The Green New Deal, the economic reformation plan advanced by freshman New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as “AOC”, and which seeks to turn back climate change and move the U.S. to renewable energy, is exciting at face-value.
The trouble is, the Green New Deal is also very wrong, as its presented. This post is not to slam or make fun of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, at all. (Indeed, I quite admire what she’s done and her. She’s an American hero.) The intent is to point a way toward an approach that’s grounded in political economic realities.
The current fantasy of the Green New Deal is that socialism will save America. On that, the reason I pointed to Oakland, California in this post is simple: Oakland’s my home. It also happens to be one of the places where the ideas of a group called the Democratic Socialists Of America (DSA) have taken hold.
The Democratic Socialists Of America of Oakland are a group of good people who have, unfortunately, some bad ideas. Collectively, they use terms like “eco” and so much so, it’s like they’re shaking seasoning on their dinner. Some rail against job-creating economic development projects without knowing anything about them. Take the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal for example, where some call it a coal factory, when its a bulk shipping terminal. Consider the fact that many don’t seem to realize that coal is used with iron ore to make steel, and that even with environmental controls, demand for coal will still remain stable. Consider the fact that the Oakland Democratic Socialists Of America, and the DSA nationally, doesn’t seem to know those facts!
AOC says she’s a member of the DSA (as are a few people I know), and so, with good intentions, has brought a set of wrongheaded ideas about the economy to bear on a complex but solvable problem.
Let’s start with what the Democratic Socialists Of America define “Democratic Socialism” to be:
Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.
Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States. Because of this, many false ideas about socialism have developed in the US.
Problem One: Democracy And Socialism Don’t Go Hand-In-Hand
The idea of the DSA that “democracy and socialism go hand in hand” is laughable, at best. According to the World Population Review, an online publication in Walnut, CA, that has become a resources for data on, well, the World’s population, socialist countries are simply those that “are states that have aligned themselves with Socialism.”
In it’s section called “Socialist Countries 2019”, the World Population Review writes that “There is no criteria or official process for being named a Socialist state. All that is required is that a country identifies itself as Socialist. This includes nations that claim to be Socialist or have constitutions that state that they are based on socialism, even if they do not follow the economic or political systems associated with socialism. Countries that appear to follow Socialism are not designated as socialist unless the nation explicitly states so, regardless of how it looks to outsiders.”
Here’s the list:
China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Tanzania, Nepal, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Portugal, Laos, and Guyana
So, the Democratic Socialists Of America are going to tell me and you that “democracy and socialism go hand in hand” in North Korea, or China? Wow. It seems the DSA didn’t get the memo that “socialist democracy” in China is practiced in a way that would make its collective stomach turn: China is communist and ran by the Communist Party of China. Period. End of story, right?
Well, not really because the Democratic Socialists Of America not only fail to identify what countries it thinks fall under this fantasy that “democracy and socialism go hand in hand”, but go on to state this: “Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States.”
The last time I checked, the largest true democracy in the World just happens to be the one where capitalism has “taken root”: the United States Of America. I have to take an aside here and remark that the Democratic Socialists Of America read like they either hate America, or are secret fronts for the authoritarian regimes that call themselves socialist, or both. Most Americans would say “both”. This, then, is where the basic problems that have found their way into the Green New Deal came from.
Problem Two: The Green New Deal Fails To Recognize The Role Of American Government
My Oakland DSA acquaintances and friends will take unfortunate offense to my presentation, and say “You didn’t read the whole page on what Democratic Socialism is!” Well, actually, I did. But the basic problem is the first two paragraphs above the bullet sentences are suppose to stand on their own and represent what the DSA is about. But the reality is the bullet sentences are written as if they were crafted by someone answering a series of rebuttals in a debate, with cherry picking examples from countries here and there, and with zero consideration given to the truth.
Take Nicaragua’s literacy programs, one example that was used by the DSA. The Democratic Socialists Of America to leave out that the reason Nicaragua had a literacy problem was due to lack of spending on education – increase spending and the literacy problem is reduced. Someone needs to tell the Democratic Socialists Of America that they missed basic courses in civics and government.
In fact, that’s the real problem.
In American history, the role of government has been to correct the very market forces that have caused the problems Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others point to. Unfortunately, because of the same reduction in education spending that plagued Nicaragua, many from AOC’s generation didn’t benefit from basic courses in civics and government because budget cuts got rid of them. So, information about programs like the Community Development Block Grant, or any of the many subsidy programs, or the economic impact of defense spending on American towns completely escaped AOC’s generation.
The result is we have a whole group of Americans who don’t know how to activate the levers of government to make change. Writing bills and arguing before congress and designing sound policy wasn’t something they took courses in. Congress wasn’t something they learned about in a book called The Irony Of Democracy, they watched it on CNN, and without really knowing what was going on. Schoolhouse Rock, a product of the 70s, was American pop culture history by the time AOC’s set hit school. So, not surprisingly, the DSA thinks somewhere, some other nation, is better than America. To the DSA, only somewhere, other than in America, does this ideal of Democratic Socialism exist.
Well, no, they’re wrong. The fact is Democratic Socialism has always existed and right under the collective nose of the Democratic Socialists Of America.
Right here in America.
Truth: The Green New Deal Is Doable In The Current American Context
Here’s what AOC and the Democratic Socialists Of America have to understand: we can do the Green New Deal, it just takes a shift in spending priorities and with an eye toward business subsidies. Forget the whole “business is bad” garbage, because the genius of American entrepreneurial sprit needs to be ignited to fix the problem. The one way to do that is via money. The venture capital model provides a great base for a new, giant, policy design and spending directive, one that maintains and increases income levels for current basic industry job holders (like those in the coal industry) yet applies technology to help reduce emissions to zero levels.
We, as a country, have to come to a basic understanding of what damage we’ve done in the process of ignoring government: today, the vast majority of defense spending winds up offshore, whereas in the 80s and 90s, 80 percent of it remained in America. That means government spending was a true catalyst for private sector jobs and American urban development. Now, it means your spending leads to steel and other products from Japan and Germany that wind their way back to America.
We also have to accept some truths like this one: coal’s not going away anytime soon, or in the future. Coal demand is driven by Worldwide urban development more so than it is by what climate change lobbyists like to point to: fossil fuels. That Las Vegas Stadium Steel for the home of the Oakland Raiders? That steel was made with coal and iron ore.
As the World Bank tells us, urbanization helps
pull people out of poverty, and coal, which is used to make steel, is a major part of the development of cities. That’s not going to stop anytime soon, or in the future, and no amount of fake news will change that fact.
The fact is, we have to subsidize how much money people make on the job in order to get heavy industry back to America, maintain our standard of living, produce products that are competitive around the World, and lower emissions in the process.
What we have today is an American standard of living dragged down by cheap wages around the World. We have to address that jobs and wage problem first, and that will give us the roadmap to the real, doable, Green New Deal.