Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claimed that two-thirds of the 10-year cost of Medicare For All could be covered with the money that was not properly documented by the Pentagon — but an expert in the field begged to differ.

Citing a report from The Nation that alleged $21 trillion in discrepancies in the Pentagons accounting, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “$21 TRILLION of Pentagon financial transactions could not be traced, documented, or explained.” She then suggested that the “undocumented” funds could have covered two-thirds of the cost of her proposed Medicare expansion.

$21 TRILLION of Pentagon financial transactions “could not be traced, documented, or explained.”

$21T in Pentagon accounting errors. Medicare for All costs ~$32T.

That means 66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon.

And thats before our premiums.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 2, 2018

Democratic Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York talks with reporters as she arrives for a class photo with incoming newly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

But according to Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Brian Riedl — whose credentials include over a decade at the Heritage Foundation and six years as chief economist for Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman — Ocasio-Cortezs math isnt just sketchy: its downright impossible. (RELATED: Report Seems To Undermine Ocasio Cortez Claim To Not Be Able To Afford D.C. Apartment)

Wow. You claim $21 Trillion in Pentagon Waste? The entire Pentagon budget from 1789-2018 has totaled $18 trillion,

Come on, This is embarrassing.

— Brian Riedl (@Brian_Riedl) December 2, 2018

What both The Nation and Ocasio-Cortez failed to acknowledge is the fact that the alleged “accounting errors” may not have all been one-way (i.e. they could have been mistakes in documenting either incoming or outgoing funds. Or both). Riedl also noted that each dollar could have been “counted” multiple times.

For those wondering:
In the original study, $21 trillion refers to transfers back-and-forth between accounts. So the same $1 can be counted 1000s of times. It *does not* mean that $21 trillion in total spending was mis-spent.

AOC should have realized $21T *spent* is crazy.

— Brian Riedl (@Brian_Riedl) December 3, 2018

Or they could have been reported amounts that “do not reflect the Pentagons actual spending behavior.”

This is a wild misinterpretation of the Nation article. A key point of the article is these reported amounts do not reflect the Pentagons actual spending behavior.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) December 2, 2018

Further, Ocasio-Cortez gave no consideration to the possibility that a failure to properly document the transaction was not proof positive that the transaction was unnecessary.

Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis summed it up in just three words: “Very bad math.”

Very bad math.

— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) December 2, 2018

Not to mention the fact the national debt only reached $21T in 2018. Using Ocasio-Cortezs math, one could argue that the nations debt is entirely attributable to the Pentagons inability to keep proper records.

This is not the first time Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a “solution” that suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. Just one week earlier, the Congresswoman-elect had suggested that sending 5,000 caseworkers to the border, where migrants were throwing rocks and bottles at Border Patrol officers, we could eliminate the need for troops.

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