Criticize Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Her Socialist Views, Not Her Struggle to Find Affordable Housing in D.C.

This problem should inspire sympathy, not scorn.



A New York Times profile of newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted that the young democratic socialist was having some trouble finding an apartment in Washington, D.C.

"I have three months without a salary before I'm a member of Congress," said Ocasio-Cortez. "So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real."

This comment was the hook for an odd segment on Fox News; the panelists sort of seemed to be mocking her while simultaneously agreeing that D.C. is unaffordable for renters. It sounded like they really wanted to accuse Ocasio-Cortez of hypocrisy, but there's nothing hypocritical about being a socialist who is poor.

Their callousness gave Ocasio-Cortez an opening.

"40% of ALL Americans currently struggle to pay for one basic need like food or rent," she tweeted. "The real scandal is that at the wealthiest point in our history, we are at one of our most unequal. Most Americans are barely scraping by."

As in other major cities, D.C.'s housing issues are partly the fault of government policy: most notably, zoning laws that make it difficult to build new apartment buildings. The city council even moved to restrict Airbnb type arrangements—the exact kind of short-term housing Ocasio-Cortez is currently in need of—to appease residents who are fixated on the downside of greater density (i.e., having more neighbors who occasonally make noise).

The free market could help alleviate housing shortages in D.C. and elsewhere, if only government would get out of the way. It's perfectly appropriate to criticize the kinds of anti-market policy prescriptions a socialist like Ocasio-Cortez is likely to recommend. But let's not beat up on her for failing to have as much access to wealth as the average member of Congress. This problem should inspire sympathy, not scorn.