There's no way around it: big government proposals require big public scrutiny.
Americans are skeptical of government, which is why those promoting far-reaching climate legislation have worked hard to sweeten the Green New Deal (GND). GND proponents sell this huge takeover of the American economy and the American way of life not only as a supposed antidote to climate change, but as the ultimate provider of economic security, regardless of the cost.
As national leaders in the public policy arena, we both want economic security and justice for the American people, too. But we realize that socialist policies and paternalistic, big government programs will produce exactly the opposite result.
One of us learned this lesson from personal experience - having grown up poor in the projects in Richmond, Va., during segregation - one of six children in a single-parent household. The other learned it as a federal lawmaker and student of history, witnessing socialism's champions enrich themselves, and live by a different set of standards while failing to deliver on their promises to improve lives.
That's why we're so troubled when people who purport to want economic security propose policies that would actually do irreparable harm to the very communities they claim they're trying to help. The GND would be economically catastrophic for American families while also failing in its supposedly primary mission: to significantly reduce the earth's temperature.
Under the Green New Deal, manufacturing and energy production in the United States would be outsourced to countries like China and India. Many nations lack the environmental safeguards long since implemented in the United States, and this outsourcing would result in a drastic increase in global emissions.
As far as economic justice, the Green New Deal would increase the injustice it purports to eliminate. Affordable, reliable, abundant energy (currently oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy) has provided the economic opportunity to lift people out of poverty and improve their lives, health, and comfort. It has allowed them to buy cars, drive to jobs, heat their homes in the winter, and cool their homes in the summer. Low-cost energy has also made food, clothing, and furniture all more affordable, as energy is used at every stage of planting, harvesting, manufacturing, and transporting goods to consumers.
The GND would make all those things - from the electricity to heat our homes to the food on our tables - more expensive by taking away some of the cheapest energy sources America has. Research suggests switching to 100 percent renewable energy sources would cause electricity bills to skyrocket for working families.
We've already seen how states and regions with the most extreme environmental laws also have the highest energy costs. In New England, for example, moratoriums on natural gas pipelines used to transport gas from Pennsylvania and Ohio have caused electricity price increases double that of similar regions. And New Yorkers face natural gas shortages because radical state policies won't allow the state to explore and harvest the abundant resources beneath its own soil.
Higher energy costs disproportionately affect low-income families. The poorest Americans spend 22 percent of their household budgets on energy. And many already make huge sacrifices to pay for the energy they currently use. According to the 2011 National Energy Assistance Survey, a poll of low-income families, 24 percent went without food for a day and 37 percent decided to forgo medical and dental care so they could pay their energy bills. Many kept their homes at temperatures that were unsafe. As a result, 19 percent had a family member who became sick because the home was too cold.
Instead of dangerous proposals like the Green New Deal, we should encourage the advancement of technologies that promote innovation and lower costs. Congress should eliminate high tax and high regulatory barriers to innovation and incentivize competition. For example, reducing regulatory burdens that prevent gas pipeline construction would make low-cost natural gas that reduces carbon emissions more available around the country and would provide relief to hard-working families who deserve affordable and reliable energy.
Congress should also pass measures to drive innovation in all forms of energy, including oil, natural gas, coal, hydropower, and nuclear, as well as renewables. The fracking revolution - both in oil and natural gas - for example, has created new economic opportunities across the country and produced cleaner energy in the process.
This is how we can ensure cheaper, more reliable, and cleaner energy for families. This is how we can help create new jobs in America. This is how we can reduce costs not only of energy, but of food and household goods, for everyone, especially lower-income families. And this is how we can ensure a cleaner environment: years of economic data have proven that economic freedom and a growing economy support a sustainable environment better than any centralized government control model that strips Americans of their freedom and their money. This is the true path to a healthier environment and a stronger economy.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill on 5/1/19