“Please watch this. It’s so important. And she’s so gifted at this.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Tuesday compared residents of public housing to helpless children, seemingly belying her “of the people” persona.
During a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Ocasio-Cortez lectured Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson about the condition of public housing in New York City, which she called “horrifying.” She said that Congress was “starving” cities across the country of needed funds, and implied that lawmakers were blaming the victims of their policies.
“You can’t take food away from a child and then not understand why they can’t or don’t eat, and I think that that’s exactly what’s happening with our public housing program,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez then took the bold action of submitting a New York Times article about the problem to the Congressional Record.
Carson, maintaining his preternatural calm, indicated he was cool with whatever.
Left-wing activists and media didn’t seem to mind Ocasio-Cortez’s poor people-children metaphor. In fact, they celebrated her performance in text and tweet.
Commentator Shaun King called Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning of Carson “5 of the smartest, well-formulated minutes I’ve ever heard from an elected official on the nexus of the War on Drugs, Mass Incarceration, and Public Housing.”
“Please watch this. It’s so important. And she’s so gifted at this,” he gushed, earning a retweet from the congresswoman.
These 5 minutes from @aoc are 5 of the smartest, well-formulated minutes I’ve ever heard from an elected official on the nexus of the War on Drugs, Mass Incarceration, and Public Housing.
Please watch this. It’s so important. And she’s so gifted at this. https://t.co/vvdgbJPWKm
— Shaun King (@shaunking) May 21, 2019
Justice Democrats, the progressive PAC that helped get Ocasio-Cortez, elected, singled out her line about the poor for praise.
“You can’t take food away from a child and then not understand why they can’t or don’t eat, and I think that that’s exactly what’s happening with our public housing program.” –@AOC pic.twitter.com/ecjfLGE5Fj
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) May 21, 2019
Housing is among the “human rights” that Ocasio-Cortez has argued the United States must guarantee. She and other left-wing Democrats have also demanded universal health care, work and post-secondary education.
Even some on the populist right have begun expressing openness to such demands.
However, Americans have traditionally valued personal responsibility and chaffed at policies that seem paternalistic. So, Ocasio-Cortez’s explicit infantilization of the poor is unlikely to win many new converts to her democratic socialist cause.
Meanwhile, Democrats have also moved toward a relatively radical position pro-immigration stance, which if implemented would put further strain on the welfare state.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Democratic lawmakers repeatedly pressed Carson on the Trump administration’s plan to bar mixed-immigration-status families from receiving federal housing benefits.
The HUD secretary at one point roused himself enough to point out that millions of U.S. citizens are on waiting lists for government-subsidizing housing.
“It seems only logical that tax-paying American citizens should be taken care of first,” Carson said. “It’s not that we’re cruel, mean-hearted. It’s that we are logical. This is common sense. You take care of your own first.”
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questions Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2019.: C-SPAN