There’s one thing that has become abundantly clear with regards to some members of this Congress’ freshman class: newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is neither well informed, nor articulate. She advocates for policies that make small business owners cringe, demonstrating a profound lack of knowledge of history or economics. She shouldn’t be taken seriously as a pundit or a politician, and yet, she is an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives, making her profound ignorance an enormous threat to the very fabric of our republic.
That might seem like an overstatement to the average voter. After all, she’s just a telegenic kid with a penchant toward expounding hilariously bad arguments, they might say. While it may be easy to poke fun at AOC’s foolishness, rest assured that Democrats aren’t laughing. Republicans may view Ocasio-Cortez’s policy positions as a joke, but mainstream Democrats are quickly adopting them as a part of their party platform.
Case in point: The Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal is a radical proposal to address climate change. Popularized by Ocasio-Cortez, the somewhat-hazy plan has one distinct goal: transition the American economy to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in just 12 years.
Now, you might ask the logical follow-up: how? That’s a great question, but it, unfortunately, misses the point. For Ocasio-Cortez and the Left, the how is not nearly as important as the why. AOC firmly believes that climate change is the ultimate moral atrocity. In fact, she recently called climate change “our World War II” and proclaimed that unless the problem is addressed, the world will end in those same 12 years.
This belief system is pathological. If Ocasio-Cortez truly believes that climate change spells the end of the world in just over a decade, it doesn’t matter if the cure is likely to bankrupt America or send our families hurdling headlong into poverty. If a disease is terminal, the risks of treatment, however devastating, are negligible in comparison. Consequently, AOC doesn’t care how much the Green New Deal would cost the United States, and she doesn’t bat an eye at the social toll such a policy would extract. In her mind, it simply must be done.
This type of ignorance is dangerous and has the potential to get many people hurt. Our entire governmental structure is predicated on the concept of not making policy in a crisis—but to do so in a deliberative fashion. In 1992, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “The Constitution protects us from our own best intentions… so that we might resist the temptation to concentrate power in one branch as the expedient solution to the crisis of the day.”
Like a virus, these poorly-conceived ideas are spreading throughout the Democratic Party. Once a pipe dream of America’s most radical Green Party candidates, the Green New Deal is now being promoted among members of the Democrats’ Progressive Caucus. And while it’s not surprising that Democrats are moving further to the left on policy issues, their embrace of such reckless political brinksmanship should give any rational American pause.
President Trump must prevent any semblance of the Green New Deal from making its way into domestic policy. However, the battle of ideas is much deeper than that. Trump needs to ensure that the pathology that has infected the Democratic Party does not spread to the American people at large. It doesn’t matter much if Trump vetoes the Green New Deal if the American people turn against him in the process. The president must show America the moral detriment of environmental regulation and highlight the benefits of deregulation and reform. Luckily for him, there are plenty of examples which demonstrate just that.
A relatively-unknown environmental regulation called the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) perfectly illustrates the unintended moral consequences of government regulation. Like nearly all government regulation, PURPA was born out of a desire to do good. In this case, the legislation was signed into law in 1978 with the purpose of promoting energy conservation and increasing renewable energy production. Sound familiar? Here’s the problem: PURPA couldn’t keep up with market innovation. Its government mandates, intended to spur renewable energy production, ultimately began suffocating energy-sector growth. People suffered as a result.
Nowadays, PURPA is a sad relic of the past, mandating that companies provide energy at prices well-above market rates. Why, then, is the legislation still around? The answer illustrates another fundamental moral problem with environmental regulation: PURPA has been co-opted by the very people it was intended to regulate. Energy project developers now fight for PURPA, not because it helps promote renewable energy, but because it ensures their companies fat profit margins. Since PURPA mandates outdated price controls, developers are incentivized to create inefficient PURPA projects. That allows them to unfairly make money off the backs of consumers and the American taxpayers, who are forced by the government to pay for it.
Environmental regulations are intransigent; they tend to outlast their usefulness and hurt people in the process. That is certainly immoral, and it’s that immorality the Trump administration must show to the American people. If a little-known government regulation like PURPA can have such a detrimental effect on the nation, one can only imagine the grand injustice that Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal would cause. AOC’s Green New Deal is a fight for the moral heart of America, and it is one that conservatives can’t bear to lose.