Great news: The new face of the Democratic Party has spent some time with a “Nobel Prize economist”! The bad news: It hasn’t improved her math skills. In this clip from her appearance on last night’s Daily Show, Trevor Noah gently asks her to explain how she’s planning on paying for her Medicare for All agenda, plus the rest of her ideas in implementing Democratic Socialism.
“This is an excellent question,” the economics major from Boston University declared, who then demonstrated her complete ignorance on the costs of her own agenda, let alone the federal budget, taxation, and coherence, as the Daily Caller notes:
It really is hard to watch. pic.twitter.com/OGiPAArlce
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) July 27, 2018
Let’s try to take these one at a time. Present estimates for a Medicare-for-All system range from Bernie Sanders’ $14 trillion over ten years to the $28 trillion predicted by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, according to a Politifact review almost exactly a year ago. With that in mind, here’s the BU economist on the pay-for, emphasis mine:
“But one of the things that we saw is, if people pay their fair share, if corporations and the ultra wealthy — for example, as Warren Buffett likes to say, if he pays as much as his secretary paid, 15 percent tax rate, if corporations paid — if we reverse the tax bill, raised our corporate tax rate to 28 percent … if we do those two things and also close some of those loopholes, that’s $2 trillion right there. That’s two trillion dollars in ten years.”
I hate to point this out to a math major, but $2 trillion over ten years doesn’t even pay for 20% of Medicare for All even under Bernie Sanders’ rosy projections, let alone the rest of Ocasio-Cortez’ agenda. Oddly enough, Noah doesn’t stop to point this out. It also relies entirely on static tax analysis, which doesn’t account for the behavior changes in the economy from imposing such taxes and taking the capital out of the economy. That’s a side issue compared to the simple-math incompetence on display here, of course.
From incompetence, Ocasio-Cortez takes on a flight of economic fancy:
“If we get people to pay their fair share, that’s $2 trillion in ten years. 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, a large amount of revenue that we can have.”
Well, how much more? She never says, and it’s clear that she has no idea. Earlier, Ocasio-Cortez also says, “it’s going to take $3 trillion to $4 trillion to transition us to 100 percent renewable economy.” That means that her revenue from the carbon tax and punitive fossil-fuel tax would necessarily decline over the following period, and that the economy would have to generate enough revenue to overcome the $4 trillion spent on the conversion before supplying the first dollar to Medicare for All, let alone the rest of her agenda. It’s worth pointing out too that this conversion would cost double the amount that Ocasio-Cortez says she’d gain from reversing the tax cuts and soaking the rich. We’re actually $2 trillion in the hole just to start with her agenda.
Most of this is pretty standard economic incompetence for the Left, of course, especially the utopian fantasies connected to Medicare for All and “renewable energy economies.” Where Ocasio-Cortez sets herself apart, however, is by demonstrating utter incompetence on a basic federal budget item:
“Then the last key, which is extremely extremely important is re-prioritization. Just last year we gave the military a $700 billion budget increase, which they didn’t even ask for,” she said. “They’re, like, ‘we don’t want another fighter jet!’ They’re, like, ‘don’t give us another nuclear bomb,’ you know?”
We have to unpack a couple of levels of ignorance in this statement. First off, $700 billion is the entire annual defense budget for the United States, not a “budget increase.” It’s true that the final defense budget outstripped the original Department of Defense request of $639 billion for FY2018, but only by $70 billion, not $700 billion. If we rolled back and capped DoD spending to FY2017 levels, we’d end up saving less than a trillion dollars over ten years — and if she thinks the Pentagon would cheer that result, she’s clearly not taken the time to discuss it with the military branches.
Put simply, Ocasio-Cortez’ agenda doesn’t add up, because Ocasio-Cortez seems incapable of math and basic research.
What makes the ignorance complete, of course, is Noah’s seeming cluelessness about Ocasio-Cortez’ ignorance, and his willingness to give her the platform in the first place. Comedy Central isn’t the first media platform to give her the star treatment and softball interview questions, but one has to wonder which one will be the last to do so.