Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey’s Green New Deal is currently just a congressional resolution that may or may not get a Senate vote this week, but incredibly, the conservative American Action Forum, a group founded by former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, has worked up an astonishing estimate of just how much it’ll cost—one which appears to have been pulled from a single extremely tight white ass.
According to a write-up in the right-wing Washington Free Beacon, which calls it a “conservative estimate” (as in a lower-end estimate, not that it’s made up by conservatives), the American Action Forum puts the price tag at up to $93 trillion over 10 years.
“The American Action Forum’s analysis shows that the Green New Deal would bankrupt the nation,” Republican Sen. John Barrasso, of “AOC wants to make ice cream illegal” fame, told the Free Beacon. “The total price tag would be $93 trillion over 10 years. That is roughly four times the value of all Fortune 500 companies combined. That’s no deal.”
How, exactly, did they get to $94 trillion? Per the Free Beacon (emphasis mine):
The American Action Forum calculated guaranteed green housing would cost between $1.6 trillion and $4.2 trillion; a federal jobs guarantee between $6.8 trillion and $44.6 trillion; a net zero emissions transportation system between $1.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion; a low-carbon electricity grid for $5.4 trillion; and “food security” for $1.5 billion.
Enough high-speed rail “to make air travel unnecessary,” would cost roughly $1.1 to $2.5 trillion. Universal Health Care, or a Medicare-for-all type plan, would cost $36 trillion over 10 years, totaling $260,000 per household in the United States.
Yes, you’re reading that right: their ballpark estimate on a federal jobs guarantee has a range of $38 trillion. The centrist Brookings Institution’s estimate last year, by the way, put the high end on a job guarantee at $543 billion a year, or $5.4 trillion over 10 years.
On Medicare for All, too, the AAF’s number is substantially higher than previous estimates. The libertarian Mercatus Center’s estimate set out to prove last year that Medicare for All would bankrupt the country, and inadvertently found that Medicare for All would eventually save about $2 trillion in national health expenditures. Even Mercatus, however, put the cost of Medicare for All at $32.6 trillion over 10 years.
The eye-popping estimate wouldn’t be complete without that time-honored Republican tradition, pretending like the cost of a new government program would be spread out evenly amongst American households:
In all, the plan would cost between $52.6 trillion and $94.4 trillion, over 10 years. The burden to the taxpayer would amount to between $361,010 and $653,010 for each household over 10 years.
Given that the Green New Deal currently exists as a set of priorities rather than a set of policies, the AAF estimate that Barrasso is all too willing to signal-boost exists for one purpose: to scare the absolute shit out of people. Nowhere do the AAF’s estimates look at current U.S. healthcare costs. Nor do they tackle the enormous price tag that will come with allowing the worst effects of climate change to wash over us unabated.
The AAF’s estimate is just a new spin on an old game: the tax and spend libs are going to take all of your money and waste it on useless bullshit. It’s also a good example of the kind of thing that the Green New Deal advocates are going to be up against for a long time. But ultimately, the human and financial cost of not aggressively tackling climate change—and providing a strong safety net to help working-class people weather this uncertain new world we’re all going to be facing—is too great to let wildly speculative price tags dictate the terms of the debate.