The ill-fated Fyre Festival has seen a resurgence in popular attention thanks to the recent release of competing documentaries exploring the event by Netflix and Hulu.
For those unfamiliar with the documentary or the Fyre Festival itself, a brief recap: Event organizers Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule sought to host a music festival marketed toward wealthy young people with the ostensible goal of promoting a new talent booking app. Marketing for the event included glitzy and alluring promises such as top-of-the-charts musical guests, gourmet meals, futuristic lodging, and all manner of luxuries on an exclusive deserted island.
When guests began arriving at the island venue, they were horrified to learn that upscale lodging and celebrity chef-crafted cuisine ended up being FEMA tents and slices of bread and cheese. According to a Washington Post report on the scheme, “festival-goers paid anywhere from $450 for a […] day pass to up to $250,000 for the full VIP experience.” In the aftermath, Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison, and both McFarland and Ja Rule are still mired in lawsuits.
The staggering levels of fraud and duplicity present in the organization of the Fyre Festival have since taken on new life as a metaphor for alluring plans that end with disappointment at best and ruin at worst. What’s more, some lawmakers in Washington are laying the groundwork for Fyre Festival-level catastrophes of their own.
The most obvious example, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) Green New Deal resolution, has been grabbing headlines since her plan’s initial rollout last week. Borrowing its name from the President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the plan has set lofty goals such as completely shifting the United States to renewable energy within ten years of enactment, overhauling high-speed rail networks in order to limit air travel, and seemingly unrelated federal jobs guarantees and Medicare For All.
The all-encompassing transformation of American society — including replacing every building in the United States — along with the limited time frame of ten years calls to mind the promises of pulling off a complex music festival complete with ritzy dinners and luxury accommodations in an eight week period. In both cases, pure ambition and desire cannot overcome the magnitude of the logistics and costs to pull off the endeavors.
To be clear, I do not believe Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is motivated by the desire to defraud and manipulate in the way Billy McFarland so clearly was. Disclaimer aside, the far reaching proposal that hems together major health care, energy and labor policies reads more like a democratic socialist manifesto than a sincere attempt to address climate change.
For starters, the Green New Deal is not even a bill. It’s a non-binding resolution. Even if it passes, nothing would happen. The commitments made by the Green New Deal also present a host of negative consequences for current and future generations. Let’s take a look at some of the proposals most likely to run into trouble.
The Green New Deal’s hope of replacing air travel with high-speed rail in just a decade sounds ideal, but a smaller and less complex high-speed rail network has already faced complications that put this goal in doubt. California’s attempt to build a statewide high-speed rail network, rolled out in 2008, was recently cancelled after it was behind schedule and over budget. The project’s original cost of $33 billion swelled to $77 billion and the date of completion extended from 2020 to 2033. All that’s missing is the slices of bread and cheese.
Similarly, the Green New Deal’s inclusion of a Medicare For All provision sounds like an altruistic means of ensuring the worst off in society are adequately cared for. A worthwhile goal to be sure, but the pronouncement that the government will be the single provider of health insurance must face the harsh reality that all private health insurance must necessarily be abolished. With recent polling finding that only 13 percent of Americans would be willing to make such a tradeoff, the Green New Deal does not have much in the way of an answer to the vast swaths of Americans who would be compelled to relinquish their private health insurance plans.
A federal jobs guarantee and a promise of economic security for all, including those that are “unwilling to work,” would be a transformative change to American society worthy of robust debate. The idea is just tucked into a bullet point in a grand energy plan.
And speaking of energy, the entire premise of the Green New Deal is to attain zero-carbon emissions in America – aspiring to ground airplanes and eliminate cow flatulence. Yet the plan also calls for the elimination of nuclear power, which is the most feasible non-carbon fuel source currently available.
These problems do not even account for the enormous cost considerations, which could run into the tens of trillions and eviscerate what is already an abysmal fiscal situation. Some of the plan’s proponents are embracing an alarming new trend of shrugging off the need to finance new spending, pointing to a fringe theory that deficits don’t matter and that we can simply print all the money we need.
Members of Congress in both parties have never been strangers to overpromising, but it is our responsibility to demand lawmakers forge plans that address large and complex problems facing the nation instead of producing feel-good but unobtainable proposals. The price for pushing away criticism and inviting the distraction of utopian designs is paid the same way it was for attendees of the Fyre Festival — with disappointment that what you were promised does not live up to its reality.