Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known by her initials AOC (1989–), is an American democratic socialist politician and activist who is currently a United States Representative from New York's 14th Congressional district. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America[1] and Justice Democrats.[2] In addition, her campaign was endorsed by political action committees Brand New Congress and MoveOn, and by the Black Lives Matter movement.[3]

Background[edit]

Born in the Bronx, New York City, Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in economics and international relations.[4][5][6] Joe Crowley was her chief rival for the Democratic primary before being defeated in June and endorsing Ocasio-Cortez's run for the House of Representatives.[7] Following the results of the 2018 midterm elections, which saw a record-breaking number of female candidates, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the House.[8] She was an aide for Ted Kennedy towards the end of his life[9] and worked for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign in the 2016 election.[8]

Ocasio-Cortez identifies as Catholic.[10]

Political views[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez wants to use her newfound fame and power to realize a vision for an America that is diametrically opposed to that of President Donald Trump.[11] Shortly after being elected to Congress, she proposed the highly ambitious—but nonbinding—resolution, the Green New Deal, whose name came from the New Deal, the package of socioeconomic programs from President Franklin D. Roosevelt aimed at combating the Great Depression.[12] Experts have expressed doubts about the realism of this proposal, given that she wants to realize her goals within ten years.[13]

She also posted on her website a FAQ sheet containing some of the more extreme ideas not included in the actual resolution itself, such as offering "economic security" to those "unwilling to work," and halting the construction of new nuclear power plants. It was later retracted. Her chief of staff said that it was released prematurely and that people should pay attention to the "big picture" instead of "little typos." In any case, this has created confusion for the tens of Democrats who voiced their support for the Green New Deal, including declared presidential candidates for the 2020 election, such as Elizabeth Warren, and her former boss Bernie Sanders.[14]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leader stated that he wants the Senate to vote on the Green New Deal should it reach the Senate to put Democrats on record for supporting it.[15] Unlike the many bills that McConnell has stifled, he probably think that there is no political loss allowing a vote on it — it probably won't pass a Republican-controlled Senate, it will put Democratic Senators on record for supporting it which can be useful for Republican election campaigning, and even if it does pass it will have no effect because it's nonbinding. In all probability, given the number of Democratic presidential candidates supporting the Green New Deal, it will become a major election issue in 2020.

Economics and welfare[edit]

While she correctly points out that income inequality is a serious problem facing the United States today, she is often careless about accuracy, which undermines her message. For example, she said that the "vast majority" of Americans do not make a living wage. But according to an expert economic geography and regional planning consulted by The Washington Post, that actual number is below 40%, which is still large, but does not justify the phrase "vast majority." She was, however, correct when she claimed that minimum wage workers may have to work for more than 100 hours a week to support their children.[note 1][16]

Taxes[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Tax

Ocasio-Cortez wants a 70% marginal income tax on people whose earnings exceed $10 million, arguing that her tax scheme is hardly unprecedented. Such a high top rate has sparked a debate even within her own party, where people tend to be open to the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy. Suggested alternatives include eliminating past tax cuts for the rich and taxing foreign revenues of multinational corporations.[17] It is indeed correct that her proposed top marginal income tax rate is not unprecedented, even in modern times. In fact, the Congresswoman would find herself more or less at home in Sweden, as least as far as taxes are concerned. Sweden's top marginal income tax rate of 69.7%, one of the highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), kicks in for earnings above US$79,000. (The current U.S. top marginal income tax rate is 43.6%.) But what really matters is not the amount of taxes collected but rather what they are being spent on. In Sweden and other Nordic countries, the government offers generous social welfare programs. Such a system works thanks to a high level of trust in government. Some economists warn that implementing the Nordic model in a different country might not work because of different histories and cultures.[18]

Tax experts told The Washington Post they estimated such an income tax scheme would bring in $720 billion every ten years in revenue.[19] This tax hike is intended to help pay for some of the generous social welfare programs she supports. However, she does not consider government deficits to be a problem, citing "modern monetary theory." Indeed, similarly minded politicians might embrace this line of thinking when pressed about the finances of their costly proposals. However, experts warn that this is a most inappropriate time for letting the deficit grow, given a recent massive tax cut.[20] In 2019, the U.S. national debt topped $22 trillion thanks to a mismatch between government spending and revenue.[21][note 2]

While public support for higher taxes has fallen from 77% in 1992 down to 62% in 2018, according to a Gallup poll, there is rising support for tax hikes on the wealthy among liberal voters, with Democrats being twice as likely to support higher taxes on the wealthy. In contrast, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is favored by only 8% of Democrats but about three quarters of Republicans and one third of Independents. Meanwhile, an NPR/PBS/Marist poll showed that although only 11% of voters in the 2018 midterm elections considered tax cuts to be an important issue, 60% wanted to reverse the tax cuts in order to fund Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.[22]

Banking[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez wants to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.[note 3][23]

She also wants to reintroduce postal banking.[note 4][24] The United States previously had a Postal Savings System from 1911[25] to 1966.[26]

Welfare programs[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Welfare state

She supports a Federal jobs guarantee,[27] basic income,[note 5] paid vacations, paid medical leave, and strong protection for labor unions,[12] in recognition of the fact that wages have stagnated since the 1970s despite growth in productivity.[28] However, the line in the Green New Deal about paying people "unwilling to work" was removed entirely.[13]

She also wants to guarantee access to healthy foods.[28]

Education[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Education

She supports tuition-free public college and trade school[29] and wants to cancel all of student debt.[30]

Healthcare[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Universal healthcare

Ocasio-Cortez endorses Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal[31] and considers healthcare to be a human right.[32] In her Green New Deal resolution, she pointed out that life expectancy in the United States was declining.[28]

A poll conducted by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation in January 2019 found that while 71% of Americans agree that healthcare should be a human right, support for Medicare for All drops to 37% if it means higher taxes and 26% if it leads to longer wait times. One sees that political discourse on this proposal remains in its infancy; public opinion is not yet stable. Estimates for the cost of the plan varies from $25 trillion to $35 trillion over a ten year period, according to various independent studies.[33] By 2019, Medicare for All has become a major political issue for Democrats in Congress, as well as in state and local governments. Many try to control costs and expand coverage, including for illegal immigrants.[34]

Environmental protection and infrastructure[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez has proposed an environmental economic stimulus program know as the "Green New Deal" to combat climate change.[35] The program has been endorsed and praised by numerous members of Congress. On February 7th, 2019, she released the outline for the Green New Deal to the public.[36] She calls for the reduction of pollution greenhouse gas emissions by as much as "technologically feasible."[37] Observers and critics acknowledged that this is noticeably more moderate than its first drafts and documents circulated by Ocasio-Cortez and her staff. A point of easy ridicule was a ban on "farting cows."[37] Ocasio-Cortez herself posted on social media what she considered to be a doctored version about "recycling urine."[13][38]

She also wants provide all Americans with access to nature.[28]

Energy[edit]

U.S. primary energy consumption by source (2015). About three quarters of U.S. energy came from fossil fuels.

Her plan is to have United States run on 100% renewable energy within ten years of the passage of her Green New Deal. In fact, she wants the U.S. to be a world leader in the field of renewable energy,[note 6][11] even though the U.S. generates only 17% of its electricity from renewable energy in 2017.[12] Furthermore, she wants massive investments in emissions-free vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure.[28] Notably, she made no mention of hydropower, from which came 7.5% of U.S. electricity in 2017. Although typically classified as renewable energy, hydropower is ecologically disruptive. Nor does she provide a lot of specifics.[12] However, she does not explicitly rule out nuclear power[note 7] and carbon-capturing technology.[37]

A point of confusion was over carbon emissions. Ocasio-Cortez wants the United States to achieve net-zero emissions, not zero emissions, which would be technologically impossible, given the necessary changes to American infrastructure and manufacturing.[13]

Infrastructure[edit]

Proposed high-speed rail corridors in the U.S. with connections to Canada (2001).

Ocasio-Cortez wants to improve the resiliency of U.S. infrastructure, to maximize the energy, and water efficiency of buildings, and to upgrade to energy-efficient "smart grids." She supports more investments in public transit, and high-speed rail. She seeks to stimulate the growth of green manufacturing in the United States, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, and to provide "universal access to clean water."[28]

At one point, her FAQ sheet called for the construction of "high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary." This is not in the final draft of the Green New Deal resolution.[13] High-speed rail is only about as time-efficient as air travel for distances of around 400 miles (640 km) or less.[39] Therefore, it makes sense to build a high-speed railway connecting New York City and Boston, which are 215 miles (344 km) apart,[note 8] but not New York City and Los Angeles, separated by a distance of 2790 miles (4464 km). High-speed rail is expensive but could be feasible depending on the region. For example, the annual ridership of Amtrak's Chicago-St. Louis corridor (Lincoln Service) within the last decade or so has been well over half a million and its average travel time was five and a half hours in 2017.[40] A study conducted by the University of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Transportation estimated that if a high-speed rail service of 220 mph (352 km/h) was provided, ridership would increase to somewhere between eight and fifteen million while travel time could drop to just about two hours.[41]

Scientific research[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez advocates investing in the research and development of new renewable energy technologies.[37]

Social issues[edit]

LGBT+ rights[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez is opposed to conversion therapy.[42]

She also endorses the Equality Act,[note 9] Every Child Deserves a Family Act,[note 10] and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.[note 11][43]

Criminal justice[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez supports the release of nonviolent drug offenders, banning private prisons, the abolition of cash bail, and automatic, independent investigations for killings of individuals by law enforcement.[44]

Drug policy[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez supports the federal legalization of marijuana and the end to the War on Drugs.[44]

Immigration[edit]

She supports the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)[45]. She argues that the creation of ICE is an example of unchecked executive powers at the expense of civil rights and points to the family-separation policy of Donald Trump. She wants to provide immigrants with a clear path towards citizenship.[46] Cortez has also stated that immigrants of Latinx heritage cannot be considered illegal and should be exempt from immigration laws because "We are descendants of Mesoamerican cultures and this land is our native land." [47]

She clarified that that she does not support stopping all deportations.[48]

War and peace[edit]

Ocasio-Cortez favors reducing the military budget, and wants to return to a time when war was decided on by Congress.[49] In the process, she made the misleading claim that the Pentagon was responsible for "massive accounting fraud" worth $21 trillion from 1998 to 2015, and that money could be used to fun Medicare for All. In reality, while the Pentagon did fail an audit test, indicating a serious accounting problem that needs to be addressed, its actual combined budget during those years was $9.2 trillion, less than half the alleged fraud. The number $21 trillion came from the adjustments made to the Pentagon's financial records. Money that cannot be traced is not the same thing as money spent or wasted. An independent study by a libertarian think tank suggests that Medicare for All could cost $32.6 trillion over ten years.[50]

Foreign affairs[edit]

She is a critic of the IDF and advocates for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.[51]

She is also opposed to the United States' current military occupation and drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria,[note 12] Libya, Pakistan and Somalia, and its involvement in the Yemeni Civil War.[49]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. The same expert calculated that a single parent with two children earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has to work a staggering 135 hours a week.
  2. U.S. GDP in 2018 was approximately $20.9 trillion. Therefore, the debt-to-GDP ratio is about 105%. Details here.
  3. The Glass-Steagall Act refers to the 1933 Banking Act and its four provisions that established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and separated investment banking from commercial banking, among other banking reforms.
  4. Postal banking refers to allowing depositors without access to banks to save their money using post offices.
  5. Finland completed its basic income trial for 2000 citizens in early 2019. Basic income boosted happiness but not employment. The economist leading the trial said this was not a surprise for economists, given that the jobless tend to lack marketable skills, and have health issues or decision-making problems. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned that implementing such a scheme nationwide requires higher taxes, which could upset voters, and might even increase poverty.
  6. In other words, a green superpower.
  7. Especially see Generation IV reactors.
  8. Such a line already exists and is part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.
  9. A bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  10. A bill that would prohibit Federally assisted adoption or foster care placement entities from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  11. A bill aiming to protect LGBT+ students from bullying and discrimination in schools.
  12. In January 2019, President Trump declared that ISIS had been crushed and ordered U.S. troops to withdraw completely from Syria .

References[edit]

  1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialists of America member. Here’s what that means. Vox. June 27th, 2018.
  2. https://www.justicedemocrats.com/candidates/
  3. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Fights the Power The Nation. June 22nd, 2018.
  4. https://ocasio2018.com/about
  5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez named 2017 NHI Person of the Year NHI Magazine. December 31st, 2018.
  6. Boston University Commencement 2011
  7. Ocasio-Cortez rips Crowley for not giving up Working Families Party line NY Daily News. July 12th, 2018.
  8. 8.0 8.1 US mid-terms latest: Five key things we learned. BBC News. November 7, 2018.
  9. Meet the young progressive Latina trying to oust one of the most powerful Democrats in the House Mic. February 28th, 2018.
  10. Religious affiliations of the 116th Congress Pew Research Center
  11. 11.0 11.1 Ocasio-Cortez To Unveil Ambitious Plan To Combat Climate Change. NPR. February 7, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2019.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Five things to know about Ocasio-Cortez’s 'Green New Deal'. The Hill. November 24, 2018. Accessed February 12, 2019.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 What’s actually in the ‘Green New Deal’ from Democrats? The Washington Post. Fact Checker. February 11, 2019. Accessed February 12, 2019.
  14. Ocasio-Cortez retracts erroneous information about Green New Deal backed by 2020 Democratic candidates. The Washington Post. February 11, 2019. Accessed February 12, 2019.
  15. McConnell Plans To Bring Green New Deal To Senate Vote by Danielle Kurtzleben ( February 12, 20195:43 PM ET) NPR.
  16. Ocasio-Cortez's misfired facts on living wage and minimum wage. Fact-checker. The Washington Post. January 24, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2019.
  17. Ocasio-Cortez sparks debate with talk of 70 percent marginal rate. The Hill. January 12, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2019.
  18. For a Real-World Example of Ocasio-Cortez’s Tax Proposal, Look to Sweden. Bloomberg. January 9, 2019. Accessed February 17, 2019.
  19. Ocasio-Cortez wants higher taxes on very rich Americans. Here's how much many that can raise. The Washington Post. January 5th, 2019.
  20. Ocasio-Cortez boosts progressive theory that deficits aren’t so scary. Politico. February 6, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2019.
  21. National debt tops $22 trillion for the first time as experts warn of ripple effects. USA Today. February 12, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2019.
  22. Why 2020 Democratic candidates are pushing more progressive tax proposals. PBS NewsHour. February 19, 2019. Accessed March 7, 2019.
  23. Curb Wall Street Gambling: Restore Glass Steagall
  24. Twitter Post January 15th, 2019.
  25. Creation of the Postal Savings System under the Act of June 25, 1910
  26. Discontinuance of Postal Savings System.
  27. Why Democrats Should Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee The Nation. March 20th, 2018.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 Resolution on A Green New Deal (PDF). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. House of Representative.
  29. Progressive Populism Can Save Us From Trump The New York Times. July 7th, 2018.
  30. Twitter post May 3rd, 2018.
  31. ‘Medicare for All’ Gains Favor With Democrats Looking Ahead to 2020 The New York Times. December 29th, 2018.
  32. Young political star Ocasio-Cortez: In a moral, wealthy society, 'no person in America should be too poor to live’ CNBC. June 29th, 2018.
  33. Poll: Support for 'Medicare-for-all' fluctuates with details. Associated Press. January 23, 2019. Accessed February 3, 2019.
  34. Democrat-led cities and states move toward universal health care on their own terms. PBS NewsHour. February 13, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2019.
  35. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leads push for Green New Deal as the way forward on climate change Boston Herald. January 8th, 2019.
  36. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Releases Green New Deal Outline NPR. February 7th, 2019.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 7 questions about the Green New Deal. PolitiFact. February 12, 2019. Accessed February 12, 2019.
  38. Twitter post. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. February 8, 2019.
  39. Derek Markham, Planet Green. 8 Benefits of High-speed Trains - Number 4. August 29, 2012. Accessed February 14, 2019.
  40. Wikipedia contributors. "Lincoln Service." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Updated December 13, 2018. Accessed February 17, 2019.
  41. High-speed can succeed: Study says bullet trains in Illinois costly but feasible. Crain's Chicago Business. October 2, 2013. Accessed February 17, 2019.
  42. Twitter Post January 12th, 2018.
  43. Support LGBTQIA+
  44. 44.0 44.1 Criminal Justice Reform, End Private Prisons
  45. Ocasio-Cortez wants to abolish ICE CNN.
  46. 2018 Platform. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Accessed February 13, 2019.
  47. [1] Footage of quote
  48. Twitter post. August 21, 2018.
  49. 49.0 49.1 A Peace Economy
  50. The Misleading Claim That $21 Trillion in Misspent Pentagon Funds Could Pay for ‘Medicare for All’. The New York Times. Fact Check. December 3, 2018. Accessed February 13, 2019.
  51. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez | Firing Line | PBS PBS. July 13th, 2018.