Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said billionaires shouldn't exist as long as Americans live in abject poverty
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argued that a society that allows billionaires to exist while some Americans live in abject poverty is "immoral."
- She argued that Americans shouldn't normalize economic inequality by idealizing the super-rich during a conversation with author Ta-Nehisi Coates at an event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday.
- This comes after the New York Democrat suggested the US should hike marginal tax rates on those making more than $10 million.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argued that a society that "allows billionaires to exist" while some Americans live in abject poverty is "immoral."
"I'm not saying that Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral, but a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don't have access to public health is wrong," Ocasio-Cortez said during a Monday event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday.
The 29-year-old lawmaker argued that the existence of billionaires is a byproduct of skyrocketing economic inequality, and suggested that Americans shouldn't strive to become super-rich.
"Maybe this idea of idealizing this outcome of 'Maybe one day you too can be a billionaire and earn more than millions of families combined' is not an aspirational or good thing,'" she said during her MLK Day conversation with author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned the political world when she beat longtime incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's Democratic primary last June, centered her candidacy around economic justice.
Her policy platform includes a host of bold proposals - including a federal jobs guarantee and Medicare for All - that would alleviate poverty and economic inequality. And along with a growing faction of Democratic candidates, she banned corporate PAC money from her campaign.
She's not the first prominent Democrat to scrutinize the role of billionaires and the super-rich in American society and politics. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have long railed against growing economic inequality and the outsize influence of corporations and wealthy donors in US politics.
Ocasio-Cortez has long argued - like Sanders and Warren - that poverty and a lack of social mobility are the most foundational injustices in American society.
"I think it's wrong that the majority of the country doesn't make a living wage, I think it's wrong that you can work 100 hours and not feed your kids," Ocasio-Cortez told Coates. "I think it's wrong that corporations like Walmart and Amazon can get paid by the government, experiencing a wealth transfer from the public, for paying people less than a minimum wage."
One of the new congresswoman's policy advisers, Dan Riffle, uses the Twitter handle "Every Billionaire Is A Policy Failure" and said Monday that he hopes Ocasio-Cortez can start a new conversation in the Democratic Party around targeting the super-rich.
"My goal for this year is to get a moderator to ask 'Is it morally appropriate for anyone to be a billionaire?' at one of the Dem primary debates," Riffle tweeted. "Ta-Nehisi just asked @aoc that question on stage at #MLKNow so we're getting somewhere. She said it isn't btw."
Ocasio-Cortez made waves when she announced her support for a 60-70% marginal tax rate on annual income above $10 million earlier this month. Conservatives have characterized the proposal as radical socialism, while many progressive economists and Democrats have praised the idea.
Recent polling, including an INSIDER poll, has found strong support for hiking marginal tax rates on the super-rich.
"The question of marginal tax rates is a policy question but it's also a moral question," Ocasio-Cortez said during her talk with Coates. "What kind of society do we want to live in? Are we comfortable with a society where someone can have a personal helipad while this city is experiencing the highest levels of poverty and homelessness since the Great Depression?"
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