Politics

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: A system that allows billionaires to exist alongside extreme poverty is immoral

Key Points
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agrees that "a system that allows billionaires to exist" is immoral. The freshman congresswoman made those comments at an event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
  • She said it is "wrong" that billionaires can coexist in a country alongside "parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don't have access to public health."
  • One of Ocasio-Cortez's solutions to America's wealth disparity is a 70 percent marginal tax rate, a policy proposal that has already made waves in Washington.
  • Ocasio-Cortez made the comments as many of the world's billionaires were gathering for the start of the annual Davos economic confab in Switzerland amid concerns over economic uncertainty and rising populism. 
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivers a speech during the Women's March in Columbus Circle in New York, United States on January 19, 2019.
Atilgan Ozdil | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agrees that "a system that allows billionaires to exist" is immoral.

The freshman congresswoman responded affirmatively to a question on the subject at an event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday in New York, just as many of the world's billionaires were gathering for the start of the annual Davos economic confab in Switzerland amid concerns over economic uncertainty and rising populism.

"I don't think that necessarily means that all billionaires are immoral," she qualified, citing Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, both major philanthropists. Gates is expected to attend Davos again this year.

Read more: The super rich at Davos are scared of Ocasio-Cortez's idea to hike taxes on the wealthy

Still, she said it is "wrong" that billionaires can coexist in a country alongside "parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don't have access to public health."

At MLK Now, an event at Riverside Church in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, Ocasio-Cortez spoke out against economic inequality in a conversation with journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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Here's what Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's tax proposal would mean

"Are we comfortable with a society where someone can have a helipad while [New York City] is experiencing the highest rates of people experiencing homelessness since the Great Depression?" she asked, referring to the proposed helipad for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the company's new headquarters.

The congresswoman has been an outspoken critic of the company, which she referred to as a "digital Walmart," building its second headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood that borders her district.

One of Ocasio-Cortez's solutions to America's wealth disparity is a 70 percent marginal tax rate, a policy proposal that is already making waves in Washington. The tax would apply to people earning more than $10 million annually, a group whose current marginal tax rate is capped at 37 percent.

The proposed tax rate poses the question, "Where do we draw the line in excess?" said Ocasio-Cortez. "Is our material technology outpacing our moral technology?"

The idea that an American should aspire to "'be a billionaire and own more than millions of families combined' is not an aspirational or good thing," she said.

Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress after spending time as a bartender and waitress struggling to make ends meet. A self-identified democratic socialist, she campaigned on a promise of reducing economic inequality through radical means.

The representative was recently appointed to serve on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees Wall Street. "I'm looking forward to digging into the student loan crisis, examining for-profit prisons/ICE detention, and exploring the development of public & postal banking," she said in a tweet.

WATCH: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulls back curtain on inner workings of Congress

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulls back curtain on inner workings of Congress