Tag Archives: AOC

AOC Explains It–Clearly

As Monica Hesse, a columnist for the Washington Post advised,

If you click on only one thing today, let it be Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Thursday morning speech, delivered from the House floor and directed to a fellow member of Congress, but really to us all.

I echo that advice. You can view the speech here; it’s ten minutes and it is absolutely worth your time.

For those who’ve been in a coma or otherwise out of touch, Ocasio-Cortez (familiarly “AOC”) was responding to an encounter with Rep. Ted Yoho (R. Fla.) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He was angered by a claim she had made during a discussion of crime, linking a spike in criminal behavior to poverty and unemployment; he called her “disgusting,” he said she was “out of [her] freaking mind,” and when the discussion ended, and she walked into the Capitol to cast a vote, Yoho turned to another congressman and said–in a voice loud enough to be heard by the reporters who were clustered at the foot of the steps– “fucking bitch.”

As a report of the incident in The New Yorker noted,  Yoho approaches matters of criminal justice from a decidedly conservative perspective, having recently voted against making lynching a federal hate crime. (He claimed that such a law would be a “regrettable instance of federal overreach”–to the best of my knowledge, he has yet to weigh in on the considerably more significant degree of “overreach” exhibited by sending federal goons to Portland and Chicago…)

The incident received considerable publicity, and Yoho found it prudent to come to the floor of the chamber and make a non-apologetic apology, in which he 

invoked his wife and daughters and said that he objected to Ocasio-Cortez’s views because he had experienced poverty when he was young. “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family, and my country,” he said. It was unclear who had asked him to apologize for his religious faith, his patriotism, or his love of family, but he was ardent all the same.

AOC began her “point of personal privilege” by saying she hadn’t planned to respond at all; as she noted, as someone who has waited tables and ridden the New York subway, the terminology was hardly foreign to her. And (in a passage I particularly applauded) she expressly disdained the pose of a “hurt” woman, a victim. She said she’d decided to respond only after Yoho’s non-apology on the House floor, and her target wasn’t Yoho–it was the cultural misogyny that permits men to behave despicably to women “with impunity.”

She took especial aim at the “pervasive and ludicrous concept that sexist men listing their female family members is an ironclad defense against charges of sexism — as if Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump haven’t had wives and daughters.” As Hesse put it,

Most important, she made it clear that her grievance was not with a profane sentence, but with the story it appeared in — a long history of casual misogyny disguised as “passion” or even, God help us, as patriotism. Rep. Yoho presented his own explosive emotions as righteous, while allegedly casting Ocasio-Cortez as the b—- who made him explode.

It is worth noting that while Ocasio-Cortez lays all of this out, she does so in a tone of voice that never veers above mild irritation. In her floor speech, which totals about 10 minutes, she never raises her voice or resorts to calling names. She is exactly as measured as women are always expected to be, and as men are always assumed to be. And she made it clear that, to her, none of this was personal.

I found AOC’s conclusion especially powerful:

Having daughters is not what makes someone a decent man,” she said. “Treating people with dignity and respect is what makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he does apologize. Not to save face. Not to win a vote. He apologizes, genuinely, to repair and acknowledge the harm done, so that we can all move on.”

I have previously had mixed reactions to AOC; while I respected her intellect and tended to agree with her on policy (not always, but a good deal of the time), I’ve been put off by her disinclination to sit back and learn the ropes before jumping into the spotlight.

That reaction is probably generational, and her response to Yoho has converted me.

Consider me a fan–and watch the video.

 

The “But For” Test

When I was in City Hall, in the late 1970s, the use of tax abatements to lure employers to Indianapolis, or to blighted areas, was relatively new. Back then, applicants for those abatements were expected to demonstrate that “but for” the tax break, they wouldn’t make the move–that the incentive made the difference between an economically viable move and one that otherwise wouldn’t make economic sense.

I recall several quibbles about whether this or that business had actually met the “but for” test.

Over the years, of course, we’ve heard less and less about cities justifying the various incentives being doled out to entice employers, with the result that the whole country sometimes seems engaged in a zero-sum game (after all, when factory A moves from state B to state C, jobs may come to state C, but they’re lost to state B. Total economic activity rarely increases.) Incentives have come to look more and more like bribes; larger enterprises looking to move or expand pit “bidders” against each other to extract the largest concessions.

“Who will pay me the most to come?”

Those of us who have looked askance at the evolution of this competition have long believed that these enterprises would move to locations that made business sense without the incentives/bribes. And now we have evidence.

Remember when AOC and many others blocked the three billion dollars in subsidies that New York offered Amazon? Amazon is moving to New York anyway. Without the subsidies.

“The giant online retailer said it has signed a new lease for 335,000 square feet on the city’s west side in the new Hudson Yards neighborhood, where it will have more than 1,500 employees,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Amazon is taking the space without any of the special tax credits and other inducements the company had been offered to build a new headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, the company said.”

“The new lease represents Amazon’s largest expansion in New York since it stunned the city by abandoning those earlier plans. Amazon pulled back after facing a backlash from some politicians and activists over the roughly $3 billion in financial incentives the city and state had extended to woo the company and the 25,000 new jobs it had pledged to create,” The Journal explained.

Clearly, a New York location made business sense for the company. That being the case, the massive subsidies it extracted during the competitive process were gravy–and taxpayers were supplying that gravy.

The politicians and activists who had blocked the original offer had argued that it was unnecessary. They were clearly correct. There is no way that Amazon could have passed a “but for” test.

The money being spent on these high-profile efforts could be used instead to grow local businesses–why not, for example, create a fund that would finance promising mom-and-pop startups that can’t get conventional financing? Or use that money to make local retail districts more attractive and accessible?

Bribing employers to relocate is not “economic development”–and as Amazon has just demonstrated, it’s usually not necessary.