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Denialists: How AOC is Intensifying the Left's War on Math

Another day, another post about Alexandria Ocasio Cortez -- whose status as a social and mainstream media sensation was further cemented last night, when she appeared on 60 Minutes as a featured guest.  As Leah mentioned earlier, AOC raised eyebrows on the right, left and center when she answered a question about her habit of spreading factually false information by opining that moral righteousness is more important than empirical accuracy.  To harp on precision and mathematical correctness, she said, basically amounts to "missing the forest [right thinking] for the trees [facts]:"

She eventually conceded that yes, details should matter, but also sighed "oh my goodness" when Anderson Cooper raised the recent embarrassment in which AOC comprehensively butchered a statistic about Pentagon waste, wrongly asserting that those funds could pay for most of a decade's-worth of single-payer healthcare.  She chides her critics for wanting to "blow up" that $21 trillion error, emphasizing -- essentially -- that it's the thought that counts.  It's perhaps a slight challenge to take seriously her afterthought about the importance of dealing with reality as it exists when she's also embracing an economic theory that paying for things isn't necessary, and that budget surpluses can actually be harmful:

She bristled at the unfairness of merely asking how she'd have the government pay the tab for the orgy of spending she's endorsing, claiming that there are 'myriad' ways to fund her ideas.  There are not.  Her biggest ticket item is "Medicare For All," which would take a huge program that's already careening toward insolvency and expand it to the entire country.  According to nonpartisan analyses, this would cost at least $32 trillion over ten years, requiring a near-doubling of the federal budget.  To finance even a majority of it, enormous tax increases on all Americans would be required.  That's math.  The warmed-over bromides about cutting military spending (last month's ignorant mistake could have been instructive on this point, but alas) or taxing the "very rich" are not remotely realistic.  On slashing defense, we've previously quoted the Washington Post fact-check finding that "completely defunding the military for the next decade would yield only one-fifth of $32 trillion."  

As for "the rich" (see this detail about the supposed revenues from the 70 percent top marginal rate AOC floated and many progressives have defended), the simple fact is that affluent Americans just do not have nearly enough wealth to cover even a fraction of the bill the Left wants to rack up.  Economic policy expert Brian Riedl runs through $57 trillion in proposed new spending and puts Democrats' specious turn-key "solution" into perspective:

The “just tax the rich” rhetoric remains empty because the numbers simply do not add up. Wealthy families and corporations are not a bottomless ATM available to finance a socialist utopia. In fact, America’s federal tax code is already the most progressive in the OECD, even adjusting for income inequality. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the top-earning 20 percent of taxpayers earn 53 percent of the income, yet pay 69 percent of all federal taxes, including 88 percent of all income taxes. The bottom 40 percent of earners earn 14 percent of the income while collectively paying no income tax, and less than 5 percent of all federal taxes. Tax code regressivity is not the problem...Even if the 2017 tax cuts and 2018 defense spending hikes expire, the CBO projects a baseline budget deficit rising to 5 percent of GDP over the next decade. Additionally, the far-left wish list described above totals 18 percent of GDP. That brings a staggering budget deficit of 23 percent of GDP, or the current equivalent of $4.6 trillion per year.

Riedl offers a detailed examination of how a host of popular left-wing taxation fantasies would fail to even close the existing gap, let alone but any dent in all the new spending liberals are demanding.  And that's before you even attempt to quantify the ways in which major tax hikes would harm the economy or alter behavior.  In short, what we have is a very serious spending problem (the tax cuts -- i.e., letting people keep more of the money they earn -- are not "spending" and represent a relative drop in the bucket deficit-wise), particularly involving mandatory spending and entitlements. That is what's driving our long-term debt crisis. Neither party is serious about actually solving this problem at the moment, and Democrats are agitating to make it far worse, and their superficial soundbytes on pay-fors are nonsense. 

AOC's most honest talking point here is to just bear-hug ballooning deficit spending, while hoping that the debt bomb never detonates. That's right, leaning into extreme recklessness is the Left's best plan.  To give you a sense of what those of us who want a sensible discussion of these issues are up against, I'll leave you with these corrections of an NBC News reporter's inaccurate tweet, which purported to be correcting a 'falsehood' from acting White House Chief of Staff and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney:

Hunt's replies are filled with liberals insisting that she use the word "lie," but it turns out that she's mangled the facts herself.  In her rush to echo Democratic talking points about tax reform (which, again, is nowhere near a major cause of our debt problem), she confuses what Mulvaney is even referring to -- but she's also wrong about what she thinks he's referring to.

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