“…a Green New Deal isn’t just about managing risks – it’s also about creating economic opportunities.”
— Justin Talbot-Zorn, Ben Beachy and Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Climate Activists
Nine hundred ninety-three trillion dollars! That’s how much the “Green New Deal” will cost. But relax. That’s only $6 million per American family. So, whip out your checkbooks, ladies and gentlemen, and start paying for this pipe dream that’s supposed to address the non-problems of climate change, decent employment and economic inequality.
Where did I get these figures? Actually, I made them up.
Why did I make them up?
To illustrate that making up nonsense is how some folks plan to argue against the GND. While working out at my gym, I wound up watching a certain television channel I usually ignore. The red-bordered “news flash” crawl at the bottom of the screen read: “GND will cost 93 Trillion, study shows.” At home, I checked the channel’s web site and found an article with an identical headline and the additional “information” that the “cost” equals “$600 Grand per household.”
So, I figured if it’s OK to make up numbers and claim they pertain to policy discussions, why not make up a number of my own, such as $993T? That’s a number, after all. So is $45.50. I like that one better, so my new meme is: GND will cost $45.50, author projects!
The truth is, at this point no one knows how much the GND will “cost,” because the proposal is not yet sufficiently developed to project its costs. Also, the whole concept of “cost,” absent a discussion of the return on that investment — which was not considered in the scare-tactic article I read — is meaningless.
How much did it cost to electrify America? Is it reasonable to assert that investment has paid for itself many, many times over, while making our modern lifestyle and prosperous economy possible?
The $93T article said the figures for the “study,” published only two weeks after the GND resolution was introduced in Congress, included items such as the projected loss of revenue to airlines if we were to develop a high-speed rail system. So, it added together the (inflated?) direct cost of modernizing our ailing train infrastructure and the projected losses to competing businesses. Also, the figures didn’t include the benefits to society that a railroad build-out would bring in terms of jobs, reduced transportation costs and so on.
Nor did the article address the drag on our GDP caused by current working-class wages which, adjusted for inflation, have been stagnant since the 1970s. Since the GND would pay good wages for low-skilled and semi-skilled jobs such as retrofitting and insulating buildings, and because low-income families tend to spend a good portion of their income, that drain on the economy could be reversed. Addressing economic inequality, as the GND proposes to do, would strengthen our economic foundations.
What about workers such as coal miners who would be displaced by green development? As things stand, the coal industry is dying because other forms of energy are cheaper (as well as cleaner). Under our current economic regime, unemployed miners will be stranded, along with their families and communities. But the GND calls for retraining displaced workers in all affected industries, thus including them in a new, thriving green economy.
Finally, there is the cost of doing nothing to address climate change. Over the past decade, climate-related disruptions have cost the U.S. Treasury $350B according to the Government Accountability Office, and $91B in 2018 alone, according to NASA. Actual government studies, as opposed to wild guestimates that inflate costs, peg the price of ignoring climate change at $500B per year by century’s end. Pretty soon, you’re talking real money at our ecological house.