If this sounds familiar, get ready — it’ll get a lot more familiar over the next two years. After Allahpundit’s excellent takedown yesterday of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ latest inexplicable explanation of Medicare for All, Washington Post fact-checker Salvador Rizzo decided to take a whack at the wackiness as well. Just to recall the problem, here’s the face of the progressive movement’s reasoning for calling Medicare for All’s costs reasonable:
$21 TRILLION of Pentagon financial transactions “could not be traced, documented, or explained.”
$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. https://t.co/soT6GSmDSG
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 2, 2018
Rizzo manages to cover all of the basic math and research issues Ocasio-Cortez made in completely misunderstanding The Nation’s actual point. He then delivers a coup de grace to Medicare for All:
Let’s put $21 trillion in context. The entire national debt is $21.8 trillion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, total defense spending from 1998 to 2015 was nearly $9 trillion. The CBO estimates $7 trillion in defense spending from 2019 to 2028.
In other words, completely defunding the military for the next decade would yield only one-fifth of $32 trillion. That’s a much better way of illustrating the cost of Medicare-for-All.
Ya think? An even better way of putting it: we’d have to eliminate five entire Department of Defenses to cover the projected cost of Medicare for All over its first decade — and the costs escalate from there. That’s how insane these costs would be if Ocasio-Cortez and her progressive followers managed to impose such a system in the US.
Rizzo explains why this necessitates the full four Pinocchios, although it’s hardly necessary:
Ocasio-Cortez is not the first Twitter user to mangle information from a news report. But it’s unconvincing to try to pass this off as a rhetorical point being misread. She cited the $21 trillion figure and said “66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon.”
That’s a direct comparison. It’s badly flawed. The same article she referenced on Twitter would have set her straight. The tweet is still up, probably causing confusion. So we will award Four Pinocchios to Ocasio-Cortez.
The tweet is still up, despite the avalanche of criticism and the multiple occasions of debunking that Ocasio-Cortez has endured over it. The reaction to her claim should have shamed her into retracting and deleting both the tweet and the argument.
However, this episode demonstrates an uncomfortable fact of public life that has been expanding for quite a long time. At least politically, we have moved into a post-fact world. Some will point to Donald Trump as the main driver, and while he’s certainly a contributor, he’s hardly the starting point. Perhaps it began with Vietnam or Watergate; possibly one could point to Iran-Contra and have some justification. What seems undeniable is that we had begun moving in that direction by the time Monica’s blue dress emerged and suddenly presidential perjury was deemed not a big deal, and we had fully embraced it by the time we heard that a video was the cause of our woefully undersecured and abandoned consulate in Benghazi being sacked. Hillary Clinton ran just as shamelessly as Trump did in 2016, refusing to tell the truth about her own abuses of power.
Ocasio-Cortez will keep fact-checkers busy with her ignorance on math, budgets, and policy, but she won’t be the only one. We’ve incentivized shameless prevarication, and the only ones who will benefit from it are the demagogues and the fact-checkers who may or may not bother to unwind their lies. Kudos to Rizzo for aggressively checking Ocasio-Cortez in this instance, but until we care about honesty in political debate, we’re gonna send a lot more Ocasio-Cortezes his way while they talk us into disastrous policies — like Medicare for All.
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