FACT CHECK: Could You Buy Every American A Ferrari For Less Than The Cost Of The Green New Deal?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke last week about the Green New Deal, making several claims on the Senate floor about how much it would cost the country.
The Green New Deal is a resolution introduced by congressional Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey that calls for the U.S. to, among other policy goals, reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, achieve universal health care and guarantee jobs for American workers. The resolution has 90 co-sponsors in the House and 11 co-sponsors in the Senate.
In voicing their opposition, Republicans have focused on how much the Green New Deal would cost. During his remarks, McConnell cited a study by the right-leaning American Action Forum (AAF) which estimated that the Green New Deal would cost somewhere between $53 and $93 trillion over the next 10 years, though reporting on the study often focuses on the higher end of the range.
AAF estimates that universal health care would cost $36 trillion, assuming that the Green New Deal has Medicare For All in mind. A jobs guarantee could cost as much as $44.6 trillion, according to the group.
The Green New Deal offers little in the way of specifics, meaning any attempt to estimate its cost is largely guesswork. “The Green New Deal doesn’t contain enough specifics to come up with cost estimates, in my opinion,” Samantha Gross of the Brookings Institute told The Daily Caller. “It’s a list of goals and priorities, not a policy blueprint that you can cost out.”
AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin told Politico that its findings were “a sincere but a heroic estimate of a not very well-specified proposal.”
McConnell himself acknowledged that future studies could come up with different cost estimates. “To be clear, $93 trillion is just one number in one attempt to estimate the price tag on this fantasy novel,” McConnell said. “The proposal is so lacking in details and math that it’s almost impossible for analysts to even know where to begin trying to connect it to the real world.”
With that caveat in mind, here are four checks on McConnell’s claims about the cost of the Green New Deal.
Claim 1: “For the comparatively cheap price of just $66 trillion, I’m told the government could buy every American a Ferrari.”
The Portofino, Ferrari’s entry-level car, starts at $214,533, according to Car and Driver magazine. Nearly 329 million people live in the U.S., though not all are of legal driving age. Buying a brand-new Portofino for every single American would cost around $70.5 trillion, slightly higher than McConnell’s $66 trillion estimate.
Claim 2: “$93 trillion is more than every dollar our federal government has spent in its entire history to date, combined.”
From 1789 through 2017, total outlays by the federal government were $83.2 trillion, according to historical tables from the Office of Management and Budget. The government spent an additional $4.1 trillion in 2018.
Claim 3: “It’s more than the combined annual GDP of every nation on Earth.”
Worldwide, gross domestic product (GDP) was nearly $81 trillion in 2017, according to the World Bank. The U.S. had a GDP of $19.4 trillion, the highest in the world. Trailing the U.S. are China, Japan and Germany. These figures represent GDP for one individual year, whereas the cost estimate for the Green New Deal is spread across 10 years.
Claim 4: “This amount of money could rebuild the entire interstate highway system every single year, just for the heck of it, for 250 years. And you’d still have a little left over.”
McConnell based this claim on an estimate by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, whose office calculated that it would cost $360 billion to rebuild the interstate highway system. Starting with the highway system’s original cost – estimated at $128.9 billion in 1991, or a bit less than $240 billion in U.S. dollars today – his office took into account estimates of how much it would cost to rebuild the highway system today.
Recent estimates were around $500 billion, his office said, so the $360 billion represents a midpoint between the two figures. At $360 billion a year, rebuilding the highway system 250 times over would cost $90 trillion.
Robert W. Poole Jr. of the libertarian Reason Institute estimated in 2013 that the cost of reconstructing the entire highway system would be $589 billion in 2010 dollars. To rebuild the highway system each year for 250 years at that price tag, it would cost $147.3 trillion, more than AFF’s upper bound estimate of $93 trillion.