Sherrod Brown defends decision not to endorse Green New Deal
By ELANA SCHOR
Tuesday, February 12
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Sherrod Brown, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential contender, shrugged off arguments from liberals on Tuesday that signing onto the climate change plan known as the Green New Deal is essential to winning over the party’s base.
“I don’t need to co-sponsor every bill that others think they need to co-sponsor to show my progressive politics,” the Ohio Democrat told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “I want to get something done for people now.”
Of the declared and potential Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate, Brown is the only one who hasn’t signed onto the Green New Deal, which was released last week.
Brown’s decision to keep his name off of the Green New Deal and single-payer health care, two popular litmus tests for those who want the Democratic Party to embrace sweeping progressive ideas in 2020, gives him a unique lane in the presidential primary should he decide to formally join the campaign.
He told reporters Tuesday that he supports “aggressively addressing climate change,” though he has yet to settle on the specifics of his own agenda. He also said he views expanding Medicare to Americans age 50 and older as a more workable step than moving directly to single-payer health care.
A half-dozen of Brown’s potential rivals for the Democratic nomination have signed onto the Green New Deal, the so-called “Medicare for All” single-payer plan, or both.
President Donald Trump seized on the sweeping climate proposal Monday night during a rally in El Paso, Texas, seeking to portray Democrats as too extreme in their calls for drastically cutting U.S. carbon emissions to fight global warming.
Democrats themselves are debating how ambitious they should be in their policy proposals. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spoke of the need for “big, structural change” when she launched her presidential campaign over the weekend. But in a recent interview with The Associated Press, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another possible Democratic presidential candidate, questioned the feasibility of proposals such as the Green New Deal.
For his part, Brown is touring early voting states and told reporters he doesn’t plan to make a final decision on whether to launch a presidential campaign until March. He declined on Tuesday to criticize any of his possible opponents in the primary, saying that “nobody worries me,” although “some face a more uphill climb than others.”
McConnell wields Green New Deal as bludgeon against Dems
By MATTHEW DALY
Wednesday, February 13
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate will vote on the Green New Deal, a moonshot plan by Democrats to combat climate change, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, announcing a move designed to force Senate Democrats — including a cast of presidential candidates — into a political bind.
The plan, initially championed by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calls for a New Deal-style mobilization to shift the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power. Republicans have mocked it a progressive pipe dream that would drive the economy off a cliff and lead to a huge tax increase, calling it evidence of the creep of “socialism” in the party.
The upcoming vote — which has not yet been scheduled — will “give everybody an opportunity to go on record,” McConnell said.
The vote could be a moment of truth for several Democratic presidential candidates. The document is one of the first high-profile attempts at policy making from the newly empowered liberal wing of the party. It drew swift praise from several 2020 contenders angling for support from the party’s base. The Senate vote will test how far left those candidates are willing to go, risking leaving moderate voters behind.
Republicans see it — and its rocky rollout promoting elements of the proposal later rescinded — as a political opening.
President Donald Trump slammed the Green New Deal at a rally Monday in El Paso, Texas, saying it would “shut down American energy.” It sounds like “a high-school term paper that got a low mark,” he said.
Trump has frequently expressed doubt about climate change and said he does not believe action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. His administration has focused on U.S. “energy dominance” and increased production of oil, gas and coal on federal and private land.
The climate measure is already supported by at least five senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s likely to enter the Democratic primary soon, is also a supporter.
But a seventh potential candidate in 2020, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, pointedly declined Tuesday to attach his name and dismissed liberal activists’ contention that he has to support the Green New Deal in order to prove his commitment to the issue.
“I don’t need to co-sponsor every bill that others think they need to co-sponsor to show my progressive politics,” Brown told reporters.
Asked about the proposal Tuesday, Klobuchar said she was a supporter of the broad idea, but kept some distance from the details.
“I see it as aspirational,” she said on Fox News. “I see it as a jump start. So I would vote yes, but I would also — if it got down to the nitty-gritty of an actual legislation as opposed to, ‘oh here’s some goals we have,’ that would be different for me.”
Spearheaded by Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the proposal calls for dramatic steps to virtually eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The nonbinding resolution sets a goal to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” including nuclear power.
The plan goes far beyond energy to urge national health care coverage and job guarantees, as well as high-quality education, affordable housing and a high-speed rail network. The ambitious proposal met a reality check Tuesday as California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared there “isn’t a path” for completing a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco — although Newsom’s office said later that he isn’t walking away from the project.
It also calls for upgrading all existing buildings in the United States to be energy-efficient.
Problems in the Democratic rollout of the proposal have further fueled the Republican attacks.
Trump, at his rally Monday night, said that under the Green New Deal, “You’re not allowed to own cows anymore.” He added that the plan would “shut down American energy” and “a little thing called air travel.”
The resolution submitted to the House and Senate makes no mention of cows or air travel. But Trump’s comments referred to a fact sheet of “Frequently Asked Questions” distributed by Ocasio-Cortez’s office prior to a news conference last week. Ocasio-Cortez has subsequently described the fact sheet, which has been deleted from her website, as a “draft.”
The earlier version of the fact sheet described measures far beyond those contained in the actual plan, such as “Build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” And it made the impolitic statement, “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said the quip about cows and airplanes was meant to be ironic, but Trump and other Republicans seized on it as an example of the plan’s excesses.
“Along with abolishing farting cows, beefing up high-speed rail so that airplanes can be banned is a key element in the proposal,” the National Republican Congressional Committee said Tuesday.
The forthcoming vote isn’t the first time Senate Republicans forced Democratic presidential hopefuls to go on the record about a liberal proposal they believe will alienate moderate voters later. The GOP-controlled Senate scheduled a symbolic vote on single-payer health care legislation in 2017, a decision also designed to put Democrats on the spot, and in January brought up foreign policy legislation that took on the boycott movement against Israel.
The vote on the health care legislation didn’t quite carry the punch Republicans had hoped. Rather than expose of rift in the party, 43 Democrats decided to vote “present” as a show of frustration with the politically motivated maneuver.
Trent, the spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, predicted the Green New Deal gambit would backfire on Republicans.
McConnell and the GOP “are terrified of this winning vision of a just and prosperous future,” he said, adding that McConnell “thinks he can end all debate on the Green New Deal now and stop this freight train of momentum. Unfortunately for Mitch, all he’s going to do is show just how out of touch Republican politicians are with the American people.”
Associated Press reporter Elana Schor contributed to this report.
Opinion: Have Democrats Declared War on Cows?
By Michael Graham
Is your cheeseburger an endangered species?
Reports of the death of America’s beef and dairy industries at the hands of the Green New Deal (GND) may be exaggerated, but both farmers and their Philly steak-’n’-cheese-eating fans have reason to be concerned about policies embraced by progressive Democrats.
Claims by some opponents of the #GreenNewDeal that it would mean an end of the cattle industry in America are inaccurate — for the simple reason that the GND doesn’t offer any specific policies. The legislation actually filed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, is merely a resolution declaring general goals and directions, not specific laws and regulations. On this issue the resolution merely calls for “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”
However, the FAQ handout from Ocasio-Cortez that originally accompanied the proposal was much more aggressive and, many farmers fear, far more accurate about the GND’s goals.
It demands a “a greenhouse gas-free food system,” and bemoans the fact that GND doesn’t call for an end to all GHG emissions because “we aren’t sure we can get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
Supporters of AOC, as Ocasio-Cortez is known, argue that this FAQ document was mistakenly released, a work in progress, and doesn’t reflect the immediate goals of the Green New Deal effort. However, what’s undeniable is that cows — and their gaseous emissions — are in the crosshairs of the climate change activists’ agenda. They have to be.
If advocates of the Green New Deal are serious about getting close to zero emissions, or even a net-zero target using offsets, they have to confront the amount of greenhouse gases coming from livestock. In the United States, agriculture is responsible for about 9 percent of our emissions. But according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock worldwide account for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gases. That’s more than the entire transportation sector (14 percent). Plus, climate activists argue that methane — the gas emitted by cows — is more dangerous than carbon dioxide, trapping up to 28 times more heat.
It’s simply impossible to move forward on the GND agenda without a drastic effect on cattle-intensive industries like beef and dairy.
And so Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, has legislation targeting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) for the alleged damage they are doing to the climate. “I want to talk about the impact that CAFOs have on the environment and what we can do to mitigate it,” Blumenauer said. “We shouldn’t be incentivizing them through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; we should be forcing them to pay for the damage they cause to the environment and public health.”
Eric Holt-Gimenez says the problem is “industrial overproduction of food — the root cause of agricultural pollution, food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.” To discourage overproduction, he suggests a “guaranteed minimum price for farmers,” essentially an agricultural minimum wage paid by consumers to prop up inefficient, smaller farming operations.
And New Jersey senator Cory Booker — a #GreenNewDeal supporter and candidate for president — stated flatly that the “devastating impact” of emissions from the meat industry must end.
“The tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact,” Booker, a vegan, told VegNews magazine. “It’s just not possible.”
The media are downplaying the potential effect on the agricultural sector from the Democrats’ newest policy initiative, accusing Republicans of exaggerating the case or conflating idealistic goals with realistic policies. But ranchers and farmers have gotten the message.
“You may think the #GreenNewDeal is some far-out nutcase dream, but if you’re involved in agriculture you’d better view it as a threat to your entire way of life,” Texas rancher Casey Kimbrell tweeted.
Sara Place of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association says the Green New Deal “highlights the large divide between people that are interacting with the environment and growing food every day, and those that are concerned about environmental issues, but ignorant.”
And Kansas cattle rancher Brandi Buzzard Frobose has written an open letter to Ocasio-Cortez explaining that American ranches “are producing beef in the United States more sustainably and efficiently than ever before — did you know that the U.S. produces nearly 20 percent of the world’s beef with only 9 percent of the world’s cattle?”
“I beseech you to please have a conversation with your constituents and colleagues that have an agriculture background,” Frobose writes. “Cows are not the problem.”
But Ocasio-Cortez, who represents Queens, New York, doesn’t have a lot of “constituents with an agricultural background.” Neither do many of the congressional co-sponsors of the GND who are from urban districts, like Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Boston and Ted Lieu of Los Angeles. Ag jobs just aren’t a key part of their constituency.
For the Democrats running for president, however, the math is very different. Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina all have significant agricultural interests. According to Katie Olthoff of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa has the seventh-largest inventory of cattle in the United States and “more feed yards than any other state.”
“We have a lot of relatively small ‘feeder farmers,’ as we call them,” Olthoff says, as opposed to the larger operations environmentalists tend to focus on.
At the Iowa State Dairy Association website, board president Larry Shover quotes a study reporting that Iowa’s 1,200 dairies — and 213,000 dairy cows — have an economic impact of more than $4 billion per year.
In New Hampshire, dairy products are a $50 million market and the single largest agricultural commodity in the state. The dairy tradition is such an embedded part of the Granite State’s story that the industry promotes the “Ice Cream Trail” featuring local dairies and shops from Nashua up to the Great North Woods.
And the official state beverage of South Carolina? Milk.
Still, virtually every nationally known 2020 Democratic candidate has endorsed the #GreenNewDeal. That’s going to present some interesting political calculations for Democrats in a 10-way (or 15- or even 20-way?) race for their party’s nomination.
Even if the number of farmers in these early states is relatively small (fewer than 2 percent of Americans actually work on a farm), their effects on the economy are felt much more broadly. In addition, as support for the ethanol subsidy in Iowa over the decades shows, many voters have an emotional connection with their state’s farmers that gives their issues an outsized political impact.
“Iowa’s farms are family farms, and so when Washington talks about America ‘getting out of the cattle business,’ it’s not just a job. It’s a family,” Olthoff said.
“About 10 years ago, my husband and I made a huge investment in order to farm years ago. Our dream was to be able to raise our kids on a farm, to live in rural Iowa, to live this lifestyle. When I hear about proposals and regulations that threaten us, I do get emotional,” Olthoff said.
“This isn’t about shutting down an industry. It’s about a way of life.”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He’s also a CBS News contributor. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Like Your Money? You’ll Keep a Lot Less Under ‘Medicare for All’
By Robert E. Moffit
The same misleading promises that surfaced repeatedly during the debate over the Affordable Care Act are being heard once again: lots more government involvement in your health care will save you tons of money.
“Medicare for All” is the nice-sounding new name for the European/Canadian-style health care that has long been the holy grail of the American Left. A single-payer system, they insist, is just the ticket to lower individual and family health care costs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont says that, while Americans would pay more in federal taxes, their private health insurance costs would vanish and they would come out ahead. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York insists, “Medicare for All would save the American people a very large amount of money … these systems are not just pie in the sky.”
Congress’ two “Medicare for All” bills would indeed eliminate all, or almost all, premiums, deductibles and cost sharing. It all sounds appealing. (Though it is worth noting that abolishing cost-sharing actually increases overall health costs.)
Small wonder that the notion of supposedly “free” health care at the point of service attracts enormous popular support. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports 67 percent public support for “Medicare for All,” with only 30 percent opposed. Getting more for less is well-nigh irresistible.
But like President Obama’s promise that his government-managed health system would let you “keep your doctor if you like him” and deliver dramatically lower premiums,” these latest proposals sounds too good to be true because they are.
Both “Medicare for All” schemes establish a new trust fund for health care financing, but neither provides any meaningful explanation of how they would finance such an enormous program.
Title II, Section 211 of the House bill says it would be funded from “existing federal revenues” for health care. It would also impose new income taxes on the “top 5 percent of income earners”; levy “modest and progressive excise taxes on payroll and self-employment income”; a “modest tax” on unearned income, plus a “small tax” on stocks and bond transactions.
Unfortunately, analysts at the Congressional Budget Office can’t substitute vague terms like “modest” and “small” for actual numbers to calculate revenues and costs arising from the proposals.
The Senate “Medicare-for All” bill actually has no funding provisions at all, though its primary sponsor, Sanders, has separately outlined “Financing Options.”
At least he doesn’t pretend that only the rich would have to pay. Most of the new revenues supporting this plan would come from broad-based taxation slamming the middle class. It includes a new 7.5 percent payroll premium tax; a 4 percent household income tax; the repeal of tax breaks for job-based health insurance; and an array of new taxes on upper incomes, including capital gains and dividends, estate, wealth, and corporate income taxes.
That sounds like it would raise a whole lot of money. And it would have to, because there’s a whole lot to pay for. The liberal Urban Institute and the conservative Mercatus Center both independently estimate the 10-year cost of Sanders’ proposal at $32 trillion.
Emory University professor Ken Thorpe, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, detailed the tax consequences for ordinary Americans and projected that Sanders’ plan would cost $1.1 trillion more annually than the senator’s earlier claims. Thorpe found that if it were fully funded, the Senate version of Medicare for All would require an additional 14.3 percent payroll tax and a 5.7 percent income-related premium.
That’s taxing no less than 20 percent of payroll. And again, these are tax increases that would fall on virtually every income group in America, not just the “rich.” Thorpe concludes that 71 percent of working families would pay more for health care than today.
Any way you slice it, Medicare for All requires new taxes on people of modest means at levels previously unimaginable. And this deadly combination of greater costs and massively higher taxation is integral to the plan.
That doesn’t bode well for proponents of the plan.
The same Kaiser survey that found majority support for the basic idea also found that even more Americans would oppose Medicare for All — by a sizable 60 percent to 37 percent — if it would “require most Americans to pay more in taxes.” Well, it would. And we’re talking trillions more in taxes.
Those proposing Medicare for All must provide clarity on its true costs. Step one is legislative text on exactly how they propose to fund it. Then the CBO can conduct a comprehensive analysis of the House and Senate versions and project their impact not just on federal spending, budget deficits and the national debt but also on the tax burden for all Americans — in detail and on every income group.
A fully transparent process, with open House and Senate hearings, would let taxpayers see the real price tag, not just hear lofty promises like those broken by Obamacare.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Robert E. Moffit is a senior fellow in the Center for Health Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.