Sen. Bernie Sanders just released his climate plan that will cost $16.3 trillion, yes that is trillion, all government spending without private resources. According to the Washington Post “Averaging more than $1.6 trillion a year for 10 years, the new program would dwarf the entire annual U.S. discretionary budget, which was about $1.3 trillion in 2018, and would amount to more than double the current military budget.” The Post goes on to say “The proposal fits Sanders’s pattern of staking out positions that mark the liberal edge of the Democratic field.”
There should be no surprise this proposal panders to those voters who are abandoning him for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is now leading him in many polls and who raised more than he did from small donors in the last quarter. To fund his proposal he says he will cut the military, raise taxes, and use money from future cases the government will win against fossil fuel companies. What world is he living in? Voters will add the cost of this proposal to all the other plans Bernie has put out including Medicare-for-All, free tuition for all and excusing all current college loans. Then they will question his commitment to this after he walked away from some of his Medicare-for-All plan to pander to the unions and proving what a hypocrite he is.
Before the attacks begin, I know climate change is a crisis and must be a priority for the world. Every other plan candidates release means nothing if our planet isn’t habitable. But we can’t do everything and we have to face reality of what can get done while trying to push the limits. This plan is pure pandering with zero chance of getting anywhere. It leaves out working with and using funding from the private sector. It is another major expansion of the federal government, which won’t win an election. Climate change should be a priority for all Democratic candidates and as the Post writes, “A broad array of Democratic presidential candidates — including former congressmen Beto O’Rourke (Texas), former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — have embraced the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which Sanders uses to frame his plan.”
The League of Conservation Voters said of Sanders’s plan: “We are excited to see a strong climate plan from Senator Sanders that focuses on creating family sustaining jobs in the clean energy economy and investing in frontline communities who have been hit first and worst by climate change–including under resourced groups and communities of color. This plan lays out a road map for addressing the climate crisis starting on day one in the White House, charting a course to decarbonize our power and transportation sectors by 2030 and achieving net zero climate pollution by 2050.” They said similar complimentary things about Beto O’Rourke’s plan, “This plan to confront the climate crisis is the kind of leadership we need from our next president. We commend O’Rourke for putting forward an ambitious and detailed climate plan that would start on day one of his presidency and continue throughout every day of it.” They have said nice things about many of the other plans including Biden’s, which many considered a weaker plan.
So the eventual Democratic nominee, who I don’t think will be Sanders, must decide how far voters will go to do something about climate change. How willing are they to change their lives, change their jobs, and pay higher taxes so the federal government can expand its role and in the case of Sanders plan take it on alone?
If Sanders pandering to voters who have abandoned him for Warren succeeds, then he ups his chances of being the nominee. Democrats across the spectrum will have to decide whether or not that would help them keep the House of Representatives or take back the Senate if they have to run with him. Can all of Sanders’s expensive plans be a platform on which they can run? My prediction is they will say a resounding NO. Yet one good thing can come of it. If it adds to the focus on climate change and makes it a stronger priority for the next Democratic president, then we can say thank you to Sanders pandering at the same time we once again send him packing from a Democratic primary without the brass ring.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.