News & Politics

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Doesn't Understand Prosperity

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrives for the world premiere of "Knock Down the House" at the Paramount Theatre during the SXSW Film Festival on Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

In Charlotte Alter’s much-ballyhooed hagiography of the left’s new “Wonder Woman,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is presented as the savior our country desperately needs. In the article, published by Time, the freshman congresswoman from the Bronx is painted as a do-all, do-gooder who makes nary a misstep as she seeks to reshape our society into a utopia of fairness and prosperity for all. The problem with that (among other problems) is that like many of her fellow millennial leftists, AOC has a warped view of what prosperity is combined with a complete misunderstanding of how prosperity is achieved.

In the article, Alter provides a brief timeline of AOC’s life, setting it in the context of politics. It’s the quote at the end of the paragraph that caused me to cringe.

Ocasio-Cortez was born in 1989, a few weeks before the Berlin Wall fell. George H.W. Bush was in his first year as President, Nancy Pelosi had just gotten to Congress, Sanders had already lost two Senate races, and Joe Biden had just bungled his first presidential bid. She was in elementary school during the financial prosperity of the 1990s, eating Dunkaroos while grownups clucked on television about Bill Clinton balancing the budget. “An entire generation, which is now becoming one of the largest electorates in America, came of age and never saw American prosperity,” she says. “I have never seen that, or experienced it, really, in my adult life.”

Never seen “American prosperity?” Never experienced it? Really? Hogwash! To use a good old-fashioned luxurious word.

Poor people from previous generations are scratching their heads in confusion upon reading that. Or, rather, and at the risk of being crass and insensitive, they would be scratching their heads if they hadn’t all died from diseases none of us living in the United States in 2019 have to worry about. That being said, even when they were alive they wouldn’t have scratched their heads in puzzlement at AOC’s naïve words because most of them were illiterate and couldn’t read them anyway. Not to mention they wouldn’t have had the time to read puff pieces in the rich man’s rag; they were all too busy working their fingers to the bone from sunup to sundown just to have enough food to eat so that they didn’t die from starvation.

And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claims she hasn’t experienced prosperity. What an insulting, spoiled, self-serving sentiment!

I understand that she worked lots of jobs and that her hardworking mother had to work multiple jobs after AOC’s dad died from cancer. Yet, here she sits. A twenty-nine-year-old congresswoman.

When I was a kid, my pastor father had to occasionally work multiple jobs. There were times when the only reason we had food to eat was because people from our church bought us groceries. In college and through my twenties, I worked multiple jobs, seemingly non-stop, and I rarely had enough money in my bank account to buy a new tire if I had had a flat. Yet, looking back, I count myself very blessed and am quite aware that I have experienced and continue to experience prosperity in ways that the vast majority of the people who have lived in this country did not.

I’m a member of Gen-X, the supposedly forgotten generation. I don’t know if we’ve been forgotten or not. I’m too busy enjoying my family and my work. Every once in a while I take the time to briefly pause and reflect on how Gen-X was told that we’d be the first generation to fail to enjoy more prosperity than our parents. I guess we can place that prediction on the shelf of failed prophecies next to hoverboards and flying cars in the new millennium.

One of the amazing things about 2019 is how much more luxurious the lives of today’s middle class are than were those of the upper classes throughout most of history. Even go back to the 1980s. I wouldn’t trade my run-of-the-mill 2015 Honda Accord for most luxury cars of the ’80s. Why would I give up all the safety features, the back-up camera, and Bluetooth? My phone is a better TV, camera, video camera, map, Walkman, and, well, phone than the ’80s’ versions of those things. Food is cheaper and better; we eat and drink better than kings did pre-Industrial Revolution. Crime is down. Medicine and science have taken drastic steps forward. And, in most places, the sidewalks are cleaner. We may not have hoverboards, but the Cubs have won a World Series. While not perfect, our Western society, as a whole, is vastly improved over, well, pick any time period.

None of that is to say that there aren’t serious gaps and problems in our society. Nor is it intended to deny that poverty and oppression still exist; we need to do the best we can to fix our society’s ills. I don’t have a problem with someone saying, “Let’s do what we can to lift everyone out of poverty.” In fact, I agree with that statement. What I have a problem with is people like AOC who don’t understand prosperity and how it’s achieved muddling around with our society, attempting to drag it backward.

Just yesterday, in the car on the way to school, my eight-year-old son mused, “I wonder why we were the first country to land a man on the moon?” After asking him why he wondered that, he replied to me, “Well, because there are so many countries in the world.”

“The free market, son,” I answered. “The free market.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proven herself an enemy of the very economic engine that has provided America its prosperity. Part of the reason for her animosity against the free market is because she has a head-in-the-clouds view of life and prosperity. If AOC truly wants everyone to have access to prosperity, she needs to embrace the very thing that has given so many of us prosperity to begin with and that will continue to improve the lives of many more if allowed.