There's an old joke about an egotistical politician whose disgruntled speechwriter, just before quitting, prepares a draft that promises the moon, and specifics for how to pay for it, on the first two pages, and leaves the third page blank except for the words "You're on your own now."
That's the position that freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal package, co-introduced by Sen. Edward Markey, has left the several Democratic presidential candidates who rushed to endorse it. AOC (as she's often called) herself has tried to repudiate some of it, as an early draft or a Republican prank. New York Times and Washington Post reporters have indulged her alibis.
But someone wrote it, someone whose goal is to "achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and" — incidentally — "create economic prosperity for all" in just 10 years.
One representative plank: "build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary." Another: "create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle." A third: "Work with farmers and ranchers to create a sustainable, pollution and greenhouse gas free, food system that ensures universal access to healthy food."
Sounds kinda drastic, especially if you sometimes fly several hours to vacation or visit relatives, or if you drive an SUV or a pickup truck, or eat meat from methane-emitting cattle or hogs.
But in their FAQs, which they maintain was sent out by mistake or something, AOC's folks assure voters that their goal is "net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren't sure that we'll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast." These people who say they couldn't put out the right press release assure us they "can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture" in 10 years.
By this point, it should be apparent that the Green New Deal — "the green dream, or whatever they call it," in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's words — is never going to happen. If you had any doubt, this week, California's new Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, announced he was ditching his predecessor Jerry Brown's state high-speed rail line, which he said "would cost too much and take too long." It was sold to voters in 2008 as costing $40 billion. Current estimates are it will take $77 billion until completion in 2033.
But it's worth reflecting on what the GND tells us about American leftists. Far from encouraging 21st-century technology, they want to abandon 20th-century tech (planes, non-electric autos) and go back to 19th (trains). Far from accommodating individual choices, they want to boss everyone around.
Those family farmers they extol will have to wait to get to town if their electric vehicle is out of juice because the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining and they're still waiting for the "affordable public transit" to reach their farm. Maybe they can use bike lanes.
And it's not at all clear that coastal sophisticates will be content to be stuck on slow-moving trains and stuck off on sidings for 20 or so hours out in what they like to call flyover country until someone cleverer than Gavin Newsom can gin up the federal printing press to pay for high-speed rail tracks between Manhattan and Hollywood.
Those on the political left — whether struggling Generation Z bartenders from Queens or rich homeowners in Brentwood, California — share a withering contempt for and thinly veiled hostility toward ordinary middle-income people, raising families and shopping at malls and navigating enormous SUVs (needed for kids car seats) into the fast-food carryout lanes.
Leftists love to confine vulgar people to rail lines — high-speed rail or urban subways — and force them into high-rise apartments, which they design. They hate single-family-home suburbs and the automobile that let ordinary people go where they want to go, when they want to and with as many stops as they like.
Voters feel differently. In France, where most people live beyond walking distance of the Paris Metro, the gilets jaunes have led a successful rebellion against a carbon tax, i.e. a tax on driving. In Washington state last November, voters, even in the county that includes Seattle, soundly rejected a carbon tax.
Now Markey says it's unfair to bring the Green New Deal to the Senate floor. The label polls well. But, he suspects, the substance won't. So why have presidential candidates Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren endorsed this foolishness?
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.