In a tweet posted on December 2, rising Democratic Socialist politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called attention to the recently failed audit of The Pentagon. This audit, occurring back in November, revealed a mismanagement of around $21 trillion in Department of Defense assets. As the majority of these funds“could not be traced, documented, or explained.” Ocasio-Cortez proposed a different use for these mismanaged funds. Pushing her political agenda, Ocasio-Cortez claimed that these funds could easily supply“66% of Medicare for all”, the universal healthcare plan called for by Senator Bernie Sanders. It is passionate calls like these that have brought Ocasio-Cortez to the spotlight. It’s bold. It’s powerful. More importantly, however, it isn’t true. Shortly after this tweet went viral, Washington Post fact checker Salvador Rizzo delved beyond the surface of this claim and noted a few facts the representative missed. The basis for the proposed amount originates from economics professor Mark Skidmore’s study of Pentagon transaction reports between 1998 and 2015. This study revealed that many of the untraceable transactions lacked proper documentation or were not linked to specific transactions leading to speculation of mismanagement. However, this study also noted that these transactions showed “in both the positive and the negative sides of the ledger, thus potentially netting each other out.”Essentially, these 21 trillion dollars are not piles of liquid assets that have been squirreled away; rather, they are poorly managed bookkeeping mistakes that have been blown out of proportion. Ultimately, Rizzo rated Ocasio-Cortez’s claim with a 4 Pinocchio rating(the highest rating the Post gives). Hasty arguments and falsehoods are nothing new in the world of politics. Both sides and some news organizations are guilty of this flaw, but the greater problem is Ocasio-Cortez’s defense of this statement. Following this tweet, Ocasio-Cortez appeared in a 60-minute interview with Anderson Cooper to discuss her recent rise to fame. Confronted by Cooper about the fact check she received from the Washington Post, Ocasio- Cortez responded with the following: “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precise, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”In an age of Russian manipulation scandals, tweeting presidents and fake news, this minimization of factual evidence in politics stands out as a particularly problematic stance for a politician to take. Following this defense, Ocasio- Cortez tackled the issue of president Trump’s multiple false statements claiming “it’s not the same thing as–as the president lying about immigrants. It’s not the same thing at all.”
This flims why justification through the use of false equivalence places the political future of our country on a slippery slope. Are we to entrust policy to the moral fluidity of the elected few? We the American people need to demand a better class of truth then the one we have seen in recent years. Do not stand for anything less than factual truth.