Image courtesy of the Western Caucus
By Joe Frederick
As a college student and aspiring activist from the Catholic University of America, I want to protect our environment and reduce emissions.
I feel free markets are the way to go, not big-government policies like the Green New Deal (GND). This is because the GND is not just about the environment, but about controlling many aspects of our way of life. The original GND, popularized in 2016, was focused on 100% clean energy and incentivized a carbon tax, job guarantees, free college, single-payer healthcare, and a focus on public programs. The initiative was furthered under Representative Ocasio-Cortez after the 2018 election.
The GND aims at completely redesigning our country, while simultaneously dealing crushing blows to the consumer. The GND now aims at guaranteeing jobs for all Americans with a “living wage,” providing college for all Americans, universal healthcare, a “social cost of carbon,” among other initiatives. In this op-ed, I’ll be discussing misconceptions about our emissions, the detriments of living wages, and how the GND is looking to forever shake the foundations of the free market.
When examining claims of emissions and the Biden administration’s desire to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, we should look at the data to get the full picture. Starting with a baseline that the climate accord also used, the USA has actually reduced emissions by 12% since 2005 and while this is in part due to wind and solar, the biggest factor is due to our change from coal to natural gas, facilitated by fracking. It was estimated that in 2020 America was due to drop another 10%. Although the Trump Administration left the Climate Accord, we are on track to meet our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) for CO2.
The living wage, as defined by Julia Kagan, is a level of income that allows employees to earn enough income for a satisfactory standard of living. The government has stated multiple times that raising the minimum wage to $15 is an effort to meet this living wage. The problem with this is that the standard of living is different for each state.
California for instance has a $14 minimum wage, and their standard of living or cost of living, measured in income per capita, is $33,128, roughly 6% higher than the national average. West Virginia has a minimum wage of $8.75, and their cost of living is $24,774, roughly 20% below the national average. We can see through these examples that a standard of living differs by state, and trying to bring everyone to the same level nationally will cause problems. Californians’ standard of living may not change by any noticeable amount. While this is happening, people on the other side of the country, like those in West Virginia, may witness an increase in price for housing and goods to compensate for the increased wages companies will have to pay. The result will be inflation like we have not seen in a long time. We need to allow the market to dictate wages and prices.
The emissions by the U.S. of the common six pollutants have been recorded since at least 1980, and the results may be shocking to some. In the 38 years between 1980 to 2018, emissions have decreased by 71%, while working alongside the free market that has allowed for a 182% increase in GDP during that same time frame. The same pollutants that have everyone’s attention mostly contribute to the formation of ozone, which had everyone concerned over its supposed hole a few years ago, as well as deposition of acids and visibility impairment.
Studies show that the GND could cost as much as $93 trillion over the next decade. The tax burden of this bill will be put on us first: those young enough to be in the workforce yet not quite old enough to have retirement on the horizon to save us from the increased taxes. The goals of the GND would put the government in charge of many key portions of American society. The guaranteed living wage and jobs would allow for government control of both the economy and the job market. The emission regulations the GND is looking to impose would hurt our energy. The country relies heavily on natural gas, and doing away with all of it in the next fifteen years would hurt us immensely. Look at what happened in Texas a month ago to see the effects.
As a student and environment lover, I know we can do even better for the Earth with liberty, not more government.