Republicans have focused their attacks on a congressional Democratic proposal known as the Green New Deal.
The proposal, whose highest-profile champion is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is aimed at curbing climate change, but Republicans counter that its associated costs will wreck the economy.
The House version of the proposal has far-reaching environmental goals, including "eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible." It reaches into other domestic policy areas, as well.
One of the GOP lawmakers who took a shot at the Green New Deal is West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
Capito took the proposal to task in an Aug. 20 Facebook post:
"Democrats are desperate to implement their Green New Deal. They care little about the cost and will leave you with the bill! A study shows that households neighboring West Virginia could be on the hook for upwards of $70,000 in the first year alone under the Green New Deal! This doesn’t sound like much of a deal to us!"
Capito’s congressional and campaign offices declined to comment for this article, but her Facebook post linked to a Fox Business article that, in turn, cited a study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute on the household effects of the Green New Deal, or GND.
"At a minimum, the GND would impose large and recurring costs on American households," the study said. "We conclude that in four of the five states analyzed — Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania — the GND would cost a typical household more than $70,000 in the first year of implementation, approximately $45,000 for each of the next four years, and more than $37,000 each year thereafter."
Pennsylvanians could expect a $72,439 hit. In the fifth state, Alaska, the costs would be the highest of all.
Travis Burk, a CEI spokesman, said Capito’s Facebook statement "accurately described" the study.
"The study looked at the available data in those states and estimated increased costs for electricity production, upgrading vehicles and housing, and elements of shipping," Burk said. "In the interest of fairness, the study is transparent about the inability to estimate a price tag for several of the more costly but vaguely-worded elements of the plan, including a universal job guarantee and guaranteed retirement security for all." Adding in those other elements would mean that Capito was "underestimating the potential costs," Burk said.
There is little doubt that a proposal as sweeping as the Green New Deal would come with a significant price tag. Where Capito’s assertion falls short is in its specificity.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is "dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty," according to its website — so it’s not surprising that the group would be skeptical of a pro-regulatory plan like the Green New Deal.
More to the point, Capito glosses over some of the study’s shortcomings.
The Green New Deal is an aspirational blueprint rather than a binding piece of legislation. The proposal doesn’t lay out any cost figures. And it has not received a cost estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — the gold-standard source on such estimates.
As a result, the details of the proposal are vague and open to a range of interpretations.
The study itself acknowledges that its calculations require "a considerable number of assumptions" — assumptions that other policy specialists say will make specific figures hard to pin down.
We have previously fact-checked a statement that, "at $93 trillion, the Green New Deal would cost more than the entire recorded spending of the U.S. since the Constitution went into effect in 1789."
The $93 trillion figure comes from a high-end estimate by a conservative group, the American Action Forum. The CEI study that Capito relied on cited the American Action Forum as a "key source" for its own calculations.
As we noted at the time, the American Action Forum report described its estimates as an "initial foray," filled with assumptions and caveats.
The Green New Deal "lacks too many details to seriously model," Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, told PolitiFact West Virginia.
Capito wrote that "a study shows that households neighboring West Virginia could be on the hook for upwards of $70,000 in the first year alone under the Green New Deal!"
Capito cites a study by an anti-regulation group that estimated that the one-year cost to a household in neighboring Pennsylvania would be $72,439.
However, experts warn that the costs associated with the Green New Deal are too fuzzy at this point to come up with detailed cost estimates. This position is echoed by the report itself, which acknowledges that its calculations require "a considerable number of assumptions." It’s also worth noting that the resolution would be non-binding — if it actually manages to secure congressional approval.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
EDITOR’S NOTE, Oct. 10, 2019: This version of the article has been updated with a statement from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The rating does not change.