Wednesday, January 16, 2019

More unhinged, uninformed criticism of AOC: Why do right-wingers keep clinging to an economic system that has performed so terribly?

Above: A WPA-sponsored history course for adults in Detroit, Michigan, 1936. Today, unfortunately, most Americans don't know their own nation's history (see, e.g., "How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know? Less Than You Think." Smithsonian Magazine, May 28, 2015). And this lack of knowledge has devastating consequences. For example, not only do most Americans have little-or-no knowledge about the benefits of the New Deal, but they also have short-term memory loss with respect to trickle-down economics - forgetting, time and time again, how it's failed us. Thus, we continue to elect politicians who keep handing out more tax breaks to the rich. And with each successive round of diaper-changing for the super-wealthy, the common good deteriorates more and more. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The political right's harebrained criticism of AOC

Right-wingers are angry at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Her agenda for more economic opportunity for middle-class & poor Americans has them turning their heads like Linda Blair's character in The Exorcist. Writing on Fox News, young Michael Knowles, who seems to be the next-Glenn-Beck-or-Paul-Ryan-in-training, says, "The frequently-wrong but never-in-doubt freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., may indeed be the voice of her ignorant generation... Fortunately for her, in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king; and among a blithely ignorant generation, the lightly educated activist is congresswoman." (Lightly educated? AOC has just as much, if not more education than Knowles.)

There is so much absurdity and hypocrisy in Knowles' op-ed, it's truly astonishing. For example, he writes, "Raised in the United States after the fall of the Berlin Wall... young Americans have been sheltered both empirically and academically from the myriad horrors wrought by socialism throughout history. And so the problem worsens" (Sheltered empirically? Who says such nonsense?). Knowles also writes: "Millennials might not know much, but according to a 2016 Harvard survey, they know they don't support capitalism, with 51 percent of young adults rejecting economic freedom."

"Economic freedom"? For who? The Federal Reserve recently found that economic mobility (the "American Dream") has declined significantly since 1980. Less economic mobility is not freedom, it's economic imprisonment. Reduced economic mobility means that whatever economic condition you're born into, for example, poverty, you're more likely to stay there. Meanwhile, the super-rich--holed-up in their private compounds--are enjoying record wealth. Funny how things work out like that, huh?

Modern capitalism = economic freedom?? For most Americans, that's complete & utter garbage.

The pseudo-sage vs. AOC's welfare capitalism

Knowles writes as if he's an 80-year-old sage. He's 28; younger than AOC. But he gets a platform on Fox News for some unknown reason (perhaps because he writes things like "sheltered empirically"). But to his point about socialism creating horrors... does he think that capitalism has not caused horror? Was it not capitalism--in one form or another--that dispossessed and killed American Indians, enslaved generations of African Americans (and caused us to slaughter each other in the Civil War), and exterminated 6 million Jews? (Well, to be fair, the latter was fascism - capitalism's more evil brother.)

The truth of the matter, completely lost on Knowles, is that just about any political & economic system can be set-up to either help people or abuse them. And AOC's brand of socialism, like Bernie Sanders' brand, is really just welfare capitalism. It doesn't call for an end to the free market--despite the hysterical rants of carnival-barking critics like Knowles and Beck--but instead seeks to shore up the common good - roads, bridges, healthcare, Social Security, education, wages, etc. Welfare capitalism is a good balance between (a) the desire for private fortune and (b) proper funding for the common good. That's really all AOC is talking about. Not "confiscation of wealth," as the rabid right screams in terror.

The promotion of failure

Here's my larger question: Why do right-wingers like Knowles keep clinging to an economic system that has performed so terribly? I'm not talking about capitalism per se, I'm talking about America's particular form of capitalism: Trickle-down economics.

We've been living under a trickle-down economics regime ever since Ronald Reagan. This regime--this form of capitalism--has slashed taxes for the rich, deregulated financial institutions, turned a blind-eye towards pollution, persecuted the poor (for example, restricting debt-relief), and has placed top priority on protecting the private wealth of millionaires & billionaires who deliver campaign cash to their political puppets - all the while dismissing the common good as "evil socialism."

And so, what are the results of our trickle-down economics? These things: Crumbling infrastructure; soaring national & consumer debt; ever-rising suicide rates; mass incarceration; disinvestment in education (causing, among other things, unmanageable student loan debt); a revenue burden that has shifted down onto the heads of the middle-class & poor at the state & local level; an extraordinary rise in drug overdoses; stagnant wages; a retirement crisis; lowered life expectancy; and the conversion of a budding democracy into ruthless plutocracy.

That's the system, and results, that Knowles and his ilk offer to you as a delicious piece of pie. What causes them to consider such hideous results to be so incredibly wonderful? What madness overtakes the mind, so that a person thinks bad is good?

GDP evidence to support AOC

Let's look at Gross Domestic Product (GDP, economic growth) specifically, to see how trickle-down economics compares to New Deal economics. This is an interesting comparison, because AOC is advocating for New Deal-type policies (e.g., the "Green New Deal"), and also because the political right condemns the New Deal as "socialism." The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that GDP grew by 5% or more 22 times from 1933 to 1980 - when New Deal economics was dominant. But from 1981 to 2017, when trickle-down economics was the dominant force, economic growth topped 5% just once. (And here are the economic growth numbers--by %--for the pre-WW2, New Deal years specifically, i.e., 1933-1940: -1.2, +10.8, +8.9, +12.9, +5.1, -3.3, +8.0, +8.8... far better than today's measly numbers). 

Knowles has a history degree; and he called AOC "lightly educated." But how does he not know the history of our GDP? Or, if he does know it, why does he consider one time over 5% to be a better performance than 22 times over 5%?

Are you now beginning to see the foolishness of trickle-down economics, the foolishness of the political right, and the foolishness of people like Michael Knowles? - people who ridicule New Deal "socialism," even though New Deal "socialism" vastly outperforms trickle-down capitalism, and thereby creates a more vibrant middle-class.

Mr. Knowles: AOC is not the voice of an ignorant generation; you, however, are the voice of an ignorant political movement - because trickle-down capitalism isn't freedom... it's an under-performing joke.

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