You know a member of Congress has gotten a tad too ambitious when a spokesman tries to explain away a proposal — and very obviously a serious proposal, since it borrows the term “New Deal” — by describing one aspect as “literally — clearly — irony.”

Irony is an important ingredient in, say, a sitcom.

It is not a hallmark of well-crafted legislation.

The case in point is the “Green New Deal” offered by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

The proposal, which is a non-binding resolution rather than an actual bill, has gotten considerable attention recently as much for what it doesn’t include as for what it does.

The actual resolution is itself quite a piece of work, calling for, among other things, eliminating the use of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity production.

But it was the “frequently asked questions” that temporarily accompanied the resolution — but are not actually part of the proposal — that spawned much controversy.

(The FAQ was later removed from the Ocasio-Cortez’s website.)

Among the questions, related to the goal of replacing fossil fuels, was: “Why 100% clean and renewable and not just 100% renewable? Are you saying we won’t transition off fossil fuels?”

The answer — since deleted from the website, a hopeless move if ever there was one in the internet age — includes this often-quoted passage: “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast...”

This is the passage that Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman described as “irony.”

Notwithstanding that he probably meant “satire” or “sarcasm” rather than “irony,” the section of the answer about cows is troubling even if, as the spokesman implies, Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t consider it a serious goal to “fully get rid” of the gaseous bovines. The mention of cows at all suggests the congresswoman doesn’t understand the ramifications of the government trying even to shrink the nation’s cow herds.

This is not a criticism of Ocasio-Cortez for having ambitious goals not only for reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also, as her resolution outlines, for ensuring Americans have access to good jobs, healthcare and housing, among other things.

These are all noble objectives. And although Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution lacks details, particularly as regards the costs of her manifesto, it is, to repeat, a resolution, not a fully fledged bill. It’s perfectly appropriate for the congresswoman to draft such a wide-ranging list of ideas to start a discussion.

But a flippant reference to ridding the nation of “farting cows” isn’t amusing — and not only because the emissions of greater concern from bovines actually come from the opposite end of the animal. (Cows burp. And what comes out includes methane.)

What’s bothersome is that Ocasio-Cortez obviously believes the government should make it a priority to cull, if not eliminate, the nation’s beef cattle and dairy cows (both kinds burp).

This is no minor matter in Baker County, where more than 100,000 beef cattle live and where the sales of these animals is a major driver of our economy. Were Ocasio-Cortez to realize her goal, she would learn that ensuring every adult American has a “job with family-sustaining wages” (another passage from the deleted FAQ) would be even more difficult, and costly, than it would be otherwise. It is hard to be a profitable cattle rancher without cattle, to run a dairy without cows, or to operate a creamery without milk (and it’s unlikely Tillamook is going to go over to goats).

Moreover, cutting the U.S. herd would have no meaningful effect on reducing greenhouse gases. Unless Ocasio-Cortez intends to convince people not only in this country but worldwide to stop eating beef and ice cream, the loss of American cattle would be made good, quickly and profitably, outside our borders, beyond the range not only of the congresswoman’s ambition, but also her legislative power.

— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor

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