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AOC’s Green New Deal proposal will hurt the working class

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez outside the US Capitol yesterday. Credit: Getty

March 22, 2024 - 6:30pm

Flanked by her fellow progressive legislators, House New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled a sweeping set of proposed reforms yesterday under the banner of a “Green New Deal” for public housing, reviving a favourite if outworn slogan of the Left.

On the heels of President Joe Biden’s announcement of housing affordability as a policy priority in his State of the Union address, AOC is looking to advance a pet cause of many progressive housing activists, namely the repeal of the “Faircloth Amendment”, which prohibited the Department of Housing and Urban Development from funding public housing. Though as a policy analysis at the centre-left Brookings Institution has shown, repeal of the amendment would likely have little effect on America’s capacity to construct new homes at scale, public or otherwise — other than perhaps as a symbolic gesture — because the real obstacles come in the form of restrictive local zoning laws coupled with a perennial lack of investment.

Even if AOC’s bill envisions more such federal funds to bolster construction, to the tune of up to $234 billion, it is difficult to see where that funding will come from or how it can be sustained, given the fiscally hawkish mood in Congress. In any event, the bill is less a serious legislative prospect and more of a way for the Left to recover its waning relevance as a political force in America.

This begs a larger question: what happened to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which went from a serious insurgent threat when Bernie Sanders was a presidential candidate to nothing more than a sectarian ideological rump? The answer lies in the morally confused state of the activist culture that animates the contemporary Left, in which an insular class of college-educated professionals continually makes the mistake of believing that its particular worldviews are a stand-in for those of ordinary Americans, and are thus universal, when they are anything but.

For instance, terms used by AOC such as “environmental justice” mean little to working-class citizens looking for shelter in overpriced, mostly liberal-controlled big cities, where this kind of abstruse environmental rhetoric is often used to justify Nimby rules that block new housing. There is also no way to reconcile AOC’s embrace of housing with her virtually open-border stance on migration, which in Democratic bastions like her own New York City has exacerbated an already severe housing shortage and caused extensive social chaos. What’s more, polling shows that homeownership is still overwhelmingly the goal for struggling Americans in the Gen Z and millennial cohorts, who would likely be alienated from the Left’s public housing fixation.

Ultimately, US progressives should remember that the postwar housing boom was made possible by a spirit of radical pragmatism that called on both private and public influence to realise mass homeownership as a bedrock of the middle-class dream, rejecting both laissez-faire and socialist dogmas as untenable in America.

Far from the spirit of the original New Deal, this latter-day version dispenses with all pragmatism and experience in favour of woolly-headed idealism and ideological rigidity — something that could be said just as well for the American Left more broadly.


Michael Cuenco is a writer on policy and politics. He is Associate Editor at American Affairs.
1TrueCuencoism

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Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
3 months ago

“This begs a larger question: what happened to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which went from a serious insurgent threat when Bernie Sanders was a presidential candidate to nothing more than a sectarian ideological rump?”
No, it doesn’t beg any question. It raises the question, which is a different thing. To beg a question is to presume what must be shown. An example? “When will you stop proposing failed policies, Ms. AOC?” The question is framed to assume the policies are failed. Once they are proven failures, the question is no longer a begging question.

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
3 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

It’s become common usage now though, I’d say.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
3 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Just another example of the ongoing mutilation and devaluing of the English language by the elites, part of the bigger project to intellectually stunt more and more people, making them increasingly malleable and thus amenable to the odious repressiveness of The Great Reset. ‘You will have nothing, and you will be happy.’ Or else.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
3 months ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

Trump cultists claiming the intellectual high ground? I’ve seen it all now!!!

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
3 months ago

Care to say something, make a complete point, versus just trying to throw witty hand grenades around…

Ian_S
Ian_S
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Attempts at wit anyway. And the grenades fail to detonate. Poor old CS, a would-be scorpion, but with no sting in his tail.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian_S

No wit, no sting, just vituperative nastiness. Underneath the spiteful sputtering lies a truly pathetic little man.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

Or a 12 year old girl.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian_S

I guess you’re the only one who doesn’t get the joke, hoss!
Why doesn’t that surprise me?!?!?

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
3 months ago

Is Studio Largo really a ”Trump cultist”? How did you come by this information?
I’ll mark him down on my black list immediately!

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
3 months ago

Please do.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
3 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Unfortunately, yes. I object to the degradation of the term because it expresses an idea for which we have no other handy expression. Lawyers call the technique “assuming a fact not in evidence,” and use it as an objection to such a question during court proceedings. I don’t expect the legal expression to jump in as a replacement for what’s being tossed away.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
3 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

He’s obviously using the phrase colloquially, as in ‘asks for the question’, rather than referring to the formal logical fallacy of question-begging.
The word ‘beg’ means to ask for something.

David B
David B
3 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

I believe the obsolete correct phrase is “beggaring the question”, i.e. assuming the answer makes a beggar of the question itself. I had assumed that its contraction to “begging the question” was already a corruption. Using it this way merely adds insult to injury, if that is indeed the case.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago

I don’t have an issue with public housing. I’m not sure it’s a solution to anything though, and I think it ultimately leads to the growth of urban ghettos. If you want to spend $234 billion, you’re probably better off giving people mortgage guarantees or mortgage subsidies. Ultimately, you need to unshackle the myriad of rules and regulations that restrict residential construction. And you need to ensure that population growth is not exceeding the economy’s ability to build housing.

I wouldn’t take any initiatives developed by AOC as serious policy proposals.

Christopher
Christopher
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Guarantees and subsides will make real estate even more expensive. Bad idea. Zoning laws and immigration enforcement however would help.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  Christopher

Honestly, I just put it out there. No idea of the implications.

Ian_S
Ian_S
3 months ago

So well said: “… the morally confused state of the activist culture that animates the contemporary Left, in which an insular class of college-educated professionals continually makes the mistake of believing that its particular worldviews are a stand-in for those of ordinary Americans, and are thus universal, when they are anything but.”

But it’s not just America. The entire Western world is suffering from these people’s smug self-congratulating arrogance. It’s precisely this that informs the culture of globalism.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian_S

Unfortunately most people have yet to realise that the class war of our time is between the suburban graduate class, with its largely parasitic lifestyle based on unearned property wealth, mass immigration and pointless jobs in the ever-expanding bureaucracy, and the rent payers and wage earners who do the necessary work in society but who are excluded from the property market and pretty well all other opportunities to acquire financial security.

It’s going to end badly.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
3 months ago

It turns out that there’s lots of very decent middle-class public housing in central Paris and Vienna. Nothing “ghetto” about it. In neither place has it kept market prices down, but it has allowed both cities to maintain the socio-economic mix that’s so important to cosmopolitan life and to retain the small shops (butchers, bakers, candle stick makers etc.) that make a city buzz. And made life better for thousands of families.
So it is possible.
BTW, NYC used to have such things but they were all sold. Nothing there now but high-end IT types; you won’t be hearing Yiddish anymore.