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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is “Living in the World”? Funny, So Are We.

This is how it always is when our betters have plans for how we're supposed to live.
March 12, 2019
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is “Living in the World”? Funny, So Are We.
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the leading advocate of the Democrats’ push for the Green New Deal agenda, was recently exposed as having a pretty large “carbon footprint” herself, living an automobile-and-airplane lifestyle while preaching a walk-to-the-subway creed.

But what is more revealing is her explanation: that she is just “living in the world.” Well, that’s funny, because this is exactly what the rest of us are trying to do, too. And she’s trying to stop us.

The New York Post sifted through the financial records of Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and found some interesting patterns.

Since declaring her candidacy in May 2017, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign heavily relied on those combustion-engine cars—even though a subway station was just 138 feet from her Elmhurst campaign office. She listed 1,049 transactions for Uber, Lyft, Juno and other car services, federal filings show. The campaign had 505 Uber expenses alone.

In all, Ocasio-Cortez spent $29,365.70 on those emissions-spewing vehicles, along with car and van rentals—even though her Queens HQ was a one-minute walk to the 7 train. The campaign shelled out only $8,335.41 on 52 MetroCard transactions.

[H]er campaign embraced the friendly skies, logging 66 airline transactions costing $25,174.54 during campaign season. The Democratic firebrand or her staff took Amtrak far less—only 18 times—despite high-speed rail being the cornerstone of her save-the-world strategy.

The Post also pointed out that Ocasio-Cortez had previously railed against Uber and in defense of traditional yellow cabs, but that “Her campaign billed only seven rides in yellow cabs in a year and a half, federal filings show.”

Ocasio-Cortez has learned at least one lesson from Donald Trump: never apologize, always double down. So here was her defiant reply: “I also fly [on airplanes] & use A/C. Living in the world as it is isn’t an argument against working towards a better future.”

To begin with, she is not quite being honest. Does “the world as it is” have no other transportation options? Ocasio-Cortez lives in New York City, with a large, well-developed subway system—which is used daily by the rest of the riff-raff. Politicians have even been known to ride it, too. Ed Koch did, and maybe if AOC followed his lead she’d find out how she’s doin’.

Naturally, AOC also commutes a lot from New York to Washington, a route that has its own express passenger trains. It’s not quite what you would call high-speed rail, but when you factor in security and the trip to the airport and back—probably in one of her Ubers—it’s roughly equivalent to taking a plane. If rail is the more environmentally friendly option, it’s certainly available.

Those of us who remember a time when air-conditioning was not universal know that you won’t die if you just decide to open up the windows when it gets warm out. And don’t get me started on Ocasio-Cortez’s complaint that she is forced to put plastic bags in her trash because she gets too many extra ones at the grocery store—a problem every adult in the nation knows how to deal with, even those of us who don’t believe the world is going to be doomed in 12 years. (Hint to the young folks who can’t even: you shove all the leftover grocery bags into a drawer or cabinet and use them for other things.)

To be sure, each of these decisions has some small cost in time and convenience, and the fact that AOC cannot be bothered to deal with even those small costs speaks volumes. It means that she thinks being an advocate for environmental restrictions excuses her from living under them. And she is far from alone. This is the successor class to the limousine liberals: the jet-setting global warming alarmists who, like Al Gore, take private jets to Davos so they can lecture everyone else about the evil of using fossil fuels.

But Ocasio-Cortez’s fall-back argument is in the second half of her tweet: “The Green New Deal is about putting a LOT of people to work in developing new technologies, building new infrastructure, and getting us to 100% renewable energy.”

So it’s okay that she’s not volunteering for the slightest inconveniences now, because ultimately none of us will have to make any sacrifices. We’re going to have a perfect future with no carbon dioxide emissions and mass prosperity.

This is definitely not living in the world as it is. It is based entirely on technology that is either speculative or is already known to be unfeasible. Take, for example, the electric utility in Central Minnesota that had to brownout its customers during the middle of January’s “polar vortex” because the wind wasn’t blowing and the solar panels were covered with snow. And they didn’t even bother to uncover the solar panels because they wouldn’t have generated enough energy in Minnesota in the winter to make it worth the trouble.

If wind and solar power are not reliable sources of energy, how are we going to use them for 100 percent of our power needs? Ocasio-Cortez’s released-then-later-denied fact sheet for the Green New Deal admitted that the answer to that question is purely speculative, requiring “massive investments in unproven research and technologies . . . without necessarily having a commercial outcome or application in mind.”

Or consider Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal for building a high-speed rail network so vast that it replaces all air travel, an endeavor she compares to the Apollo moon landing or the Allied victory in World War II.

The Apollo program is estimated to have cost about $150 billion in today’s dollars and during that time the entire NASA budget never exceeded $30 billion a year in today’s money. By contrast, the state of California just gave up on a plan for high-speed rail from San Francisco to San Diego when it became clear that it was going to blow through its planned budget of $77 billion.

Expand that out to a national network, then pile on all the other Green New Deal proposals, and estimates of the total cost range from the tens of trillions up to nearly $100 trillion. This is about a thousand times the cost of the Apollo program and (at least) ten times the cost of World War II. Which, you may recall, was an era of shortages and rationing.

Which raises the question: what is going to have to be rationed to support the moral-equivalent-of-war effort this time around?

The fact is that there is no real plan to get from “the world as it is” to a science-fiction future where we can enjoy all the benefits we have now without a whiff of fossil fuels. Yet the one part of this program that is non-negotiable is that we have to get rid of the fossil fuels, and we have to do it in 12 years or we’re all doomed. So even if we haven’t yet built the green World of Tomorrow—and we’re not going to—we’re still going to have to tear down “the world as it is.”

That’s what’s terrifying.

And that’s why, when Ocasio-Cortez tries to extend her riff with a mock confession to the environmentalist sin of using paper, it reminds us that this is yet another thing the environmentalists want to ban.

Underneath all the vague promises of a green utopia, environmentalism typically takes the form of calls for privation—for doing less, consuming less, getting by with less. For example, an article in the Atlantic describes the failure of recycling programs, which have millions of people carefully sorting their trash so that it can all be mixed back together again and put in a landfill because it is not remotely economical to reuse it. But what is telling is that the article doesn’t dare to question the whole enterprise and instead concludes that “the best way to fix recycling is probably persuading people to buy less stuff.” It goes on to describe a program in San Francisco that aims to “get people excited about less.”

This is a microcosm of what we can expect from the Green New Deal: a lot of vague promises about a green utopia, a lot of money poured into government programs that don’t work, and eventually we will all simply be told to get used to privation.

I understand that Ocasio-Cortez—young and suddenly famous and in the giddy rush of success—is excited about “living in the world” and impatient with the drudgery of scrimping and scrounging like a homesteader on the prairie. Most of us feel the same way. The point of living in the world is the excitement of striving, growth, ambition, and building. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t bad for wanting this, too. Nobody is bad for wanting it.

The point isn’t just that she’s a hypocrite for acting against the creed she preaches. The point is that it’s her actions that are normal and natural and her creed that is grim, oppressive, and puritanical. It is the socialists and the environmental alarmists who are against all of the things that we do to “live in the world.”

They used to be against it because it leads to “greed” and inequality and people getting rich. Now they are against it because they have found a mythology in which the world will end if we don’t stamp it out.

Yet they cannot escape the appeal of striving and growth and ambition. They just find a way to greenwash it—to make these things okay, for them only, as a special exception. Because while the rest of us bear the costs of the green utopia, people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will always be able to justify sitting in the back of their private cars on the way to the airport. They will get a special dispensation because they’re working for “change,” and because some animals are more equal than others.

They will be living in the world, and we will be told to get excited about less.

Robert Tracinski

Robert Tracinski is editor of Symposium, a journal of liberalism, and writes additional commentary at The Tracinski Letter.