|AOC using one of Eisenhower's National Defense Highways|
My new favorite Member of Congress really needs to work on her very skimpy official website. It seems to have been ignored while her staff rushed that New Green Deal resolution out the door this week. At least for now, the resolution is still up on her website (read it here), which is something you can't say about the FAQ document that was released simultaneously with the resolution but then quickly withdrawn.
Exactly why the FAQs were withdrawn we aren't told, but I wouldn't be surprised if Speaker Pelosi had a word with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about the FAQs' unrestrained utopianism, especially the part about "economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work."
You can read the initial version of her FAQs here, as published by NPR last Thursday as part of the Green New Deal resolution launch.
Here's the FAQ overview:
We will begin work immediately on Green New Deal bills to put the nuts and bolts on the plan described in this resolution (important to say so someone else can’t claim this mantle).[TSB comment: Presumably that “important to … claim this mantle” phrase was a drafter’s comment and not intended to be published. Evidence of the rushed nature of the document, or of sloppy staff work, or both.]
This is a massive transformation of our society with clear goals and a timeline.
The Green New Deal resolution [is] a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all. It will:
· Move America to 100% clean and renewable energy
· Create millions of family supporting-wage, union jobs
· Ensure a just transition for all communities and workers to ensure economic security for people and communities that have historically relied on fossil fuel industries
· Ensure justice and equity for frontline communities by prioritizing investment, training, climate and community resiliency, economic and environmental benefits in these communities
· Build on FDR’s second bill of rights by guaranteeing:
· A job with a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security
· High-quality education, including higher education and trade schools
· Clean air and water and access to nature
· Healthy food
· High-quality health care
· Safe, affordable, adequate housing
· Economic environment free of monopolies
· Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work
Lists like that are normally preceded by the words “Dear Santa.” That’s a huge pile of adjectives and abstractions for her poor staffers to turn into those mundane nuts and bolts that she promises will be worked out later, maybe.
Personally, I’m glad she didn’t wait for a bunch of facts to catch up with her excitement. Counterfactual performance art is what she’s good at, and is the basis of her considerable charm. Like the lovable Baghdad Bob, she stands superior to facts.
But I do have one complaint. Lay off Eisenhower and the interstate highway system.
From her resolution:
“Americans love a challenge. This is our moonshot. When JFK said we’d go to the by the end of the decade, people said impossible. If Eisenhower wanted to build the interstate highway system today, people would ask how we’d pay for it.”
AOC has said that before, but contrary to what she says, the old White men who wrote the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 did, in fact, decide how to pay for it before they passed the bill. They did not just wish a national highway system into existence. Far from it. They assumed leprechauns would bring pots of gold to Capitol Hill, and that all the cars and trucks using the highways would be powered by unicorns.
Just kidding – they paid for it with new taxes. The bill authorized $25 billion from 1957 through 1969 to be raised by Federal excise taxes on fuel, automobiles, trucks, and tires. That new tax revenue went into a Highway Trust Fund that paid for 90 percent of construction costs, with the states required to pay the remaining 10 percent.
Hasn’t AOC ever wondered why she pays an 18.4 cents per gallon tax on gasoline at the pump? But, maybe she doesn’t drive.
By the way, that gas tax was only 3 cents per gallon when the highways were built. After Eisenhower, government got greedy for all that money, and now we pay a lot more. You can read about Federal and state fuel tax facts here.
Moreover, exactly how we would pay for the interstate highway system was explained right there in the full title of the law:
An act to amend and supplement the Federal-Aid Road Act approved July 11, 1916, to authorize appropriations for continuing the construction of highways; to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 to provide additional revenue from the taxes on motor fuel, tires and trucks and buses; and for other purposes; June 29, 1956.
Read about it here: National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956).
The legislative history of the Act shows that, of course, the main concern of Congress was about how we’d pay for it.
Between 1954 and 1956, there were several failed attempts to pass a national highway bill through the Congress. The main controversy over the highway construction was the apportionment of the funding between the Federal Government and the states. Undaunted, the President renewed his call for a "modern, interstate highway system” in his 1956 State of the Union Address. Within a few months, after considerable debate and amendment in the Congress, The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 emerged from the House-Senate conference committee. In the act, the interstate system was expanded to 41,000 miles, and to construct the network, $25 billion was authorized for fiscal years 1957 through 1969.
Back in that day, our legislators were serious. In our day, not so much.