You Can’t Build That: The Regulatory Reality of the Green New Deal
During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama said in a speech delivered in Roanoke, Virginia, “You didn’t build that.” As often happens on both sides in a hard-fought political campaign, his comment was widely taken out of context. He was talking about infrastructure, and the key role government plays in the planning, design, and construction of roads and bridges. It’s a fair point: infrastructure projects are common public goods that spin off benefits far and wide, including to entrepreneurs.
Now comes the Green New Deal, whose congressional co-sponsors include four announced candidates for president. As such, it should be understood as an action plan that the Democratic Party intends to adopt if its standard-bearer is elected in 2020.
The Green New Deal has been subjected to withering criticism — including on these pages — for its breadth, audacity, and financial implications. Breadth is unmistakable because, in addition to attempting to unilaterally solve the problem of global climate change, the Green New Deal also aims to address domestic wage stagnation, socioeconomic immobility, the decline of industrial trade unions, inadequate pay for government workers, and income inequality. Audacity is self-evident because the Green New Deal would create a host of large new entitlements and, for good measure, correct “systemic” injustices inherent to the nation’s founding and republican system of government. Financial implications are only beginning to be fleshed out, beginning with Medicare for All— at least $3.3 trillion per year — and free, high-quality post-secondary education — more than $1 trillion was spent in 2017. Additional entitlements include “affordable, safe, and adequate” housing — price tag TBD — and an entitlement to a “family-sustaining wage” for those unable or unwilling to work. We can call that one “Social Security for All.”