If you’re a socialist who spends a lot of time with other socialists who’ve been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism then solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn is practically a given. Today, AOC retweeted a video produced by the Corbyn campaign saying, “This video is about the UK, but it might as well have been produced about the United States. The hoarding of wealth by the few is coming at the cost of peoples’ lives.” As you can see, the idea behind this clip is to blame conservatives for cutting budgets while juxtaposing that with images of billionaires doing well.
This video is about the UK, but it might as well have been produced about the United States.
The hoarding of wealth by the few is coming at the cost of peoples’ lives.
The only way we change is with a massive surge of *new* voters at the polls. UK, Vote!pic.twitter.com/N5JYaVGCBs
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 12, 2019
Her endorsement caught the attention of a lot of people on Twitter, not all of them fans:
Not surprising in the least. She’s an under-informed, demagogic, anti-prosperity socialist whose two besties in Congress have glaring anti-Semitism problems. Of course she’s with Corbyn. https://t.co/S4zZp4sxed
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 12, 2019
AOC is right that this clip might has well have been produced here in the US. In fact, the message is almost indistinguishable from the Bernie Sanders’ campaign she supports. What this clip doesn’t mention is the UK’s deficits. Deficits soared in 2009-2010 but are now under control:
For much of the past decade, Conservative chancellors George Osborne and Philip Hammond have promised big reductions in government borrowing and often failed to deliver. The Spring Statement 2019 did not fit that pattern. A decade on from the financial and economic crisis, the chancellor can now say the deficit is fully under control.
With the government books in deficit in 2009-10 to the tune of £153bn, amounting to 10 per cent of national income and £1 in every £4 spent, public borrowing is now set to be just £22.8bn this financial year, only 1.1 per cent of gross domestic product.
The Office for Budget Responsibility also notes that for the first time since 2001-02, Britain will run a primary surplus in 2018-19, meaning that tax revenue covers all of the government’s spending needs apart from interest on past debt.
Here’s what that looks like in graphic form:
I don’t know if it has been confirmed that AOC subscribes to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) but I suspect she does. If so, it would certainly explain why she doesn’t give a rip about deficits or attempts to reach a balanced budget. For a believer in MMT, austerity efforts are just unnecessary cruelty.
The other thing that this clip fails to reckon with is that the wealth of all the billionaires in the United States, there are 607 of them as of this year, probably amounts to a few trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money but would only fund Medicare for All for perhaps one year, maybe two if you collected all the wealth from all the billionaires in the world. The idea that billionaires hoarding wealth are the cause of all our problems is a left-wing fantasy.
AOC posted another video yesterday which shows the other side of the equation. If the conservative government in the UK is her idea of everything wrong with the world, the clip below presents her ideal future. Its based on her own Green New Deal for Housing plan. This animated clip is similar in tone to the one she posted back in April, i.e. the one in which she credits herself for saving the world. In this one, narrator Ted Danson intones, “We live well because we pushed our governments to retrofit every home and build millions of new ones. We won a Homes Guarantee and created a torrent of good union jobs in the process.”
What does a Green New Deal mean for housing?
How do we center jobs AND justice with ambitious industrial policy to save our planet?
Watch and see. ⬇️
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 11, 2019
AOC has talked about here GND plan for housing before. The “Homes Guarantee” is something promoted by a coalition of left wing groups which is a lot more extensive than just retrofiting homes. From the group’s press release:
- Build 12 million new social housing units over the next ten years;
- Invest $150 billion in existing public housing infrastructure over the next 5 years;
- Establish a National Tenants’ Bill of Rights;
- Pay reparations for centuries of racist housing policy by guaranteeing principal cancellation or reduction, enforcing fair housing law, and other measures;
- End housing and land speculation and de-commodify housing;
- Establish a People’s Housing Commission; and
- Embed goals and standards of the Green New Deal at every level.
The plan to “de-commodify housing,” which is another AOC plan, sounds a lot like nationwide rent control. Even the Nation recognized that there might be a problem here.
Protecting tenants and increasing supply have traditionally been viewed by economists as conflicting approaches. “The critique of any kind of protection has long been about the unintended consequences for low-income communities: If you make it more difficult to maintain and build housing, that is going to hurt the very communities that you’re trying to help,” summarized Nestor Davidson, a professor of real estate and land use at Fordham University’s Urban Law Center. “But I think there’s a growing recognition that it is not a zero-sum game. There are modern versions of tenant protection that strike a balance that will not undermine production—that will actually work hand in glove with ways of thinking about supply-side solutions. You have to have both.”
We can have complete rent control and booming construction? Oh, wait, they aren’t done. They also plan to restrict the profits of developers which should definitely help encourage them to build:
Both Ocasio-Cortez’s and Sanders’s plans make clear that the either-or logic holds up only when housing is treated as a commodity. According to their proposals, we should treat it instead as a basic human right, which will require both protecting tenants and restricting the profits of developers and real estate groups…
“Most of the country doesn’t have any regulation around major corporate landlords and private equity practices in the housing market,” said Dianne Enriquez, codirector of Community Dignity Campaigns at CPD, who worked closely with AOC’s team on the bill. “It’s kind of the Wild West. So, we’re not saying ‘don’t do business,’ we’re just capping the amount of egregious greed that drives the market.”
So there you have it, the alternative to conservative government is national rent control and a profit caps for everyone else involved in the housing market. There’s absolutely no way this plan can fail! And if it does then clearly it’s because the plan didn’t go far enough. Why allow property owners to earn anything when we could expropriate the rental units and turn them into democratic co-ops? And wouldn’t it be better if the government built all the new homes everywhere as part of a single-payer system for construction paying fixed rates to union laborers?
Some of these ideas are probably already rattling around AOC’s mind but for now she’ll settle for an anti-Semitic socialist as the UK’s next prime minister.
Update: Corbyn responds.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 12, 2019