Compassionate myopia; The platform of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t see past its own empathy.

Compassionate myopia; The platform of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t see past its own empathy.

June 29, 2018 0 Comments

The recent upset in New York in the Democratic primary of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Joe Crowley seems to be a confluence of several factors. She outworked him on the ground, he is a white man, which is now a liability in the current democratic environment, he also represents the establishment, which places him at odds with the current populist movement that Trump capitalized on, which is having appeal across party lines given the current state of inequality and other factors. This is about none of that. This is about her platform. Her platform is completely untenable if executed. I contend that it is impossible to have open borders and a highly-socialized welfare state without massive population growth and explosive budgets and extremely high tax rates.

I prefer to contend with “steel man” version of arguments instead of straw man. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the term, I will explain. To “steel man” an argument is to take on an argument in its strongest form. It is the opposite of the “straw man” fallacy which sets up a weak version of an opponent’s argument and then take that down.

I will do this in several ways, I will assume immigrants are well meaning and come here to have a better life and not commit to crimes or victimize Americans. I will conservatively underestimate the Latin American population. I will assume continued growth of the United States economy. I will assume no terror attacks or foreign wars. I will also not bring up the failures of socialism in the past.  I will also assume her “guaranteed jobs” means even if people have been fired for legitimate purposes from another “guaranteed job”, they will go find another one (but you do see how this could potentially be exploited by just not showing up over and over and getting another “guaranteed job” without doing anything right?) I will also assume immigrants commit felonies at the same rate at U.S. citizens. I will also assume she doesn’t not support ANY other immigration measures than the ones she formally mentions.  I will also assume these immigrants will assimilate and adopt American values like the first amendment, and respect equality like women’s rights and gay rights. If I can explode her platform without mentioning any of those things I will have made my point, right?

I mentioned Ocasio-Cortez specifically only because her ideas are becoming more widely held among the democratic party. They are basically the Bernie Sanders platform, and as everyone knows he had broad appeal with young voters. I think it is fair to say that many younger democrats hold these views which means the future of the democratic party are these views. So, given her recent win, I will address her platform specifically as example of my above thesis more broadly.  

 Here is her Platform

  1. Medicare for all – medicine, vision, dental, mental healthcare.
  2. Universal jobs guarantee- serve our communities with living wages at $15 an hour
  3. Fully funded public schools and universities – taxing wall street to support tuition-free public universities and trade schools
  4. Paid family & sick leave
  5. Housing as a human right
  6. Justice system reform
  7. Immigration justice- protect DREAMers and TPS recipients, simplify the paths to citizenship and abolish ICE
  8. Infrastructure overhaul- invest in 100% renewable green industry
  9. Clean campaign finance – ending the corrupting influence of corporate finance in public elections
  10. An economy of peace – the supports our veterans and actively values all humanity.

She has other views on her website, but these are the main things she campaigned on as they are what are used on her flyers. as seen here 

ocasio platform

So let’s go through them. Many of them you could just call democratic socialist, which in this case, I will use the definition of "democratically elected representatives voting for the expansion of government to provide services and financing for citizens that elected them”. I will not judge whether these things are good or bad, but I will show which policies she has that are socialist and how they qualify.  Disclaimer: If you can obviously see her policies are democratic socialist, then skip the bulleted list.

  1. Medicare for all - this policy expands healthcare to single payer system, for which that payer would be the federal government. This one obviously qualifies and if you don’t know that Medicare for all is a facet of democratic socialism, then you need to do some more basic reading and then come back to this.
  2. Universal jobs guarantee - Ocasio advocates for a guaranteed job from the federal government in areas such as “park services, childcare, and environmental conservation” (a quote from her website) at the rate of 15 dollars an hour. A system where the government provides jobs for everyone, even if the market hasn’t determined this job is necessary is, by definition, socialist. The government has taken money from someone through taxes and given it to someone through a centrally planned job that has been provided by the government even if the market doesn’t value it at 15 dollars an hour. It is a centrally planned redistribution of wealth, that disregards the market, hence socialist.
  3. Fully funded public schools - The same reasoning that applies to universal jobs applies to universal schooling. Ocasio would pay for this through taxes on Wall Street.
  4. Paid family & sick leave - This is technically socialist, even though an argument could be made that it is capitalist because organizations could use it as an incentive to recruit talent. On a basic technical level, though; it is forcing companies to pay workers for things the market doesn’t value, which is technically redistribution
  5. Housing as a human right - This is classic redistribution, the government artificially manipulates the market to either lower the prices of housing so everyone can afford them or gives everyone enough money to afford rent, this is technically socialist because it is central planned control of the housing market and/or redistribution of wealth so people can afford housing.
  6. Justice system reform, end private prisons - This is technically a socialist policy, because not allowing private companies to provide incarceration services and removes market incentives to lower costs for the services. This isn’t a huge part of our discussion today however because it doesn’t provide incentive to move somewhere.
  7. Immigration justice - this isn’t a socialist policy, but it is an important part of our argument today, so we will put this aside for now and address it later.
  8. Infrastructure overhaul - Ocasio advocates for a “Green New Deal”. This is a combination of Roosevelt's new deal and green energy. Roosevelt's new deal was a socialist set of policies, because it was basically the federal government spending money on things it has centrally planned without regards to the market. An example of this is the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority, which was a southern building project to provide electric power to Appalachia). Ocasio wants a new set of policies that have a centrally planned authority prioritizing projects based on their effect on the environment and spending tax (i.e. redistributed) money accordingly, this is socialist.
  9. Clean campaign finance reform - This is not technically a socialist argument, even though an argument could be made on that it might qualify, but this isn’t a large part of our discussion so I will move on.
  10. An economy of peace - there isn’t much on her website about this, but this isn’t much motivation to move anywhere so we can move past this one as well.

Of her main ten platform positions, half of them are socialist. So Medicare for all, universal jobs, fully funded universities, universal housing, and infrastructure overhaul are her five main socialist policies.

If you were skipping ahead, here is where to jump back in. So I don’t want or need to go through each of the five points and debunk each one. if you want that I would suggest PragerU or the Ayn Rand institute, Yaron Brooks specifically. A case can be made for democratic socialism, but generally it is more likely to succeed in smaller groups that are generally homogenous, but democratic socialism vs. libertarianism is a huge debate with entire volumes written on the topic, so I shall bypass it here.

 It is actually much simpler to defeat her platform, because her democratic socialism is accompanied by something that is wholly incompatible with it, open borders. Now since I am arguing against a “steel man” version of her platform I want to clarify how I am using the term open borders as it relates to her platform. Many people have this vision of open borders with a blinking neon “open” sign at the border welcoming people to come in. This is not how she phrases her policy, obviously, so I will use quotes from her content.  She wants to “protect DREAMers and TPS recipients, simplify the paths to citizenship and abolish ICE”. So let’s do some quick definitions.

  1. The Dream act allows people to become permanent residents if they have been here for four years, were first brought here under 18 years of age, aren’t a criminal and have fulfilled certain educational requirements (i.e. finished high school or is finishing high school).
  2. TPS (temporary protected status) recipients are people that are were escaping the following countries; El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen. You don’t technically have to be a citizen of those countries, but you had to “last habitually reside in the designated countries”.
  3. Ocasio doesn’t clarify her position on “simplify the paths to citizenship” but she does mention “protect the rights of families to stay together” on her website.
  4. Abolish ICE, Ocasio wishes to return to immigration enforcement under the INS, which managed immigration prior to ICE being established as part of The Patriot Act in 2003. You can see a graph about INS vs ICE here, just look at before 2003 and then afterwards. 

deportations

Now taken separately these policies might not constitute open borders, but in their totality they do. This would allow anyone with a kid in school to remain here because we can’t separate families and the DREAMers can stay. It would allow anyone who is or who can claim to be from one of those states to stay here. It would also provide a simple path to citizenship for the people that would be here, and it would return deportations to Pre-ICE levels, which I will address shortly, but it would basically remove much of the enforcement of our immigration laws. This basically means once you are here, if you can have a kid you can stay, if you can claim to be from one of these wartorn countries you can stay, and basically even if you are here illegally you can stay, because we don’t have very much enforcement anymore.

Let’s talk numbers. After all, maybe it’s a small number of dreamers? Maybe those countries aren’t that big and we can handle an influx of people? Maybe INS was deporting more people than we think?

 The number of DREAMers According to the Migration Policy Institute is roughly 3.6 million, this is different than the number of highly publicized “DACA” recipients that you might have heard of, which is roughly 800,000. If you say perhaps they are here with one or more parent(s) who are undocumented, because that’s what DREAMers are, (kids here with undocumented parents) that number rises to somewhere between 7.2 to 10.8 million people. So her since her platform doesn’t separate families everyone can stay and we have added somewhere between 7 and 10 million people in roughly the last 18 years because if they are over 18 they aren’t DREAMers anymore.

Now on to the TPS protected countries. The combined population of those protected countries is roughly 172 million people, now obviously not all of them are going to come here, but once they hear that there are guaranteed jobs, free education, free healthcare, and a free guaranteed place to live that I assume might be of a higher quality than say Somalia or Sudan or Haiti that many, many more residents of TPS countries would want to come. Let’s be conservative and say that 10% of these people migrate to the US in hope of housing, healthcare, education, and jobs. That’s 17.2 million people and let’s say that is over 18 years as well as the DREAMers, just to steel man the argument and underestimate the number. Once they do arrive they can start a family to make sure they have permanent status and a clear path to citizenship, so they are pretty much here to stay.

So about abolishing ICE, before ICE the numbers of deportations per year were averaging around 75k per year for the previous 15 years leading up to ICE's beginning, since ICE's founding the numbers are closer to 300k per year. INS general practice was deporting immigrants convicted of a felony. We want to go back to that right? Time again for some math. 8.6% of the U.S. population has a felony, so let’s assume that 8.6% of these immigrants commit a felony. That’s roughly 120,000 felonies per year by this group of people, an expansion of INS would be necessary to deport that make people. Would an expansion of INS just turn it into another version of ICE? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Ok so we have established that she wants a vastly more expanded welfare state to take care of citizens. We have established that basically if you are able to come here and claim you are escaping one of the protected status countries you can come and stay. We have established if you are able to sneak in and remain here long enough to have a kid you can stay.  We have established you can pretty much come here and stay if you want. We have estimated that the population would grow by conservatively 25 million people every 18 years under her plan.

Before this we have been using facts, definitions and some reasonable extrapolation, well-meaning individuals can disagree on the extrapolation but the facts that we extrapolate from and the definitions are all sourced and very easy to find in a few reasonable searches from reliable sources. This is where the argument comes in. This is where we use reason to see where this is going. I think it is fairly obvious to see where it is going, but if it isn’t I will say it out loud. America has a much higher per capita income than any other country in the western hemisphere other than Bermuda and Saint Martin. With this expanded welfare state of free jobs, and housing, and healthcare and education, you would have an almost irresistible draw to come here from poorer nations, especially given the fact that if you can sneak in or trick your way in, or even legitimately are one of the 172 million people from the countries mentioned earlier then you can come here. There are roughly 640 million people in Latin America, all that now will feel a huge draw to America because if you get there you can have free housing and free jobs, free education, and free healthcare. It can’t be that hard to sneak in, because 3.6 million DREAMers all got there somehow, either they or a parent snuck in, then so can many others. This dynamic creates unprecedented incentive to come here, and almost no limits on who can.

 The obvious question emerges, how do we pay for all this? How do we avoid overcrowding our cities? We already have a huge deficit, and many major cities have a housing crisis. There is a massive shift from rural living to urban living already happening that is only set to continue. Should we try to steer the immigrants to Detroit to repopulate it? What if they decide they like LA with its 3-hour commute times or San Francisco with its housing prices? Should we give them the freedom to select which cities they live in once they get here. The answer is of course we should, but how, without exacerbating already seemingly insurmountable infrastructure issues. Are we ready for a vast and rapid expansion of our population? Even if we claim to be emotionally ready, the amount of zoning legislation and regulation in cities would suggest otherwise. There doesn't seem to be an administrative lever available to rezone multiple cities at once to accept vast numbers of new people, and even if one was created what unintended consequences would it bring?

This policy doesn't seem to be sustainable over a long term, and you could say, well when we reach “capacity” we will cut it off, but that means that a policy that won’t be right in the future is right now. And I believe something is right or wrong, yes timing can have an effect, but if it won’t work in the future it won’t work now.

While these policies come from a place of good intentions, and while they might be a short term salve attempting to solve systemic problems, where they lead is somewhere completely untenable. To paraphrase Milton Freidman, You can have a welfare state or you can have open borders, but you can’t have both.

 Sincerely, 

A Well Meaning Individual of Freespeechland.




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