[guest post by JVW]
Democratic Socialist wünderkind (I know the word isn’t really spelled with an umlaut, but any self-respecting fan of Blue Öyster Cult or Mötley Crüe uses the ümülät at any and all opportünity) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared on that evening talk show with the smug leftist host (the one who used to be white but now self-identifies as younger and black) last night in order to enlighten us all on her hip, progressive political philosophy. In the course of the
gentle tongue bath interview by the host, Trevor Stewart, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez showed herself to be charming, if a little vacuous. Here is a perfect encapsulation of what she is about (play the video embedded in the Tweet):
It really is hard to watch. pic.twitter.com/OGiPAArlce
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) July 27, 2018
Where to begin in unpacking the inanity? Estimates on “Medicaid for All” vary, with the Bernard Sanders folks pegging the cost at $13 trillion over 10 years and the Urban Institute suggesting it would be closer to $32 trillion over the decade. Let’s use the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s estimate of $25 trillion over ten years, since it’s (very) roughly halfway between the two and because they had the foresight to put the word “responsible” in their title.
So how will the program be paid for? The CRFB says that transferring all current expenditures on health care (with the exception of the Veterans’ Administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which Sen. Sanders did not fold into his plan) and then implementing the additional taxes on payroll, income, and capital gains that he proposes would only raise over the course of a decade about $11 trillion, leaving a $14 trillion hole to be plugged. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, after a prolonged and rambling disquisition about “people paying their fair share,” which she quickly amended to being “corporations and the ultra wealthy” (lest any mocha Marxists think they are expected to cough up the dough) rehashed Warren Buffett’s misleading lament that his tax rate is lower than that of his secretary. She also knocks the recently enacted corporate tax rate reduction and calls for it to be raised up to 28% (which, she notes, is still lower than it was pre-Trump) while eliminating the same deductions already eliminated by last year’s tax plan. That, she assures us, would make up $2 trillion, though that sum would be over the entire decade, and — oh, by the way — that money has already been accounted for in the Sanders tax increase calculations.
But let’s be as generous as possible, accept Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s claims, and decide that we are now down to a $12 trillion ten-year hole for Medicare for All. Hang on, though! Ms. Ocasio-Cortez quickly pivots to a desire to have our country transition to 100% renewal energy by some unspecified time date, which she says will cost us $3 trillion to $4 trillion. And here is where the train goes off the rails:
Now, if we implement a carbon tax on top of that — so that we can transition and financially incentivize people away from fossil fuels — if we implement a carbon tax that’s an additional amount of, um, of, of a large amount of revenue that we can have.
You all followed that, right? I mean, it’s perfectly clear. We implement a carbon tax which will pay for our $3 trillion to $4 trillion transition to renewables yet will still somehow help pay for Medicare for All too. And that carbon tax will magically be paid by corporations and not trickle down into the prices consumers pay for goods, and at the same time everyone is going to get money to put up solar panels and purchase hybrid vehicles. And sure, we’re going to be socking corporations with the carbon tax at the very same time that we go back to a higher corporate tax rate (without the deductions this time!) and a higher payroll tax to pay for Medicare for All, but don’t for one moment believe that this will affect productivity or employment.
It doesn’t get any better after that:
And then the last key which is extremely, extremely important is reprioritization. Just last year we gave the military a $700 billion budget increase, which they didn’t even ask for! They’re like, “We don’t want another fighter jet.” They’re like, “Don’t give us another nuclear bomb.” You know? They didn’t even ask for it, and we gave it to them.
About that $700 billion budget increase: the entire defense budget for fiscal year 2018 was set at $700 billion and the proposed budget for 2019 is $716 billion. Our lipstick Lenin is conflating the entire damn defense budget with a one-time increase in spending. Now it is entirely proper to question whether the defense increase of $150 billion over the amount capped by the 2011 Budget Control Act (the infamous sequestration) is necessary or prudent; a lot of us here would probably argue that it is not. But Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s worldview is dependent upon her gullible supporters believing that our defense budget grows by nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in a given year, because she needs that sum of money (and much more!) to pay for her promise that you can vote yourself the good life. It’s a pity that the show’s host, Jon Noah, doesn’t know enough or care enough to question her about her assumptions, though I guess we can be grateful that he asked her the funding question to begin with.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s performance has been largely panned by the usual suspects among conservatives and libertarians, but it doesn’t seem that too many “sensible” Democrats have bothered to point out her bosh and piffle. And yeah, the Trump Administration and the GOP Congress certainly play fast-and-loose with numbers too. But these Democratic Socialists, who hope to sell us on a vision of a benevolent government with the money to pay for everything that we could possibly desire (our discussion of how to pay for Medicare for All doesn’t even begin to cover funding free college and a government job for all the unemployed), are either setting us up to challenge Greece for benign fiscal irresponsibility or they are setting up their supporters for a massive disappointment when they fail to deliver on their lavish promises.
That said, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is attractive and charming, with a nice television presence when she is in front of a friendly host. She’s like your cute yet exasperating niece who comes home for Thanksgiving her freshman year of college and suddenly knows exactly how society should be ordered and why it’s sheer selfishness and greed that prevents us from seeing the wisdom of the ideology she absorbed on campus. (Your clever but annoying nephew who comes home a rabid libertarian is a whole other ball of wax.) She’ll probably win her election, she’ll probably be very popular as a charismatic young minority female leftist in Congress, but our great nation really can do without her devotion to the mediocrity of the welfare state.