Ocasio-Cortez: Why so much attention?
Is it any surprise that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “makes conservatives so mad?” said Matthew Yglesias in Vox.com.
The 29-year-old former waitress from the Bronx was sworn in only last week for her first term as a Democratic congresswoman, but she’s already attracting more breathless scrutiny and criticism from right-wing media than any woman since Hillary Clinton. Among the recent “bombshells” from Fox News and right-wing Twitter trolls: that Ocasio-Cortez went by “Sandy” in high school (supposedly a betrayal of her Puerto Rican roots), and she attended a high school in a middle-class community in Westchester, not in the Bronx (supposedly invalidating her working-class authenticity). These nonscandals, of course, are all proxies for conservatives’ real anxieties. As a charismatic “young Latina” with distinctly progressive ideas, Ocasio-Cortez embodies “a lot of conservative fears about demographic change.” They’re terrified that in “AOC,” as she’s increasingly known, Democrats have found themselves a “cool and telegenic” star. Republicans should be scared, said Mike Konczal in The Nation. On 60 Minutes this week, Ocasio-Cortez made a powerful case for what she calls a “Green New Deal,” a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. economy—with major investments in hightech training, clean-energy research, and millions of new jobs— that “could save the Democratic Party as well as the planet.”
Nonsense, said Dan McLaughlin in NationalReview.com. The main reason conservatives are admittedly fixated on Ocasio-Cortez is that in politics “you always need villains,” and AOC perfectly fits the bill. Her utopian fantasies, coupled with her wild-eyed delivery, make her seem like the “unbridled id” of a left-lurching Democratic Party. The more exposure Ocasio-Cortez and her proposals to spend trillions get, conservatives believe, the more likely people are to vote Republican. AOC’s Green New Deal “isn’t just ambitious,” said Rich Lowry in the New York Post, “it’s insane.” She not only wants to save the planet but along the way “achieve all of socialism,” including single-payer health care, free college, and the eradication of poverty, all somehow paid for with a confiscatory 70 percent tax rate on the wealthy.
What’s so radical about a 70 percent marginal tax rate? asked Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. First of all, she proposes that it kick in only on income over $10 million. (It wouldn’t apply to the first $9.9 million). That’s a far lower top rate than the 91 percent we had in the 1950s, a period of booming economic growth that many conservatives still consider America’s Golden Age. On taxes, AOC is really just proposing “a return to the 20th-century norm,” said Noah Smith in Bloomberg.com. As recently as 1981, the top tax rate was 69 percent. Still, her 70 percent tax rate would increase federal revenues only by 3.6 percent—not nearly enough revenue to pay for her Green New Deal, let alone “Medicare for all.”
That’s why many of us on the Left have mixed feelings about AOC’s sudden “rock star” status, said Christopher Dale in the New York Post. “Once her pie-in-the-sky agenda meets legislative reality, her young base will have a cold awakening, furthering the Millennial malaise” that keeps hurting Democrats at the polls. Call her naïve if you like, said Nathan Robinson in The Guardian. But her proposals have already ignited a serious national debate over what the top tax rate should be, and what the nation should do about climate change. “Even when conservatives are fuming about Ocasio-Cortez, they can’t stop talking about her ideas.” Not bad for her first week of work.
An ambitious agenda