News & Politics

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Thinks Pentagon Witchcraft Can Pay for Single-Payer

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congressional candidate from New York, waves during a rally, Friday, July 20, 2018, in Wichita, Kan. (Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle via AP)

Socialist golden girl Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is at it again. On Sunday, she tweeted that Pentagon witchcraft can fund the notoriously expensive single-payer health care plan. Despite receiving “Four Pinocchios” from The Washington Post for this claim, the soon-to-be representative still hasn’t deleted her tweet.

“$21 TRILLION of Pentagon financial transactions ‘could not be traced, documented, or explained,'” Ocasio-Cortez quoted from a story in The Nation. “$21T in Pentagon accounting errors. Medicare for All costs ~$32T. That means 66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon. And that’s before our premiums.”

Ocasio-Cortez took one massive embarrassing accounting error and thought it meant the Pentagon had $21 trillion just lying around. The Pentagon does need to manage money better, but it takes a true liberal conspiracy theorist to twist the facts this badly.

Democrats have long believed that military funding is so excessive, it could cover the costs for all of their fantasy projects. In a powerful moment of overwhelming confirmation bias, Ocasio-Cortez seized on a statistic vaguely related to the Pentagon and ran with the idea that if only the government cut money given to the evil military it could cover all the costs to turn America into a utopia.

Ocasio-Cortez’s argument came from liberal activist Jordan Uhl, who mocked the Pentagon in a tweet wondering how to pay for “Medicare for All.” “Medicare for All: But how will we pay for it? Military: We actually have no idea what we’re even paying for,” Uhl tweeted with a screenshot of a story from the Nation‘s Dave Lindorff.

The $21 trillion statistic comes from Lindorff. He interviewed Mark Skidmore, an economic professor at Michigan State University, who led a team of graduate students in analyzing Pentagon funding. Poring over Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports on Pentagon records going back to 1998, the team found “that the amounts of money reported as having flowed into and out of the Defense Department were gargantuan, often dwarfing the amounts Congress had appropriated.”

The story did not reveal some magical $21 trillion pot of gold, however. Rather, that number represents a sum of accounting errors. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias wrote, “the $21 trillion figure represents a summation of poorly documented internal transfers, so that the same dollar can be transferred back and forth many times over.” Throughout all of American history, defense spending has never come close to the $21 trillion figure.

The U.S. military is indeed extremely expensive, and the Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein concluded that cutting U.S. military spending back to 2 percent of GDP would free up $3 trillion over a decade. This would come with a serious cost in terms of global peace, however. Perhaps a few programs could be cut, but the U.S. military is the bulwark of a relatively stable and peaceful global order.

The greatest driver of federal debt, however, isn’t the military but entitlements. In 2017, Social Security spending was nearly three times the amount of war spending. Social Security ($939 billion), Medicare ($591 billion), and Medicaid ($375 billion) dwarfed the amount spend on defense overall ($590 billion). Costs for these entitlement programs are increasing at a much faster rate than military spending.

So, not only was Ocasio-Cortez suggesting that Pentagon witchcraft could pay for single-payer health care, a program that would cost $33 trillion in the first ten years, but she ignored the fact that ballooning health programs are already larger than the entire military budget — and increasing at a faster rate.

Entitlements are by far the gravest fiscal threat to America, and Ocasio-Cortez wants to make them even worse. To justify this, she aims to turn an accounting error into a pot of gold. Only a conspiracy theory-prone Democrat could believe in such Pentagon witchcraft, and no amount of financial alchemy will pay for the socialist pipe dream of single-payer health care.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.