Column: The political contradictions of progressivism
“The fact is there is no more money. Period,” says Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.
She’s talking about the teachers’ strike that has paralyzed her city’s public schools—enrollment 360,000—for the past week. The public employee union is demanding more: more money for salaries (only eight states pay teachers more than Illinois), more support staff (Illinois ranks first in spending on administrators), more teachers per student. Their cause has attracted national attention. Elizabeth Warren joined the picket line.
Which is ironic. Lightfoot is not some stingy Republican. Nor is she a centrist Democrat like her predecessor Rahm Emanuel. She’s as progressive as you can get. But she now finds herself in the same position as many of her political brethren: facing criticism for failing to reconcile the contradictions in the left’s agenda.
Lightfoot has discovered that there is no limit to the appetite of the constituencies generated by government spending. She has learned that the special interests bargaining for higher benefits also desire policies that make such benefits unattainable. I hope she’s taking notes.
Chicago Public Schools has run a deficit for the past seven years. Why? Pensions granted to earlier generations of teachers are expensive. And the cost is growing. A quarter of the school budget is devoted to benefits—money that can’t be spent on classrooms, facilities, and instruction. Expect that number to rise as America goes gray and the bill comes due for the promises we made to ourselves.
The federal government can put Social Security and Medicare on the credit card for as long as demand for U.S. Treasuries is high. States and municipalities don’t have that luxury. There is an upper bound to what even the most progressive mayors and governors can grant the lobbies that mobilize voters for their campaigns. But it’s a glass ceiling. Public sector unions are eager to break it.
Nor does being woke protect you. It’s impossible to appease fully the groups fighting to claim resources and honor. They often won’t take yes for an answer. GM might tout to investors the fact that it is “leading in gender equality.” That didn’t stop the UAW from striking.
Public policy inspired by the ethic of social justice inflames the tension between progressive leaders and the voting public. Andrew Cuomo might sympathize with Mayor Lightfoot. His fealty to environmental groups has backed him into a corner. Banning fracking and canceling pipelines hasn’t just denied New York revenues, jobs, and lower energy bills. It also led energy supplier National Grid to cancel gas hookups in Long Island. Cuomo had to retaliate before the company restored service. Want to be a progressive? Claim credit for resolving a crisis of your own making after threatening to unleash state power on private actors responding to price signals. Cuomo makes it look easy.
Gavin Newsom also has been struggling to reduce the conflict between the imperatives of the new progressivism and the quality of life of everyday people. He has his hands full. Rising numbers of homeless have led to a breakdown of public order in areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Land-use regulations have restricted the supply of housing, leading to high prices and shortages, and Newsom’s answer is statewide rent control that will make things worse. California’s budget depends so heavily on revenues from the wealthy that it might not recover from another out-migration like the one the state experienced after a 2012 tax hike.
Pacific Gas & Electric is a case study in the progressive self-own. The state-regulated utility spent years deferring maintenance while it invested in renewable energy and promoted the ideology of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Among the consequences of its neglect were terrible wildfires that devastated communities. The ensuing legal bills drove PG&E into bankruptcy. It says it’s been forced to engage in “de-energization”: purposeful mass blackouts to prevent further damage and legal action. In early October more than two million people were left in the dark. No house, no power, no prospects—welcome to the California Republic.
The contradictions of progressivism generate crises of affordability and governance. But the political class suffers few consequences. Chicago, New York, and California remain Democratic strongholds. What scattered opposition exists is internal to the political machine. On rare occasions parts of the coalition splinter from the whole and are able to defeat radical measures. Think of Bill de Blasio’s stalled plans to cancel entrance exams for New York City’s magnet schools. For the most part, though, the Democrats’ hold on power continues. It’s one monopoly progressives don’t seem to mind.
Are the voters in these communities merely complacent? Are they so content with the patchwork of benefits and status the jerry-rigged welfare state provides that they tolerate dysfunction? Or is the partisan alternative so appalling they won’t even consider it?
Questions worth pondering as progressives prepare to scale up their model nationwide. Who knows? One day, President Warren might be on the other side of that picket line.
Environmentalism: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has declared herself “boss” of the “Green New Deal.” Maybe she can explain were the money will come from to pay its $93 trillion cost. Because taxing the rich won’t even scratch the surface.
At an event on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez complained about criticism of the Green New Deal — much of it coming from her own party — that it’s a pipe dream. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, for example, said that “there are things that are great goals, but are unrealistic.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s response: “Some people are like, ‘Oh, it’s unrealistic, oh it’s fake, oh it doesn’t address this little minute thing. And I’m like, ‘You try! You do it.’ ‘Cause you’re not. ‘Cause you’re not. So, until you do it, I’m the boss. How ’bout that?”
Try to do what? Come up with an equally unrealistic plan that would bankrupt the nation? Because that’s precisely what the Green New Deal would do.
Green New Deal’s Gargantuan Price Tag
A new analysis from the American Action Forum finds that the Green New Deal, as laid out by New York Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, would cost up to $93 trillion in the first ten years.
Remember, the GND isn’t just about converting the entire U.S. energy supply to renewable energy in a decade and establishing a “zero emissions transportation system.”
The plan also includes things like “guaranteed” federal jobs, “universal health care,” and “food security.”
Beyond the bumper-sticker labels, the grandiose plan is vague on any of the details. Still, the AAF, which is headed up by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, was able to rough out the 10-year costs for each of the proposals.
A zero-carbon electricity grid would cost $5.4 trillion, the AAF calculates. A “zero-emissions transportation system,” an additional $1.3-$2.7 trillion. “Guaranteed green housing” will cost anywhere from $1.6 trillion to $4.2 trillion.
Despite the GND’s name, it’s the proposals that have nothing to do with climate change that cost the most. The price tag for a federal guaranteed jobs program could run as much as $44.6 trillion over the next decade. The “universal health care” plan? $36 trillion.
Cost Will Likely Be Higher
If anything, these are lowball estimates.
To calculate the cost of converting to 100% renewable energy, for example, the authors simply assume that no new transmission lines would be needed, and that much of the renewable energy would come from nuclear power. Neither is realistic.
The price tag for a nationwide high-speed rail system that could replace airplanes doesn’t factor in the massive cost overruns endemic to every other government infrastructure project — and which are wrecking California’s attempt to build its own bullet train.
The $36 trillion cost for “universal health care” is in line with other estimates for “Medicare for all.” And as we’ve noted in this space, those are lowball figures.
All told, the cost of the “green” part of the Green New Deal would run from $8.3 trillion to $12.3 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the AAF report. The rest of it would cost an additional $42.8 trillion to $80.6 trillion.
Let’s put this in perspective. At the low end, the GND would more than double the size of the federal government.
At the high end — roughly $9 trillion a year — even taking every single penny earned by tax filers with adjusted gross incomes over $50,000 would not be enough money to pay the costs.
Looked at another way, economists expect the entire U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade to total $266 trillion.
More Than A Third Of GDP
That means the Green New Deal would account for up to 35% of the nation’s economy from 2020 to 2029. That’s on top of existing federal government programs, which already consume more than 20% of GDP each year.
To call this “unrealistic” is the understatement of the year. It would be cataclysmic.
What’s most shocking about the Green New Deal, however, isn’t the unprecedented economic destruction it would cause. Nor is the fact that it will do nothing to prevent “climate change” from happening. Nor the fact that a 29-year-old socialist and her legions of followers think this would be neat.
What’s most shocking about the Green New Deal is that so many leading Democrats, many of whom very much hope one day to be president, are blindly embracing it.
by John Merline • Investor’s Business Daily
President Obama once praised it as a shining example of America’s clean energy future. “With projects like this one,” he said at the site of a solar plant just before construction started, “we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy.”
And his Department of Energy showered $1.6 billion in loan guarantees, as well as $600 million in tax credits.
The plant is the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, a behemoth that uses hundreds of thousands of mirrors spread out over more than five square miles of the Mojave Desert. The mirrors all aim at the tops of three 459-foot towers, where the heat boils water in tanks held there, which generates steam to turn the electricity-producing turbines. Continue reading
Lowering ozone—from cars, trucks, factories and power plants—in the name of an imaginary health benefit.
by Tony Cox • Wall Street Journal
This fall the Environmental Protection Agency plans to take its next grand regulatory step, following the announcement of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan over the summer. The agency is likely to introduce stringent new standards for ground-level ozone, arguing that a lower allowable level of ozone—an important component of smog—will reduce asthma in the U.S., among other claimed health benefits. Yet the EPA ignores decades of data and studies, some under the agency’s auspices, that reveal no detectable causal relation between past reductions in ozone and better public health, including reductions in asthma cases.
The new regulation may be the most expensive ever for the U.S. economy—even worse than the Clean Power Plan’s effect on coal-fired power plants. Some studies, such as one published in August by National Economic Research Associates, estimate implementation costs of hundreds of billions of dollars a year in the short run, and trillions of dollars over the next two decades, as well as millions of lost jobs. Why would it be so costly? Because attacking ozone involves almost every facet of the economy—as the EPA notes, “automobiles, trucks, buses, factories, power plants” and “consumer products” all contribute to ground-level ozone. Continue reading
By Michael Biesecker • My Way News
Internal documents released late Friday show managers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were aware of the potential for a catastrophic “blowout” at an abandoned mine that could release “large volumes” of wastewater laced with toxic heavy metals.
EPA released the documents following weeks of prodding from The Associated Press and other media organizations. EPA and contract workers accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater on Aug. 5 as they inspected the idled Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.
Among the documents is a June 2014 work order for a planned cleanup that noted that the old mine had not been accessible since 1995, when the entrance partially collapsed. The plan appears to have been produced by Environmental Restoration, a private contractor working for EPA.
“This condition has likely caused impounding of water behind the collapse,” the report says. “ln addition, other collapses within the workings may have occurred creating additional water impounding conditions. Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.” Continue reading
By Alex Cabrero • Deseret News
It was a dream come true several years ago when Andy Johnson built a pond on his property to stock fish, let his kids play and provide a spot where his horses could have a drink.
But now that dream has turned into a nightmare. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency accused him of violating the Clean Water Act by damming the middle of Six Mile Creek and polluting the water to build the pond.
The agency is threatening Johnson with a $75,000 per day fine — a penalty often reserved for companies that emit toxic hazards — until he tears it all down.
“I think they’re trying to gain jurisdiction,” Johnson said. “They’re trying to see if they can run over me, and then they will get into everyone’s irrigation ditch and stock ponds throughout not only Wyoming, but the United States.” Continue reading
By John Siciliano • Washington Examiner
The methane restrictions for oil and gas companies proposed by the Obama administration Tuesday are just the beginning of a regulatory “tidal wave” that the industry is bracing for this fall.
The new rules for oil and gas wells proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would limit methane from fracking sites, creating new costs that the industry says are “unnecessary.” The industry says it has reduced methane voluntarily, so why bother with regulations that would only be duplicative.
The EPA estimates the cost of the proposed rule to be $170 to $180 million in 2020 and $280 to $330 million in 2025.
Those costs are expected to amplify considerably given that some of the rules coming down the pike are considered the most expensive in history. Continue reading
by IBD Staff Editorial • Investor’s Business Daily
On Sunday night, EPA regional director Shaun McGrath told a town hall meeting in Colorado that the EPA would “hold ourselves to the same standards that we would anyone that would have created this situation.” Right.
This is an agency that will aggressively fine businesses, municipalities and anyone or anything else for even the slightest violation of its ridiculously strict standards, but that will face zero fines for its own environmental catastrophe.
It’s an agency that claims that even the tiniest levels of pollutants are extremely hazardous, yet has been busy downplaying the damage after its own incompetence caused the release of millions of gallons of toxic waste. Continue reading
By John Kinkaid • Fox News
Grace: (noun) An act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency. Mercy, pardon.
Here in northwest Colorado we feel like we’re at the epicenter of federal policy actions with regard to land and the environment. When you think of the war on coal, we are the bullseye. The irony is that we are the true stewards of the air, water and land. On a sunny day the sky is deep blue and we love it.
As a retired Control Room Operator at one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the U.S., I know firsthand how much time, effort and money go into keeping things clean. We hunt. We fish. We ski. We have a vested interest in maintaining the environment.
And yet we can never do enough to satisfy the EPA. EPA has been on mission creep since its inception in 1970. And somewhere in the intervening years between then and now, a line was crossed. The line between good common sense solutions and heavy-handed job crushing regulations. Somewhere along the line, EPA quit being the “good guys” and became the enemy of average citizens and the U.S. economy. Continue reading
Committee requests McCarthy correct the record and be ‘truthful’ with American public
by Ali Meyer • Washington Free Beacon
Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology wrote to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy and called her testimony at a hearing in July “false and misleading.”
On July 9, McCarthy testified to the House Committee on the transparency of the EPA’s regulatory agenda. Members of the committee asked McCarthy about the “secret science” that goes in to justifying EPA regulations because they want to ensure the data is available to the American people.
Rep. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) asked McCarthy whether the agency had made data that was used to craft the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule public. While McCarthy said that the information was “available,” the Committee maintains that EPA did not provide any scientific or legal justification for the figures Lucas asked for. Continue reading
by Herald Staff • Boston Herald
Sure accidents happen — it’s why we call them accidents. But you can bet if some oil company had been responsible for filling a Colorado river with toxic sludge — rather than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — the Obama White House would be all over it. The Justice Department would likely have already launched an investigation and company officials marched into federal court.
But the EPA — which in its zealotry to rid our air of pollutants wants to ride herd over every coal- and oil-fired plant in the nation — took 24 hours just to notify the residents of nearby Durango of their major-league screw up.
An EPA crew assigned to clean up the Gold King mine high in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado accidentally opened up a passage from an old tunnel in the mine, allowing millions of gallons of yellow toxic sludge to spill into a creek, and from there into the Animas River. As of Monday it had already traveled 100 miles south into New Mexico. And from there who the hell knows because it’s still flowing, heading toward Utah, including Lake Powell — an area along with Durango itself jammed with tourists this time of year. Continue reading
by Ben Wolfgang • The Washington Times
The political fallout from last week’s toxic spill at Colorado’s Gold King Mine intensified Monday, with critics saying the incident has exposed clear hypocrisy within the Obama administration while threatening the credibility of the Environmental Protection Agency at a crucial moment.
Rather than express outrage as it has done in the wake of previous environmental disasters, the White House would not comment on the spill and instead directed all questions to the embattled EPA.
The agency, meanwhile, remains under intense fire after its contractors accidentally breached a dam at the mine last week and sent toxic sludge flowing into the Animas River. The contaminated water has spread to New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and EPA officials were forced to concede that more than 3 million gallons were released into the river — a much higher amount than the agency’s initial estimate of 1 million gallons.
The fluid contains lead, arsenic and other heavy metals. Continue reading
by John Stossel • RealClearPolitics
Thomas Collier is a Democrat who managed environmental policy for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Then he noticed a mining opportunity in Alaska, one he calls “the single largest deposit of gold and silver that is not being developed in the entire world.”
Tom’s company hired hundreds of people to study the Pebble Mine’s potential environmental impact, a first step before asking the Environmental Protection Agency for permission to dig. Usually, the EPA analyzes a company’s study, then does its own research, then rules. But in this case, the EPA did something odd — it rejected the mine before Pebble even got its application in.
That’s never happened before, says Collier. Continue reading
By Shawn Macomber • Lawfare Tyranny
Steven Freeland, a professor of international law at the University of Western Sydney, has studied the current track record of the International Criminal Court — i.e. thirteen years, a billion dollars, two convictions of obscure African warlords, pure impotence everywhere else — and decided it is time to add a new task to the aspiring transnational behemoth’s plate.
Specifically, he would like to see the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statue, amended to allow the Court to prosecute “rampant and excessive environmental damage during armed conflict.”
Here’s what Freeland had to say about the enterprise to Lawyers Weekly:
Those who engage in warfare have to recognize that, of course, we must always take every necessary action to minimize damage and suffering to human beings, but that in no way means that the environment is open slather.
Executives at a Bermudan firm funneling money to U.S. environmentalists run investment funds with Russian
by Lachlan Markay • Washington Free Beacon
A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
One of those executives, Nicholas Hoskins, is a director at a hedge fund management firm that has invested heavily in Russian oil and gas. He is also senior counsel at the Bermudan law firm Wakefield Quin and the vice president of a London-based investment firm whose president until recently chaired the board of the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft.
In addition to those roles, Hoskins is a director at a company called Klein Ltd. No one knows where that firm’s money comes from. Its only publicly documented activities have been transfers of $23 million to U.S. environmentalist groups that push policies that would hamstring surging American oil and gas production, which has hurt Russia’s energy-reliant economy. Continue reading