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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez floats 70% tax on wealthy to pay for 'Green New Deal'

Key Points
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says people would need to "start paying their fair share in taxes" to underwrite her "Green New Deal."
  • The freshman congresswoman suggested the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans could be set at 60-70 percent.
  • The  "Green New Deal" includes generating all of the nation's power from renewable sources and eliminating industrial greenhouse gas emissions.
Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York 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/Carlos Barria

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York says her plan to transition the United States away from fossil fuels would require people to "start paying their fair share in taxes."

That could mean taxing the wealthiest Americans at a rate of 60-70 percent, the freshman Congresswoman told CBS's "60 Minutes" in an interview scheduled to air on Sunday.

Ocasio-Cortez has put forward a "Green New Deal" that includes generating all of the nation's power from renewable sources, building a national smart grid and entirely eliminating industrial greenhouse gas emissions. A proposal from the democratic socialist lawmaker calls for achieving those goals within 10 years.

In the "60 Minutes" interview, Ocasio-Cortez acknowledges that taxes would have to rise to underwrite the necessary investments. Asked for a specific proposal, Ocasio-Cortez suggested the plan might require returning to policies that preceded the overhauls of the 1980s, which significantly reduced the top income tax rate.

"You know, you look at our tax rates back in the '60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, you know, let's say, from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, et cetera," she told "60 Minutes."

"But once you get to, like, the tippy tops, on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn't mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more."

The top tax rate dropped to 37 percent following the passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In her written proposal, Ocasio-Cortez previously said "progressive wealth taxes" could be set to fund investments under the Green New Deal. She also suggested imposing taxes on greenhouse gas emissions, tapping the Federal Reserve for credit and having the government take an equity stake in projects.

Ocasio-Cortez has clashed with centrist Democrats and the party's establishment over how ambitiously the left should tackle climate change.

She lost an early battle to establish a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has instead announced plans to revive a select committee on climate change that will be chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor, a seasoned lawmaker from Florida.