5 domestic issues more pressing than Green New Deal

5 domestic issues more pressing than Green New Deal
© Getty

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: 'Won't you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway' House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Biden: Media misinterpreted Ocasio-Cortez's impact on Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) said in January, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” This has been a clarion call to action for 2020 Democratic presidential aspirants.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic strategist: 'Medicare for All' exposes generational gap within party Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Biden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee MORE (I-Vt.) has characterized climate change as a “planetary crisis.” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWhite House, Congress near deal to give 12 weeks paid parental leave to all federal workers Bloomberg on 2020 rivals blasting him for using his own money: 'They had a chance to go out and make a lot of money' Harris posts video asking baby if she'll run for president one day MORE (D-N.Y.) has called it “an immediate and catastrophic threat to our future.” and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisYang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Biden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events MORE (D-Calif.), as well as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), have labeled it an “existential” threat to mankind.

Harris has also added that she is also a “proud co-sponsor of the Green New Deal” that Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced in February. That resolution, which pledges to “remov[e] greenhouse gases from the atmosphere” within a decade, is a $1 trillion wish list of liberal policy priorities, including a government “guarantee” of “affordable, safe, and adequate housing”, as well as “economic security”, in the form a “family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security” for “all the people of the United States.”


I certainly don’t argue that climate change is happening, but the more relevant question, on which there is no current consensus, is what can actually be done about it that makes economic sense and that also curbs the practices of the world’s other two largest polluters: India and China.

The Green New Deal is certainly not the answer.  

To me, the more critical question is: Where are these same candidates on providing answers for a series of more immediate and equally devastating domestic problems now facing the country?

First, pensions: While Congress — and 15 of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates are current or former members of Congress — has rightly questioned the financial services industry about its treatment of risk, what has it done to avoid the risks associated with the coming pension crisis in America. According to Forbes, about half the states have pension plans that are underfunded by 30 percent or more, and virtually every state has an underfunded pension. With roughly 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, what will these candidates do to find the resources required to fund a bailout when, in probably less than 10 years, some states will have to cut services because of underfunding?  

Second, social security: Although it was designed to provide a supplemental income, social security has now become a primary source of retirement funding for many retirees. According to the Social Security Administration, 62 percent of all retirees depend on social security for at least half of their monthly income, with 34 percent of them relying on social security for between 90 percent and 100 percent of their total income. According to the Social Security Board of Trustees Report in 2017, payouts will exceed revenue in 2022, three years from now, and some 15 years after that, in 2037, Trust Fund reserves will be depleted, forcing cuts in benefits.  


Third, Medicare: Some 60 million Americans, most of them 65 years old or older, receive Medicare benefits, and in 2026, according to program trustees, the fund will become insolvent. That does not necessarily mean that recipients will not receive medical care, but it does mean that medical providers, including hospitals, doctors and nursing homes, will only be paid a fraction of what they now receive.

Fourth, infrastructure: The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that as much as $800 billion is required to resurrect deteriorating roads and bridges, and one in four bridges are already viewed as either structurally deficient or not designed to tolerate the traffic they now support. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that another $632 billion is needed to relieve stress on the nation’s drinking water, wastewater, and irrigation systems, and both seaports and airports are already overburdened, with some 20 percent of all airline arrivals and departures delayed. 

Last, the budget: Federal funding to address these problems has to come from somewhere, but the national debt has now surpassed $22 trillion. During the Obama administration, the debt nearly doubled ($10.6 trillion when President Obama took office, $19.9 trillion when he left), and during the Trump administration, it has continued to grow unabated.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it will reach $28.7 trillion in 10 years. That’s frightening, especially when one considers that the budget deficit for fiscal 2020 alone is $1.10 trillion and the U.S. depends heavily on China to buy Treasury notes and thus keep interest rates down. But if China’s appetite lessens, and even if it doesn’t, interest rates will surely rise, and paying higher interest rates on this huge debt will inevitably crowd out the available discretionary spending needed to solve these problems. And current interest rates are now at historic lows, with virtually no place to go but up.  

These issues demand the immediate attention of every candidate for the White House. 

Though questions about climate change will inevitably arise, the press should focus less on an issue that demands a global solution with precise and proven objectives, and more on these domestic issues, all of our own making. It is therefore up to whomever would be our next president to articulate and promote meaningful solutions aimed at solving them.                       

Thomas M. Boyd is a former assistant attorney general, appointed by President Ronald Reagan.