Vox dubbed her “the most buzzed-about first-term member of the House of Representatives,” and The Atlantic credited her with an “unusually transparent approach to public relations.” She’s a former Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer and a self-styled democratic socialist. Despite all the fanfare, her recent “60 Minutes” interview with Anderson Cooper shined a bright spotlight on a painful fact: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will make it harder for young women in politics to be taken seriously in the future.
In mere minutes, Ocasio-Cortez managed to affirm nearly every negative stereotype about the female sex, from the trope that we’re no good at math to the notion that you shouldn’t trust us with a credit card. If all you saw was her example, you’d think we’re all just emotional dreamers who need to be reined in by reality.
Ocasio-Cortez is not the feminist hero most media coverage has made her out to be. If anything, her time in the spotlight has set women in politics back.
Ocasio-Cortez Is Not a Feminist Hero
“I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right,” Ocasio-Cortez told Cooper after he asked about her careless and incorrect analysis of the defense budget. In one sentence, Ocasio-Cortez portrayed herself as a woman who is ready to subordinate facts to her moral convictions, confirming achingly anti-female stereotypes. She may as well have driven erratically down the highway or failed to catch a gently thrown ball. Of course, she later admitted that being factually correct is “absolutely important.” She just doesn’t seem to care much about facts and numbers when she’s tweeting.
Or, for that matter, when she’s speaking. In discussing with Cooper her proposal for a “Green New Deal,” which would use the full force of the government in an attempt to convert the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, she could not offer an actual answer for how such an enormous transformation would be possible. “It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now,” was all she could say.
Shockingly, the reason we “don’t conceive of it as possible” is because it is not possible. Renewable sources generated just 17 percent of U.S. electricity in 2017, so it would be a herculean task to more than quintuple that share in just 12 years. As for the cost, Stanford researchers estimated in 2015 that the machinery and infrastructure investments required to make our energy system wholly dependent on wind, water, and solar by 2050 would cost $13.4 trillion, a sum a bit larger than the entire U.S. gross domestic product was in 2005. And Ocasio-Cortez wants to do it even earlier than that, with little to no concern about the mind-numbing cost.
But her Green New Deal is more than just an energy policy proposal. Because fighting climate change apparently requires implementing every expansive progressive policy, Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal includes a universal jobs guarantee and a commitment, seemingly unrelated to the environment, to “mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth.”
It also features a mandate to create “additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate.” Proponents of a federal job guarantee estimate that the program would cost $543 billion annually, and a national single-payer health-care system would cost $32.6 trillion in just the first 10 years of implementation.
Talk about Pushing Granny Over a Cliff
Combining these figures, a conservative estimate of the total costs of the Green New Deal over its first 10 years would be a little over $51 trillion. Even without single-payer health care, a key part of the platform, the Green New Deal would cost $18.8 trillion over 10 years, or $1.88 trillion annually. For reference, the federal government only collected $1.884 trillion in total income and corporate taxes in 2017. All the assets combined of the nation’s top 1 percent totals approximately $23 trillion, to use a midrange estimate, so even confiscating every penny from the richest Americans would only fund five years of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Then what?
Ocasio-Cortez has refrained from discussing the potential costs of her proposal and therefore has never tried to walk through the numbers on how to pay for it. Funding such expensive government programs requires increased deficit spending, raising taxes—or both. That seems to be Ocasio-Cortez’s approach, as she has suggested 70 percent marginal tax rates for the “tippy tops” of high-income households, and insists that simply increasing the national debt could pay for her proposal.
To say this unrealistic analysis is fiscally irresponsible would be a massive understatement. But Ocasio-Cortez’s refusal to engage in a difficult conversation about the numbers involved and her disregard for the truth hurts the cause for women’s equality. Like it or not, Ocasio-Cortez has become one of the most visible women in politics—and she’s making us all look dumb.
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter once made a controversial claim that “single women look at the government as their husbands,” expecting the government to provide for their every need. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal naivete provides unfair validation for that statement. Instead of using her massive platform to make nuanced, well-reasoned arguments for taxing the rich and expanding the national debt, her current track record indicates that she’s interested in neither.
All of the cringeworthy media interviews and high-profile errors she’s been so flippant about making will only cause more difficulty for young women to get elected to high office in the future. Her incompetence only cements the idea that a pretty, likable woman is one who, unfortunately, lacks a brain.