The GND: Glitter, Nonsense, and Devitalization

The latest public policy bandwagon is the “Green New Deal,” or GND, whose acronym could well stand for Glitter, Nonsense, and Devitalization. Some of its proposals are so outlandish that they would be more appropriate coming from enthusiastic (but not very smart) second-graders than from members of Congress. It is astonishing that a blueprint for so many ways to impoverish the nation and disrupt our lives could garner so much attention.

The call to move to a green economy offers a nice catchphrase, but when  you unearth the details, it’s less appealing. For example, the elimination of air travel in favor of high-speed rail—the rights-of-way for which would require the most massive government taking of property in human history outside of war and conquest. And no mention is made of the extinguishing of millions of jobs in the energy, petrochemical, and transportation industries.

Moreover, the proposal  avoids the cleanest energy option: nuclear. Nuclear power generation has its challenges, most notably safety and waste, but they are more solvable today than ever. As an illustration of the widespread irrationality being brought to bear on this issue, however, in January a collection of 626 environmental groups, led by longtime radical organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, sent a letter to Congress laying out principles and policies they believe should define the GND. Among them is a call for 100 percent renewable energy, specifying that “any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies.” (We’re betting they are more sanguine about perpetual-motion machines than we are.)

High-speed rail always fascinates a certain segment of the population, but we can’t even manage to build one in the Northeast or between Los Angeles and San Francisco at a manageable cost, not to mention the right-of-way needed for the straight tracks essential to high speeds. In any case, our country is too large for even the world’s best railroads to serve it adequately. One wonders whether the rail advocates have looked at a map lately; even leaving aside Alaska and Hawaii, it’s 3,300 miles from Seattle to Miami. Moreover, since we committed to the interstate highway system during the Eisenhower Administration, the nation’s transportation, both intra- and inter-city, has been oriented around cars and trucks.

Nature also undermines the practicality of renewables like wind and solar energy with pesky things like nighttime and calm spells. In spite of massive investment and some incremental improvements, battery technology remains stubbornly constrained by physics and chemistry, necessitating reliable backup as duplicative infrastructure. And as for the “energy efficiency” push for all structures in the nation, the effort is so impossibly extravagant, and the cost is so astronomical (without any attempt to quantify it) that we can’t reasonably hope to achieve it in our lifetimes.

The “Green Transition” is only the second of four main thrusts of the GND. The third plank of the GND is financial regulation. It envisions massive debt forgiveness, a euphemism for shifting the burden, via tax policy, to those without the debt. It seeks to nationalize—and thus politicize—the Federal Reserve. It would empower government with essentially zero cost of capital to compete with banks, and likely drive many of them out of business. Yet this may be the most modest, if misdirected, part of the GND. And ironically, it is the financial sector that has the fewest problems, if one considers that the 2008 crisis stemmed in significant part from political mandates to lower the standards for credit worthiness. That is not to say that over-leveraging and speculation should not be controlled, but it doesn’t require the GND to do that.

Where the GND becomes truly terrifying is in the scope of the “Economic Bill of Rights” and the “Fair Democracy” planks (first and fourth).

The Economic Bill of Rights (EBR), Entirely Bogus and Ridiculous, relies on confiscatory taxation, massive redistribution of income and wealth, and Soviet-style management of vast portions of the economy—for example, all utilities. It pledges fealty to unions and promises magically to transform our public education system from mediocre (at best) to excellent. (There is ample evidence that those two promises are in direct conflict.)

The EBR also promises employment to all who want it, regardless of skills or abilities, and goes beyond even that to offering financial support for those “not willing” to work. This is welfare and government-paid sinecures run amok.

EBR further favors a more conventional bad idea: single-payer healthcare, which has been thoroughly and meticulously debunked and discredited, to take one example, in Sally Pipes’ The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care. Single payer might work reasonably well for routine care, but it breaks down when it comes to serious illness, chronic conditions, and elective procedures. Ask any Brit or Canadian.

Finally, the plank called “A Functioning Democracy.” Perhaps its acronym really means All For Democrats. Rather than increasing fidelity and accountability to voters, it seeks to loosen controls with such practices as same-day voter registration. A more appropriate approach would be a national ID card, issued at no cost and carefully controlled and validated (by cross-checking with other sources), that truly maintains the one-person, one-vote doctrine. If we can manage entry using real-time scanning to a football stadium with tens of thousands of patrons, we can do the same with voting. Introducing it would be an excellent long-term investment in genuine, effective democracy.

Another element of that last plank, eliminating the Electoral College, would be a repudiation of our entire history, which seeks to support the principles of federalism and statehood. By design, we do not have a popular national election for president. And for that matter, neither do the parliamentary systems of many other western countries. We have somehow gotten through almost 250 years with the Electoral College.

To top it all off, the GND proposes that we retreat from the world stage, gut our military, and make ourselves susceptible to all manner of threats. It is a prescription for disaster.

One need only read the summary of Green New Deal to see how radical, impractical, and utterly asinine it is, and how debatable are its alleged benefits. Why supposedly credible politicians are not treating it as radioactive is inexplicable, except perhaps for its highly misleading title. It is unworthy even of serious discussion, let alone adoption. Its acronym should really stand for Garbage, Now Discard.

Photo Credit: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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About Andrew I. Fillat and Henry I. Miller

Andrew I. Fillat spent his career in technology venture capital and information technology companies. He is also the co-inventor of relational databases. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology. They were undergraduates together at M.I.T.