Talk about high expectations.
Barack Obama graces the cover of this week's Time Magazine, not as the publication's Person of the Year (though that honor will be bestowed soon enough) but as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, complete with jaunty grin, jutting jaw and cigarette (which he'll have to disavow, of course). The cover carries the headline, "The New New Deal," and it isn't in jest. It's the most explicit reflection yet of the high hopes the Left has for the next president, who must save the economy and planet simultaneously. They see Obama as a Democrat icon in the making, who has the charisma and vision to realign policy and politics for decades to come.
It's largely based on revisionism, of course, and strained comparisons between the past and present. But this is the United States of Amnesia, so it just might fly.
It comes down to us as a cornerstone of left-wing mythology, and an article of faith, that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal saved the United States during the depths of the Great Depression, which was caused by the failures (and, yes, evils) of capitalism. Such beliefs are debatable, of course; many scholars and economists argue that Roosevelt’s policies and programs, far from saving America, deepened and prolonged the nation’s agonies and left behind, as a dark legacy, the gargantuan government we’re saddled with today.
A lot of what's backward in the United States today – our 1930s-era farm programs, for instance – is rooted in the New Deal. But no amount of arguing or reason or evidence will prevent some Americans from swooning when they hear of FDR and his New Deal. Socialists and their fellow travelers look on it as a golden age, which made American what it is today. But for those of us who value economic and political liberty, and look back on the old New Deal as a curse rather than a blessing, the prospect of a New New Deal evokes fear rather than hope.
Now a new golden age is promised by true believers; something they're calling the "Green New Deal" or "Global Green New Deal." (Why they aren't marketing it as the "Green Great Society" is curious, but perhaps that effort's failures are too fresh in peoples' minds to be similarly romanticized.) The idea originated with the United Nations Environment Programme, but has quickly been seized-on by politicians, environmental groups and the alternative energy industry. The concept will get a lot of play at the G20 summit this weekend.
And it will almost certainly be co-opted (even if by some other name) by the next president, who seems to believe the concept's core tenet -- that make-work programs for windmill builders, solar panel installers and ethanol plant operators, and massive federal manipulations of energy markets, will do for America now what the New Deal did for America back then.
This so-called “new energy economy” can’t be born on its own, of course, since the left is also pushing the myth that our current economic woes stem from “market failure” and the corrupting excesses of capitalism. Markets can't get us there, or get us there fast enough. This will require massive government intervention in the economy, on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. If Roosevelt’s New Deal moved us half way to socialism, the Green New Deal, combined with federal "greenhouse gas" controls, will get us the rest of the way there. Economic central planning is the inevitable endpoint of the path we're walking. And we'll get there with a clean conscience, and clean hands, since we’ll be saving the planet even as we correct capitalism’s ills.
This idea, since we're coining new phrases for new times, might be called eco-socialism.
A Green New Deal is a two-fer for eco-socialists; it marries their messianic mission of "saving the planet" with their belief that capitalism, markets and profits are destroying the environment. Al Gore, writing in the New York Times Nov. 9, pointed out that "the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis."
Keynesians love it because it requires massive government "investment" in "green" industries and green infrastructure as an economic stimulus. And liberals of all stripes, after a long period on the defensive, see it as something that can put them on the top again, much as as the old New Deal secured their political dominance for decades afterward.
A glimpse at below-the-slogans agenda can be seen in the statements and proposals put forth by Gary Gardner and Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute, in anticipation of the G20 meeting. Here's what they said:
"The challenge for global political leadership, including U.S. President-elect [Barack] Obama, is not merely to kickstart the global economy, but to do so in a way that creates jobs and stabilizes climate, increases food output using less water and pesticides, and generates prosperity with greater equality of incomes. This broad approach will require a conceptual blueprint evocative of America's 1930s New Deal, but more audacious in scope and vision."
But here's where the eco-socialism becomes overt:
"This historic moment calls for not merely repairs to our hyper-productive, yet ailing, economy, but for a new approach suited to the realities of a heavily populated and environmentally stressed world - a Global Green Deal that shifts the focus from growth to development, and that is geared less to providing consumerist superfluities than to ensuring that nobody's true needs go unmet."
We need to impose a new economic model, in short, that conforms to the "realities" of an environmentally stressed planet -- something famously advocated by Al Gore in his book, Earth in the Balance. The "hyper-productivity"and "consumerist superfluities" that have characterized market economies must take a backseat to "ensuring that nobody's true needs go unmet."
This isn't just a plan to boost renewable energy use and kick-start the economy, obviously; the theme, if not overtly socialist, is unmistakably anti-capitalist. It's an overhaul of industrial and post-industrial society that's being advocated, not through incremental steps and voluntary action but through economic upheaval and government coercion. And it's an alarming invitation to totalitarian government control of the economy, and of our lives, in the eyes of people like myself.
Like the old New Deal (but on steroids), it will greatly expand government power and control over every facet of our lives. Like the old New Deal, it will create new generations of government dependents; wind and solar farmers, this time, instead of dirt farmers. And it will, like the old New Deal and the Great Society, have unfortunate unforeseen consequences and create more problems than it solves.
It will be a great "deal" for some people, no doubt -- the green industries that will rely on government mandates, subsidies and giveaways to exist -- but a raw deal for most Americans, who will be paying more for virtually everything, and living in a world of diminished expectations, in order to bankroll this massive expansion of government and make the sacrifices that will be demanded in the name of "saving the planet"
The eco-socialists are hoping to tap into this misplaced nostalgia when they try to sell Americans on the necessity of a “Green New Deal.” But what they really are after is a complete economic and social overhaul -- a remaking of the American economy and society along environmentally-correct lines. The costs and consequences of such a revolution -- the toll it may take on our quality of life and personal freedoms -- are of tertiary concern to plan proponents.
They are Utopians, on a mission to "save the planet." Any means necessary can and will be justified.