Politics & Government

Wichita Rep. Estes slams Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal in speech to business leaders

At a lunch meeting of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commers, Rep. Ron Estes, right, receives a “Spirit of Enterprise” award from Ron Eidshaug, a vice president and lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
At a lunch meeting of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commers, Rep. Ron Estes, right, receives a “Spirit of Enterprise” award from Ron Eidshaug, a vice president and lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Wichita Eagle

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes slammed the Green New Deal in a speech to Wichita business and government leaders on Wednesday, saying the proposed environmental improvement plan is too expensive and unworkable.

“It’s kind of scary that there’s so many people talking about such an extreme concept as they’ve proposed,” Estes said in a luncheon speech to the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Estes said it was fortunate the $50-a-plate lunch was chicken, “because we’re not allowed cows anymore..”

“We’re not going to be able to drive a car anymore because we’re going to have high-speed transit take us everywhere that we need to go,” he said. “We won’t have the aviation industry that we’ve enjoyed and utilized.”

He sarcastically added: “The construction industry would benefit more because we’ve got to rebuild every building in the country to meet their standards. So that would be the one plus out of it.”

The Green New Deal is a set of proposals being championed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a freshman congresswoman and rising star of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez campaigned in Wichita last year to support Estes’ opponent, Democrat James Thompson.

The Green New Deal calls for mammoth expansion of clean and renewable energy, conservation programs and mass transit infrastructure. The goal is to cut U.S. emissions of pollutants linked to global climate change by as much as is technically possible.

Supporters say the plan would create millions of well-paying jobs and encourage sustainable agricultural practices and a return to family farming.

In his criticism of the plan, Estes quoted a Republican think-tank’s estimate that full implementation of the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion over 10 years and raise federal spending to three times what it is now.

The bill that would establish the Green New Deal does not actually include any specific spending, only broad principles of the direction Congress should take.

Estes said he doesn’t know Ocasio-Cortez well because they don’t serve on any of the same committees.

“Some of her ideas don’t make economic sense, which is kind of strange from someone who has an economics degree,” Estes said.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.
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