American History as Told by AOC

The latest brainstorm from the New York freshman: The New Deal was racist.

But SXSW’s 2019 rock star was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who filled 3,200 seats in the Convention Center Saturday. Notably, the Green New Deal advocate didn’t arrive in a Prius or on one of the ubiquitous scooters that clog Austin’s streets during the festival. She came instead in a gas-guzzling SUV.

.. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez dealt at length with America’s pervasive racism, declaring, “The effort to divide race and class has always been a tool of the powerful to prevent everyday working people from taking control of the government.” America’s leaders also helped “racial resentment to become legitimized as a political tool.”She and Ms. Gray agreed that Mr. Trump is a racist, of course. But so was President Reagan, who in 1976 criticized a Chicago woman for bilking the welfare system for $150,000 a year. That attack was “rooted in racism,” according to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, even though the woman in question was white.

Even more astonishing, the New York freshman representative declared Franklin D. Roosevelt a bigot, saying “the New Deal was an extremely economically racist policy that drew literal red lines around black and brown communities and basically it invested in white America.”

According to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, the New Deal “allowed white Americans to have access to home loans that black and brown Americans did not have access to.” By doing so, it “accelerated . . . a really horrific racial wealth gap that persists today.” Yet studies show that FDR’s Home Owners’ Loan Corp. did not discriminate against African-Americans, and the gap between black and white homeownership remained around 20% from 1900 to 1990, though ownership levels increased for both groups.

This attack on FDR exhibited another theme of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s appearance—the ubiquity of conspiracy. Just as FDR’s New Deal secretly discriminated against “black and brown Americans,” dangerous forces are subverting our country today.

For example, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd America’s “norms and systems and electoral system” are “dominated by special interests and dark money and rules of seniority.” Because the rich have “taken away all the guardrails of a responsible society,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, “it doesn’t feel good to live in America today.”

Furthermore, “We should be scared right now because corporations have taken over our government.” Nor do these businesses want to help themselves and the community; under capitalism, “we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else and we seek it at any human and environmental cost.”

Our economic system is also “based on scarcity,” which corporations have made “artificial.” So “we are driven to work 80 hours a week when we are being the most productive at any point in American history.” If the profits weren’t “skimmed off and given to a billionaire,” we would “be working the least amount we’ve ever worked”—Marx’s promise of old. The crowd applauded as she excoriated the 540 American billionaires who stole our money.

Taking Down The Elites At Davos And Fox News

After causing a stir at Davos for demanding the world’s richest people pay more taxes, Rutger Bregman, journalist and author of Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World (Little, Brown and Company 2017), was invited on Fox News to bash the liberal elite. Instead he came for Fox host Tucker Carlson, suggesting that he too was a pawn of the billionaire class. He explains why, when it comes to addressing global income inequality, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” don’t have much value.

“Since the early 90s, the vast majority of Americans have been in favor of higher taxes for the rich… these are mainstream ideas and positions, but if you watch Fox News it seems like it’s a crazy, lunatic idea,” says @rcbregman.
“Donald Trump, who doesn’t want to show his own tax returns, and who knows how many billions he has hidden away in the Cayman Islands… he was brought into power by this propaganda channel, Fox News,” says @rcbregman.
“It’s a very American idea…. If you want to make capitalism work, you got to ensure competition. If companies become too big, like it’s clearly the case with Amazon right now, you break them up, that’s what you do if you have a proper capitalist economy,” says @rcbregman.

Donald Trump’s Phony America

There are several kinds of success stories. We emphasize the ones starring brilliant inventors and earnest toilers. We celebrate sweat and stamina. We downplay the schemers, the short cuts and the subterfuge. But for every ambitious person who has the goods and is prepared to pay his or her dues, there’s another who doesn’t and is content to play the con. In the Trump era and the Trump orbit, these ambassadors of a darker side of the American dream have come to the fore.

.. What a con Holmes played with Theranos. For those unfamiliar with the tale, which the journalist John Carreyrou told brilliantly in “Bad Blood,” she dropped out of Stanford at 19 to pursue her Silicon Valley dream, intent on becoming a billionaire and on claiming the same perch in our culture and popular imagination that Steve Jobs did. She modeled her work habits and management style after his. She dressed as he did, in black turtlenecks. She honed a phony voice, deeper than her real one.

She spoke, with immaculate assurance, of a day when it might be on everyone’s bathroom counter: a time saver, a money saver and quite possibly a lifesaver. She sent early, imperfect versions of it to Walgreens pharmacies, which used it and thus doled out erroneous diagnoses to patients. She blocked peer reviews of it and buried evidence of its failures.

This went on not for months but for years, as Holmes attracted more than $900 million of investment money and lured a breathtakingly distinguished board of directors including two former secretaries of state, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger; a former secretary of defense, William Perry; and a future secretary of defense, James Mattis. What they had before them wasn’t proof or even the sturdy promise of revolutionary technology. It was a self-appointed wunderkind who struck a persuasive pose and talked an amazing game.

She was eventually found out, and faces criminal charges that could put her in prison. But there’s no guarantee of that. Meantime she lives in luxury. God bless America.

Theranos was perhaps an outlier in the scope of its deceptions, but not in the deceptions themselves. In an article titled “The Ugly Unethical Underside of Silicon Valley” in Fortune magazine in December 2016, Erin Griffith tallied a list of aborted ventures with more shimmer and swagger than substance, asserting: “As the list of start-up scandals grows, it’s time to ask whether entrepreneurs are taking ‘fake it till you make it’ too far.”

Historian says billionaires should stop talking philanthropy, start talking taxes

Historian and author Rutger Bregman made waves at the World Economic Forum in Davos when he told billionaires in attendance that large marginal tax rates, like those suggested by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), are better for the public good than philanthropy. Bregman joined CBSN to discuss how tax policy could be used to reduce inequality.