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Tue, June 18

Manieri: Guess who’s the socialist

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won her bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in New York's 14th Congressional District, at the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics at Harvard University, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Charles Krupa/AP, file)

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won her bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in New York's 14th Congressional District, at the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics at Harvard University, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Charles Krupa/AP, file)

Let’s play a game. I made it up over the holidays.

I like to call it, “Name that Socialist.”

Let’s begin.

Who said this?

“Capitalism has not always existed in the world, and it will not always exist in the world. When this country started, we were not a capitalist [nation], we did not operate on a capitalist economy.”

Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, whose wealth and land redistribution policies and nationalizing of banks and industry sent Russia on an eight-decade death march would be a good guess. Incorrect, however.

Maybe it was Leon Trotsky, the Marxist revolutionary who once said, “Terror is a powerful means of policy.” Wrong again.

The capitalism quote above was uttered by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described Democratic Socialist whom liberal media outlets are celebrating as the left’s answer to Donald Trump.

“In a multiracial, multiethnic district with a large immigrant population, she made the fight against Trump-administration policies central to her campaigning, which highlighted a call for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE),” wrote The Nation in June, following her surprising, upset victory in New York’s 14th congressional district. “Ocasio-Cortez championed a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health-care system, declared that housing is a right, and called for sweeping criminal-justice reform,” The Nation gushed.

More recently, Ocasio-Cortez appeared on “60 Minutes” and doubled down on some of her other ideas, such as free tuition at all public universities and the elimination of all fossil fuels in the U.S. in 12 years.

“It’s ambitious,” she told Anderson Cooper, who followed by asking the freshman congresswoman how she planned to pay for all of her giveaways.

“No one asked how we paid for a $2 trillion tax cut,” she responded.

That answer is code for, “I really have no earthly idea how we’re going to pay for it.”

Well, maybe that’s not fair. She did pull the leftist playbook off the shelf and blew the dust off the page to reveal the chapter title that reads, “How to Fund a Freefall into Mediocrity: Vilify the Wealthy.”

She wants to tax top earners at a 70 percent clip.

But don’t worry. She assures the American people that her version of socialism isn’t the scary kind, such as the Soviet or Cuban varieties. Her particular brand of economic redistribution will “resemble what we see in the UK, in Norway, in Finland, in Sweden.”

I don’t know about you but that doesn’t give me a whole lot of comfort.

One of the problems with socialists — from Karl Marx to Fidel Castro -- is that each of them believed that his version was the right one. You don’t have to be a historian to know that socialism didn’t work out so well for Russian or Cuban people, and neither will the somewhat sanitized iteration Ocasio-Cortez is selling. It especially won’t work in a country founded on the precepts of individual liberty and self-government, assuming there are still enough of us interested in such things.

First of all, there aren’t enough wealthy people to tax to pay for the Ocasio-Cortez agenda, unless she’s willing to constantly adjust the criteria for “wealthy” which, of course, she would have to do to fund her programs.

It’s absurd to think you can tax only billionaires and millionaires to give every American free health care, tuition, housing and, at the same time, eliminate the use of all fossil fuels to finance “green” energy.

In an analysis for National Review, economist Brian Riedl writes that there would be no way to raise enough tax revenue for Ocasio-Cortez’s green-energy and other initiatives without eventually taking it from the middle class. Riedl begins his breakdown by assuming, just for sake of argument, a 100 percent tax rate on all income over $1 million.

“Analysis of IRS data shows that this would raise 3.8 percent of GDP — not even enough to balance the current budget, much less finance a Green New Deal,” he writes.

The reason, Riedl points out, that we haven’t seen any specifics on how to pay for such phantasmagoric spending proposals is because it’s a lot easier to campaign on “taxing the rich.”

“Acknowledging this brutal middle-class burden would immediately end any public flirtation with ‘free-lunch socialism,’” writes Riedl.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Ocasio-Cortez said she embraces the term “radical.”

“The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and well-being — is what I wish for all.”

Who said this? Here’s a hint: It wasn’t Ocasio-Cortez. It was Fidel Castro. The same Castro who jailed and executed political opponents, confiscated private property and abolished a free press. But hey, everyone had “free” health care.

For socialists, the end always justifies the means.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at manieri2@gmail.com.

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