Last October, an authoritative UN report issued an ultimatum: slash global fossil fuel emissions or brace for catastrophic climate change. We have 12 years. Several nations have begun to mobilize. Informed Americans offer the Green New Deal (GND).
The American Action Forum, a right-leaning policy institute, estimated the GND’s ten-year cost at between $51 trillion and $93 trillion. The higher estimate includes $46.6 trillion for a guaranteed jobs program and $36 trillion for Bernie Sanders’ comprehensive plan for Medicare for All.
Suppose, however, we leave out the jobs program. We also can ignore the cost of health care, because we’ll pay $36 trillion anyway under the present system. The high estimate then drops from $93 trillion to $10.4 trillion over ten years.
Here’s one way to reach universal health care. Temporarily preserve and improve the Affordable Care Act. Let the exchanges include a Medicare buy-in policy to compete with private policies.
Gradually lower the age at which people qualify for Medicare. For example, in 2020, let people qualify at age 60. In 2021, at age 55. In 2022, at age 50. By 2032, all Americans would qualify for Medicare at birth.
Employer-based insurance plans and private plans would coexist with Medicare. In time, however, such plans would become fewer or fade away, along with the Affordable Care Act.
Free college would cost the federal government $70 billion a year (Sanders’ plan) and would help displaced fossil fuel workers learn new skills.
A punitive tax on fossil fuels, becoming steeper every year, would spark a free market transition to green energy and electric cars.
The GND invests heavily in infrastructure, prioritizing a modern electrical grid and high-speed rail.
After factoring in production efficiencies built into the GND, and subtracting externality costs of fossil fuel use, we reach a heartening conclusion. The 10-year cost of the Green New Deal might be less than $10 trillion. We can afford that. If the UN report is right, we must.