Oca­sio-Cortez is il­lit­er­ate on eco­nom­ics

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY MARC A. THIESSEN Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group

The left com­plains that con­ser­va­tives are “ob­sess­ing” over Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez. Well, there is a rea­son for that: Oca­sio-Cortez is driv­ing the agenda of to­day’s Demo­cratic Party – and her eco­nomic il­lit­er­acy is dan­ger­ous.

Case in point: Last week, Oca­sio-Cortez cel­e­brated the tank­ing of a deal ne­go­ti­ated by her fel­low Democrats in which Ama­zon promised to build a new head­quar­ters in Long Is­land City, New York, right next to her con­gres­sional district. Ama­zon’s de­par­ture cost the city be­tween 25,000 and 40,000 new jobs. For­get the tech work­ers whom Ama­zon would have em­ployed. Gone are all the union­ized con­struc­tion jobs to build the head­quar­ters, as well as thou­sands of jobs cre­ated by all the small busi­nesses – restau­rants, bode­gas, dry clean­ers and food carts – that were pre­par­ing to open or ex­pand to serve Ama­zon em­ploy­ees.

Oca­sio-Cortez was not dis­turbed at all. “We were sub­si­diz­ing those jobs,” she said. “Frankly, if we were will­ing to give away $3 bil­lion for this deal, we could in­vest those $3 bil­lion in our district, our­selves, if we wanted to. We could hire out more teach­ers. We can fix our sub­ways. We can put a lot of peo­ple to work for that amount of money if we wanted to.”

No, you can’t. Oca­sioCortez does not seem to re­al­ize that New York does not have $3 bil­lion in cash sit­ting around wait­ing to be spent on her so­cial­ist dreams. The sub­si­dies to Ama­zon were tax in­cen­tives, not cash pay­outs. It is Ama­zon’s money, which New York agreed to make tax-ex­empt, so the com­pany would in­vest it in build­ing its new head­quar­ters, hir­ing new work­ers and gen­er­at­ing tens of bil­lions in new tax rev­enue.

As New York Mayor Bill de Bla­sio ex­plained, the Ama­zon deal would have pro­duced “$27 bil­lion in new tax rev­enue to fuel pri­or­i­ties from tran­sit to af­ford­able hous­ing – a nine-fold re­turn on the taxes the city and state were pre­pared to forgo to win the head­quar­ters.” Un­like Oca­sio-Cortez’s imag­i­nary $3 bil­lion slush fund, that is real money that ac­tu­ally could have been used to hire teach­ers, fix sub­ways and put peo­ple to work. With Ama­zon leav­ing New York, that $27 bil­lion leaves with it.

Oca­sio-Cortez does not seem to un­der­stand that by help­ing to drive Ama­zon away, she did not save New York $3 bil­lion; she cost New York $27 bil­lion. There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween hav­ing bad ideas and not grasp­ing ba­sic facts. Rea­son­able peo­ple can dis­agree about whether New York should have of­fered Ama­zon $3 bil­lion in tax in­cen­tives – or any­thing at all – to build its head­quar­ters in the city. But that is dif­fer­ent from not un­der­stand­ing that New York is not writ­ing a $3 bil­lion check to Ama­zon.

Her eco­nomic il­lit­er­acy mat­ters be­cause she is the prin­ci­pal au­thor of the Green New Deal, which has been en­dorsed by most of the lead­ing Demo­cratic can­di­dates for pres­i­dent. From this un­schooled mind has sprung the most am­bi­tious plan for gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion in the econ­omy since Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s train pulled into Pet­ro­grad’s Fin­land Sta­tion.

Ama­zon left New York be­cause Oca­sio-Cortez and her fel­low demo­cratic so­cial­ists cre­ated a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment in the city. And if Oca­sio-Cortez has her way, Democrats are go­ing to do to the rest of Amer­ica what they just did to New York.

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