Commentary

'Time' Writer Spurs Twitter Backlash With AOC Profile

Charlotte Alter, the reporter who profiled Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) for the cover story of this week’s Time magazine, triggered a wave of social-media backlash for a claim about millennials and their affinity for socialism.

A lot of the criticism directed at Alter is unfair, but her acceptance of Ocasio-Cortez’s prescription for more government intervention in the U.S. economy is laughable. The idea that a handful of un-elected Washington bureaucrats should make financial decisions on behalf of hundreds of millions of people is a recipe for waste, corruption and regulatory capture by big businesses that wield the most lobbying power.

Alter triggered Twitter users, including President Trump’s son, Donald Jr., into a frenzy with a tweet to promote her story about Ocasio-Cortez titled, “Change Is Closer Than We Think.”

The Bronx-born congressperson has been a media darling since she unexpectedly beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary to represent New York’s 14th District in June.

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Ocasio-Cortez has proudly identified herself as a democratic socialist in the mold of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.),who vied with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination three years ago. She’s bold, telegenic and also a lightning rod for conservative critics, as Time’s cover says. The story ignores that Ocasio-Cortez is an intellectual lightweight, but when did that stop anyone's political career?

Alter’s tweet noted how she and Ocasio-Cortez were born in the same year and claimed that millennials are embracing democratic socialism because they’ve “never experienced American prosperity.”

The tweet spurred 12,000 comments in its first day, with many people mocking Alter as an out-of-touch, privileged elite. She graduated from Harvard and is the daughter of Newsweek editor and New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Alter and Emily Lazar, former executive producer of "The Colbert Report."

“Dude, what are you talking about? Your parents are famous, you and your siblings obviously benefited from your parents' connections in your careers, and you are from a town with a median family income of $126,983,” tweeted conservative reporter Ashley Rae Goldenberg, whose verified Twitter handle is @Communism_Kills.

Trump Jr. chimed in with a tweet saying Alter is blind to the “greatest economic boom in modern history.”

I don’t think it’s fair to attack Charlotte Alter for her upbringing — she obviously can’t change those circumstances. I’m even willing to bet her parents didn’t bribe the women’s soccer coach to help her gain admission to Harvard. That’s so Yale.

As for Trump Jr.’s claim about the biggest boom in history, he’s in a parallel reality that doesn’t consider productivity or adjustments for inflation. Or he’s just in a parallel reality.

Millennials came of age during the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. It is worrisome that many younger adults are delaying marriage, home-buying and other rites of adulthood because of crushing student debt. But it’s also hard to generalize about America’s biggest demographic group.

Every generation has its economic anxieties and demagogues who make promises of relief.

As a Gen Xer, I remember when the preceding generation of baby boomers mocked us for being lazy slackers who rejected their conspicuous consumption while we whined about our low-paying jobs that barely covered the cost of Lollapalooza tickets. "I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me?" as Beck sang.

Yep, those were the days, when the 1990s started with a brief recession and massive debt hangover from the roaring Reagan-era 1980s. It was also the Alan Greenspan era at the Federal Reserve, when the central bank set a precedent of flooding capital markets with money at even the slightest hint of a bear market.

Its loose-money ways fed a huge speculative bubble in stocks, especially any cash-burning company with “dot-com” in its name. That crashed, the Fed printed money again and looked away as banks and non-bank lenders let almost anyone with a pulse take out a mortgage.

If democratic socialism is in America’s future, the Fed will need to finance the massive expansion in government outlays that taxes won’t come anywhere close to covering. A nightmare scenario of hyperinflation, price caps and product shortages may also ensue, if history is any guide.

Having lived as an illegal immigrant in a former communist country, I wouldn’t recommend socialism. I moved to Eastern Europe to help start a business newspaper in the early 1990s, and the experience transformed my thinking dramatically.

At that time, younger Hungarians were ready to throw off the shackles of a command economy that evoked the embittered mantra, “We’ll pretend to work, if you pretend to pay us.”

Under the communist regime, Hungary also had strong border security, except that it was directed inward to keep people from escaping. When the electrified fence was removed, many Hungarians expressed their newfound freedom in a way that most Americans would consider ridiculously mundane: crossing the border to buy a washing machine. Welcome to the revolution.

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