.
The Green New Deal seeks to achieve on paper what the laws of both physics and economics would not allow in practice: it is attempting to appeal to the strength of the American worker while at the same time discouraging American industrialism. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the not-so-green origins of this stale, almost comical idea.
Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” has been a wildly powerful rallying cry for his largely blue collar, rust-belt base. For them, it stands for secure borders, unfettered enterprise and fair trade. The first part, securing the borders, has become bogged down in a fight over the humane treatment of illegal immigrants, especially in the wake of Trump’s disastrous child separation practices. However, what is rarely discussed is the reason why Trump is focusing on the issue of overland illegal immigration. The primary reason Trump sees immigration as a winning populist message is that cheap, undocumented immigrant labor has been undercutting the American worker in key industries, including agriculture and construction. Furthermore, minorities, who the Democrats claim to love so much, are disproportionately hurt by the wage-suppressing effect of undocumented labor.
The thing is—Democrats, although they pretend otherwise, clearly know this. They know that the rust-belt counties across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia that voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 and 2012, also voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in 2016. This singular fact shows that it is not Trump’s allegedly bigoted rhetoric that attracted these voters—most of whom helped elect America’s first Black President just eight years prior to Trump’s election—but in fact Trump’s promise to restore prosperity to their dying industrial towns.
Although in their heart-of-hearts Democrats know that economic factors drove traditionally Democratic Party voters to elect Trump, they do not have a plan of their own to restore economic prosperity to wide swaths of the U.S. population. Rather, they do have a plan, but it is not a new one. The Dems’ plan is what it has always been—the Robin Hood strategy. That is, they want to steal from the rich and give to the poor. That’s why the Green New Deal is based almost entirely on cost shifting, taxation and wealth redistribution rather than job creation and sound industrial policy.
And here’s the proof: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez celebrated, as a “victory,” her successful attempt to prevent Amazon from building its new headquarters and flagship distribution center in New York City. Let that sink in for a minute. Democrats are celebrating the fact that their constituents would not be the recipients of a major job boom in a community that desperately needs jobs. Amazon was guaranteeing New York 25,000 jobs upfront and up to 50,000 jobs over the next two decades, not to mention more than $27 billion in state government tax revenues. New York Gov. Cuomo, who knew just how beneficial Amazon’s proposed headquarters would be for the state, made the highly unusual move of openly criticizing Democrats in the New York state legislature who killed the deal. The three-term governor called the plan’s demise “the greatest tragedy that I have seen since I have been in government.”
The irony here is that Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, were actually trying to reward Democrats by placing their headquarters in a place—Long Island City, New York—that historically is one of the least business-friendly places in the country to begin with. The real estate costs alone would be prohibitive for most companies Amazon’s size, not to mention New York’s incredible taxation and regulation regimes. But to Bezos, the potential political cover he would earn by placing a flagship job center in smack dab in the middle of Democrat country was worth the price of admission. Amazon could have easily and far more profitably built its new headquarters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or Lansing, Michigan, for example. Two small American towns that really need a jump-start—but this was always more about optics than any practical job plan.
This leads us toward prong two of Trump’s populism and the Democrat’s failing plans to incorporate it into their dumb new deal. That is, making the American worker more globally competitive by negotiating strong trade deals. Trump’s trade sanctions against China and other grossly unfair trading partners are trying to address a lopsided trade regime that has lasted almost 50 years, since President Nixon first opened U.S. trade with China. Pro-union Democrats were never champions of so-called ‘free trade’ although President Clinton offered a compromise in the form of NAFTA that he claimed would enable the American worker to get a bigger piece of the manufacturing pie than if China were left unfettered. At the end of the day, NAFTA did very little to stem the declining tide of American manufacturing and may have even hastened its demise.
Trump has vowed to change all that and has worked diligently to put new deals in place, including ongoing negotiations with China, which he forced by imposing massive trade sanctions, as well as with the EU. The president has also negotiated more labor-friendly deals with Mexico and Canada. The Green New Deal echoes a lot of that sentiment in the sense that it wants to privilege American manufacturing by incorporating protectionist trade policies. But here’s where the proposed legislation takes a sharp left turn. The Green New Deal’s proponents want to prevent job-killing imports from China and other countries, but then call for the replacement of those imports with a massive investment in so-called ‘clean manufacturing’ in the United States.
This is a fantastical idea—one that, again, not only defies the laws of economics, but physics as well. The heavy manufacturing sectors that have caused the trade imbalances in the U.S. are based on extraction industries—such as steel manufacturing and energy harvesting (natural gas, oil and other fossil fuel extraction). Those are not so-called ‘clean’ industries, and they never will be. But Dems want to have their cake and eat it too. They believe that they can have plentiful clean energy on the cheap…if only government would get in on the game and make massive taxpayer funded investments in unproven technologies.
At the end of the day it all comes down to the tried-and-failed laws of centralized command and picking winners and losers. Obama tried this out during an energy crisis in this country, and most of the renewable energy projects he threw money at failed miserably, leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars of loan guarantees. This so-called New Green Deal is only new in the sense that it offers to waste even more taxpayer money.