Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex was roundly criticized on social media yesterday for supposedly botching a question about Israeli-Palestine relations during an interview with Firing Line’s Margaret Hoover.
But Ocasio-Cortez’s admission that she was “no expert on geopolitics” was much more satisfactory than her answer to a question about the unemployment rate, which she claimed was low merely “because everyone has two jobs.”
This is wrong for two reasons. First, people working multiple jobs has no distorting effect on the unemployment rate, which is calculated by taking the number of unemployed people and dividing it by the number of people in the labor force. The raw number of jobs being worked by Americans has no bearing on these numbers.
Second, everyone does not have two jobs. As Bloomberg View’s Noah Smith points out, only about 5 percent of workers are moonlighting. This rate has actually dropped slightly over the last three decades.
Ocasio-Cortez continued: “Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and can barely feed their kids.” Again, the number of overtime hours Americans are working has no impact on the unemployment rate.
Ocasio-Cortez blames profit-seeking “no-holds-barred capitalism” for the conditions in which people struggle to feed their kids. Hunger and poverty are indeed problems faced by millions of Americans—14 percent of U.S. households experience food insecurity. Under capitalism, though, world poverty has declined precipitously. Over the past few decades, the economic growth that global trade has brought to developing economies has helped lift a billion people out of poverty. Between 2001 and 2011, some 700 million people exited from extreme poverty worldwide.
“Capitalism has not always existed in the world and it will not always exist in the world,” said Ocasio-Cortez. But the scale of human suffering was inarguably greater in the era before capitalism, and would be again in any post-market era, if socialism’s failure rate is any indication.