MSNBC’s Velshi Defends Massive Cost of Green New Deal: ‘We’ll Save Planet Earth’

Talking to one the liberal architects of the Green New Deal Wednesday afternoon, MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi raised, and then dismissed, the massive cost of the radical climate change plan by claiming that “maybe we’ll save planet Earth for our children and our grandchildren.” Scolding critics of the plan in a follow-up question, he argued that it was “ridiculous that we’re wrecking the Earth.”

“President Trump has mocked climate change and dismissed the science behind it despite an increasing amount of data from the federal government itself showing that it is a real danger and it is getting worse,” Velshi complained at the top of the segment. In what perhaps was a Freudian slip, the host touted how the Green New Deal “was unraveled last month” by congressional Democrats.

 

 

Detailing how the extreme proposal would try “to cut global emissions 40% to 60% below the levels they were at in 2010 by 2030 and neutralize human-caused greenhouse gases entirely by 2050,” Velshi cheered: “You may not like anything else about the deal, but the goal is good.”

Bringing on liberal activist Rhiana Gunn-Wright of the left-wing New Consensus think tank, who helped author the Green New Deal, Velshi asked: “What’s your answer, your first answer to the ‘no one knows what this is gonna cost’ or ‘it’s gonna cost too much money’?” Gunn-Wright dodged:

Well, my answer to that is that we’re really early in the process. The resolution itself says that the Green New Deal has to be developed by democratic and participatory processes, so my answer to that is just hold on. There will be policy and policy details coming that can be scored and we can could have this conversation later. Right now, the focus really needs to be on, what are the policies that are gonna allow us to decarbonize and also reduce inequity and inequality in our economy?     

“Are you worried that others are putting price tags on this?,” Velshi wondered. He then cited a Bloomberg article that crunched the numbers: “A quick rough estimate – which doesn’t include all of the promises listed in the FAQ – adds up to about $6.6 trillion a year. That’s more than three times as much as the federal government collects in tax revenue and equal to about 34 percent of the U.S.’s entire gross domestic product. And that’s assuming no cost overruns.”
                                        
Rather than simply confront Gunn-Wright with the data, Velshi immediately rejected the information he just read: “Now, look, I hate estimates that don’t have anything on the benefit side of the equation, including the fact that maybe we’ll save planet Earth for our children and our grandchildren. And as Mastercard would say, that’s priceless.”

The liberal policy wonk insisted that there was a “cost of inaction” and warned that “there is no reality where climate change doesn’t cost us money.”

“But we live in a world where people do that math, right? So what do we do?,” Velshi lamented. His primary concern seemed to be coming up with talking points to refute his skeptical friends at cocktail parties: “Because I want to be able to – people tell me all the time, ‘This is ridiculous, it’s gonna cost too much money.’ And I say, ‘It’s kind of ridiculous that we’re wrecking the Earth.’ But they want the math. So who will do it or where will we get to that?” Velshi assured her: “And I’m not being difficult, I mean it because I sincerely want to know.”

Gunn-Wright still deflected: “I absolutely understand, the math will come once the policy is ready....But the full cost simply will not – we will not be able to do that for some time.”

Even when journalists manage to actually press liberals on the substantive details of their radical agenda items, reporters still try to help their guests dismiss concerns about the left-wing proposals.

Here is a full transcript of the March 13 segment:

3:51 PM ET

ALI VELSHI: President Trump has mocked climate change and dismissed the science behind it despite an increasing amount of data from the federal government itself showing that it is a real danger and it is getting worse. But that has not stopped a number of leaders on both sides of the aisle from putting together plans to deal with the issue. One of the most notable plans is the Green New Deal, which was unraveled last month by New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey.

Let’s take a closer look at it. The goal is to cut global emissions 40% to 60% below the levels they were at in 2010 by 2030 and neutralize human-caused greenhouse gases entirely by 2050. You may not like anything else about the deal, but the goal is good. It calls for an increase in the use of renewable energy, like solar and wind power, from 10% today to 100% over the next decade. The plan would also overall the nation’s transportation sector, which it says is America’s biggest source of pollution. Would also invest in zero-emission vehicles like electric cars.

But there are questions about the cost of this plan, it’s a big unknown. And there are serious disagreements about how to pay for it.

Joining us now to talk about this one is one of the people who developed the Green New Deal, Rhiana Gunn-Wright. She’s the Policy Director for New Consensus, it’s a think tank charged with fleshing out the Green New Deal and other progressive policies. Rhiana, thank you for joining us. What’s your answer, your first answer to the “no one knows what this is gonna cost” or “it’s gonna cost too much money”?

RHIANA GUNN-WRIGHT: Well, my answer to that is that we’re really early in the process. The resolution itself says that the Green New Deal has to be developed by democratic and participatory processes, so my answer to that is just hold on. There will be policy and policy details coming that can be scored and we can could have this conversation later. Right now, the focus really needs to be on, what are the policies that are gonna allow us to decarbonize and also reduce inequity and inequality in our economy?

VELSHI: Are you worried that others are putting price tags on this? Bloomberg had an article, it says, “A quick rough estimate – which doesn’t include all of the promises listed in the FAQ – adds up to about $6.6 trillion a year. That’s more than three times as much as the federal government collects in tax revenue and equal to about 34 percent of the U.S.’s entire gross domestic product. And that’s assuming no cost overruns.” Now, look, I hate estimates that don’t have anything on the benefit side of the equation, including the fact that maybe we’ll save planet Earth for our children and our grandchildren. And as Mastercard would say, that’s priceless. But what is your response to people who say that?

GUNN-WRIGHT: Well, I think there’s two things, like you said, there’s the benefits that aren’t talked about, there’s also the cost of inaction, right? Just last year, we lost $91 billion to the U.S. economy from climate change alone. So there is no reality where climate change doesn’t cost us money. And we just have to live in that reality and the Green New Deal is about deciding how we want to spend money and how we want to invest so there are actual returns.

The other responses I have is that there’s a ton of data out there. I was just talking with a group yesterday that works on this about how much money will be saved. They include only market mechanisms and it is entirely, it’s $5 trillion saved and it grows the economy by two and a half times, right? And so, it’s just very difficult to talk about costs right now without talking about the benefits, which we know are significant. And so –

VELSHI: But we live in a world where people do that math, right? So what do we do? Because I want to be able to – people tell me all the time, “This is ridiculous, it’s gonna cost too much money.” And I say, “It’s kind of ridiculous that we’re wrecking the Earth.” But they want the math. So who will do it or where will we get to that? And I’m not being difficult, I mean it because I sincerely want to know.

GUNN-WRIGHT: Oh, no, no, no. I absolutely understand, the math will come once the policy is ready. So our goal at New Consensus is to have a plan by early 2020. And that can be scored and we can have costs then. And then, as smaller things roll out, which New Consensus does plan to do, we can cost that when there are policy details on the table. So I tell people right now to wait, and if they don’t want to wait, look at information that’s – that is calculating right now how much decarbonization we’ll save. So there is info from Project Draw-Down, Center for American Progress has done a plan that’s a much smaller investment but already shows millions of jobs being created, net $2.7 million. So there’s a lot of smaller research that you can look at about decarbonization, and especially doing it from an industrial policy perspective, like the Green New Deal does, that does talk about the benefits and does give some estimate of the cost. But the full cost simply will not – we will not be able to do that for some time.

VELSHI: It’s a big job, it’s gonna take a long time to figure out what it costs.

GUNN-WRIGHT: It is, yeah.

VELSHI: Rhiana, thank you, always a pleasure to have this discussion.

GUNN-WRIGHT: Of course, thank you.

VELSHI: Rhiana Gunn-Wright is the director at New Consensus – our pleasure. A think tank charged with fleshing out the Green New Deal and other progressive policies. She’s one of the architects of that plan.

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