Columnist Thiessen, in calling AOC ‘economically illiterate,’ displays instead own economic ignorance


“Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends the SXSW premiere of the Netflix Original Documentary ‘Knock Down the House’ at The Paramount Theater on March 10, 2019, in Austin, Texas. Ocasio-Cortez called Fox News ‘AOC TMZ.'” PHOTO/Roger Kisby/Getty Images for Netflix/Newsweek

Listening to President Trump, you’d think the socialist barbarians were at the gates of America preparing to overrun the US with a Soviet-style state-run economy where every car would be the same make and color, everyone would be wearing Mao suits and freedom and social mobility, those great mythical assets that we supposedly have in unique abundance here in the land of the free and home of the brave, would vanish.

“Socialists” (that’s another discussion) like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want the US to be like Venezuela, Trump warns in his whiney little voice. Speaking to an audience of wealthy Venezuelan self-exiles in Florida, he said, “The socialists have done in Venezuela all of the same things that socialists, communists, totalitarians have done everywhere that they have had a chance to rule…This will never happen to us.”

In most parts of the world, Trump’s over-the-top and wildly ignorant denunciation of socialism would be greeted with uproarious laughter, as would his cartoonish characterization of Venezuela’s current crisis (which is really the result mainly of the collapse in oil prices and economic sanctions by the US). But there’s little amusement here in America, where socialism is, for many, still a dirty word, akin to Stalinism.

That’s because almost uniquely in the world, Americans have been insulated and cut off from information about how in many very democratic nations, especially in Europe, socialist-influenced policies and programs, like free college education, generous unemployment benefits, highly progressive tax rates, retirement schemes that actually allow people to retire without falling into poverty, state-funded health systems that guarantee quality care to everyone, labor laws that guarantee generous vacations to all workers, and publicly funded, modern mass transit systems that make it so families don’t need to pay for and drive two cars can exist and thrive in societies that are often freer and that boast more social mobility than the US.

That’s why we can have people like Marc A. Thiessen, a right-wing columnist at the Washington Post, get away with publishing an inanity like the syndicated column he wrote last week headlined, “Why economic illiteracy is dangerous.” In it, he condemns AOC for her “dangerous economic illiteracy” in “celebrating the tanking of a deal negotiated by her fellow Democrats” that would have brought HQ2, a second headquarters for giant e-retailer Amazon to New York City, allegedly producing “25,000-40,000 new jobs.” In so doing, he displayed both his own ignorance of economics and taxes, and also a sterling example of the kind of pro-capitalist propaganda that passes for intelligent journalism in the US.

Thiessen, in condemning AOC’s success in helping to kill that humongous tax give-away deal by New York City to a mega-company that last year and in 2017 paid no corporate profit taxes to the IRS on total net earnings over those two years of $13 billion, and in calling the feisty new young Congresswoman “economically illiterate,” really is a suck-up offering a wet kiss to his boss, Jeff Bezos, not giving readers a reasoned lesson in economics. After all, while the brief bio at the end of his column doesn’t mention it, the newspaper he writes for is owned by Bezos, Amazon’s founder, CEO and world’s richest man — at least subject to whatever divorce settlement he manages to reach (with no pre-nup agreement) from the wife he recently got caught cheating on and to the fluctuating value of his Amazon’s stock.

Thiessen’s reasoning: In attacking the Amazon deal, AOC was claiming that the $3 billion tax holiday offered as a lure by New York’s politicians in return for Amazon building a second headquarters in the city, is money that could instead go towards the city’s hiring more teachers, fixing the crumbling subway, and putting people to work in other jobs at companies that pay their taxes.

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