To the editor,
A new light shines in the political heavens. Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Representing New York City in the U.S House of Representatives, she calls herself a Democratic Socialist.
The term "socialist" scares people. Yet most of us feel quite comfortable with public high schools, the Post Office, Medicare, Social Security, and the U.S. military. All are examples of socialism.
The real question is how much socialism do we want? AOC values entrepreneurship and free markets. She also values a number of ideas from social democracies in Europe. Consider four of her policy proposals:
■ Medicare for all.
■ Free college tuition.
■ A Green New Deal ending fossil fuel use by 2035. Cosponsored by AOC and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, this bill would be a massive economic stimulus that creates jobs in every city in America. Private enterprise will make it happen if the government will do two things: impose a high tax on fossil fuels and build a new electrical grid.
■ Repeal the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Replace it with a tax code that helps the middle class and weakens the oligarchic power of billionaires.
We can afford these programs if we change our priorities. We can cut defense. We can end corporate and fossil fuel subsidies. We can tax speculative trading in stocks and derivatives. We can tax the top income bracket at 70 percent, as we did in the booming decades after World War II. We might even consider Sen. Elizabeth Warren's idea of taxing wealth as well as income.
Consider also that by reducing inequality, these ideas would spark economic growth, creating more taxpayers and a larger pool of taxable income.
If we will it, we can do it. We can build a system in which all can thrive, a system that is fairer and freer than the current one. To accomplish that, we need to support key government programs and limit the wealth of plutocrats who, since 1980, have expropriated most real income gains while middle class incomes have flatlined.