Never one to let consistency be the hobgoblin of her little mind, New York congresscritter Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to have done a 180 on the moral worth of billionaires.
Yesterday AOC noted on Twitter that “Every Morehouse Class of 2019 student is getting their student debt load paid off by their commencement speaker.” For this kind of generosity, you’d think she could at least say his name: Robert F. Smith. Last year, according to Forbes, Smith became the richest African-American, surpassing Oprah. He made his money — about five billion dollars worth of it — in high-tech finance and private equity. Yesterday he added a new accolade to an already impressive list, by pledging to pay off the student loans of every 2019 Morehouse grad. AOC called it “the start of what’s known in Econ as a ‘natural experiment.’ Follow these students & compare their life choices w their peers over the next 10-15 years.”
Indeed. Let’s do that. While we’re at it, maybe we should take a look at how college got so expensive in the first place. (Hint: Government tried to help make college more affordable, and unintended consequences ensued. Put government in charge of the Sahara desert, Milton Friedman noted, and you’ll end up with a shortage of sand.)
That aside, AOC cheering the charitable efforts of someone who made their money in finance doesn’t quite seem to square with something she said just a few months ago.
This is from a Splinter write-up of her January interview with progressive writer and activist Ta-Nehisi Coates:
“The question of marginal tax rates is a policy question but it’s also a moral question,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “What kind of society do we want to live in? Are we comfortable with a society where someone can have a personal helipad while this city is experiencing the highest levels of poverty and homelessness since the Great Depression?”
Cutting right to the point, Coates asked if it’s possible to live in a moral society that includes billionaires.
“No, it’s not,” she responded. “I’m not saying that Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral, but a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.”
She went on to list other moral travesties that can be traced to economic inequality.
Travesties like wiping the slate for 400 Morehouse grads? Or a long career of sparking innovation and jobs creation? Or generating significant financial returns to people’s retirement funds?
Perhaps the juiciest quote from that interview was this: “I’m not saying that Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral, but a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.”
Maybe I’m just too All-American, but a system which allowed a young demagogue-in-training like Ocasio-Cortez to decide who gets to exist would be the real moral travesty.