Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)…wow, like a whirlwind, she went from virtual nobody to Congressional sensation. These days it’s almost impossible to avoid hearing about her. Rightfully so, her story is a pretty amazing one. I won’t rehash that story, but she does have some bold economic views so I am going to force my unwanted opinions on you regarding that topic.
AOC is a Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders. I’ll be honest – I don’t tend to like extremists on either end. I spend a lot of time trying to disabuse people of Ayn Randian type Conservative extremism and also BernieBro (pseuedo) Socialist extremism. The world doesn’t exist on the extremes and like it or not, the other side probably has more right than we’re willing to admit so I’ve never felt comfortable taking a hardline extremist stance on things.¹
So what’s my view on AOC? In short, I think AOC is a net positive with some potentially big risks. I’ll tell you why.
Pros – What I Like About AOC
Authenticity. First, I find AOC to be unusually authentic. This is her strongest attribute. She cares about working class people in a way that is unusually genuine. And in a Congress that comes across as generally disingenuous (you know what I mean if you watched Trump, Pelosi and Schumer last week) that’s a breath of fresh air.
Big Thinking. Second, I think AOC is ambitious and pushing the envelope of policy in a progressively productive manner. She’s challenging the traditional notion that we can’t “afford” certain things and she regularly crushes Conservative pundits making these empty economic arguments. I like big, bold thinking. We need leaders who want to put a man on the moon, defeat the Nazis and give a job to all the BernieBros (I kid!). In all seriousness, I like her big bold thinking, though, if she got her way, it could expand the size of the US government in an alarming manner (more on this below).
Diversity. Third, I like the diversity of views she brings to Congress. Some people get worried about having more fringe thinkers in Congress. That’s why the Conservative media is attacking her so much. But I think Congress is better when it’s less homogeneous. I might not agree with the views of Rand Paul or AOC, but Congress is better when it has some members who reflect some of these more Conservative and Liberal factions.
Cons – What I Worry About With AOC
Inexperience. There’s no question that AOC’s biggest weakness is her inexperience. This can change with time, but it will remain a risk and worry for the foreseeable future.
Socialism? AOC aligns herself with the Democratic Socialists, but how Socialist is she? We don’t really know to be honest. There is a bit of a “free lunch” mentality with some of her big bold ideas. She wants free education, free healthcare, jobs for everyone, green energy, etc. These are fine ideas, but she’s apparently endorsed MMT and thinks that this explanation of the monetary system necessarily means there is no “cost” or risk to these programs. This worries me to some degree. MMT is a theory that is, in my view, demonstrably wrong in certain elements and seems to attract people who don’t fully understand it (I know because I made that mistake almost 10 years ago when I first encountered MMT). It’s fine to say the USA can afford big social programs (we can), but it’s naive to endorse a theory that essentially boils down to “we have a printing press, inflation is low, therefore we can afford a huge expansion of government”. AOC has a lot of learning to do here before being taken seriously.
Conclusion – All in all, I like a lot of what AOC brings to the table. Yes, she’s young and inexperienced, but that can change with time. And despite her inexperience her authenticity makes her a net positive in a Congress that strikes me as increasingly disingenuous.
¹ – In the interest of full disclosure, I am a registered Independent, mainly because I have come to hate both political parties in the USA. You could say I am socially Liberal and fiscally Conservative during booms, but fiscally Liberal during busts.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.