Accuracy in Media

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) criticized the coronavirus economic stimulus bill passed by the Senate because it will only provide checks for Americans who have Social Security numbers, but not “taxpaying immigrants.” But the media ignored Ocasio-Cortez’s incorrect assertions about Amazon’s tax liability and her failure to recognize Senate Democrats voted for the bill.

“To clarify, $1200 checks are ONLY going to some w/social sec numbers, NOT immigrants w/ tax IDs (ITINs),” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.“Thanks to GOP, these checks will be cut off the backs of *taxpaying immigrants,* who get nothing. Many are essential workers who pay more taxes than Amazon.” She added, “Wall St gets $4T. What Trump + Senate GOP have done is hold hospitals, working people, and the vulnerable hostage so they could get in $500 billion (that will be leveraged into $4T) in corporate welfare.” The congresswoman concluded, “Without the Wall St giveaway, GOP refuses to fund hospitals & unemployment. It’s inhumane.”

First, Senate Democrats also voted in unison for the bill–which passed by a 96-0 vote. Second, Ocasio-Cortez is wrong about Amazon’s tax liability.

As Geekwire reported in January, Amazon paid over $1 billion in federal income taxes plus an additional $2.4 billion in other federal taxes in 2019, which was more than the “essential workers” Ocasio-Cortez referred to in her tweet.

The IRS described ITINs, or an Individual Tax Identification Numbers, as “a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number.”

Although the stimulus bill included multiple bailouts for special interests and certain industries, such as casinos, credit reporting, travel agents and airlines, it also included funds for struggling farmers and doled out funds for small states. Politico reported that the bill provides $150 billion to help deal with rising unemployment and added $9.5 billion in emergency aid for the agricultural industry.

By focusing solely on “taxpaying immigrants,” Ocasio-Cortez missed the bigger picture that the timing of the bill’s passage tried to provide relief as soon as possible for Americans struggling during the coronavirus crisis. Though the bill was not perfect from multiple political perspectives, it was a compromise between opposing political parties to try to stabilize the American economy. Ocasio-Cortez did not specify whether she would prefer no bill being passed, or a differently-worded bill. For Congress, the top priority was to pass a stimulus bill and not cater to one political ideology over another.

She also was wrong about Amazon’s tax liability and her comparison to “essential workers,” which the media ignored.

It is easy to criticize a large bill such as the stimulus bill, but it is much tougher to provide a solution or compromise that both Democrats and Republicans could agree on. Ocasio-Cortez’s tweets demonstrated a lack of political understanding on how compromises work in Congress and the media failed to call her out for yet another “Econ 101” failure.

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