Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congressperson from Queens, says the tax “system” that creates billionaires is wrong.
Ocasio-Cortez made the comments on Monday, the same day a report from Oxfam International noted that 26 billionaires hold as much wealth as 3.8 billion of the poorest people in the world.
When asked a question about the morality of billionaires, she replied:
“I do think 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,” she said at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Harlem.
She reiterated her comments on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, when asked about her suggested tax plan that would see marginal tax rates of 70 per cent on incomes over $10 million.
“It’s a tax interpretation of one answer to the question of, ‘At what level are we really just living in excess?’ And, ‘What kind of society do we want to live in?’” she told host Colbert.
WATCH: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at 2019 Women’s March in New York City
“Do we want to live in a city where billionaires have their own personal Uber helipads?” (The helipad is an apparent reference to billionaire Jeff Bezos’ plan to have a helipad at the planned second headquarters of Amazon in New York City.)
She clarified that she didn’t think the billionaires themselves were immoral.
“It’s important to say that, I don’t think that necessarily means that all billionaires are immoral. It is not to say that someone like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral people,” she said.
WATCH: World’s richest 26 billionaires own as much money as 3.8 billion poorest people, Oxfam report finds
The Oxfam report, released on Monday as political and business leaders gather for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said governments are increasingly underfunding public services and failing to clamp down on tax dodging.
“Poor people suffer twice from being deprived of basic services and also paying a higher burden of taxation,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, told Reuters.
Billionaire fortunes increased by 12 per cent last year, or $2.5 billion a day, while the 3.8 billion poorest people saw their wealth drop $500 million every day, Byanyima added.
Ocasio-Cortez worked as a bartender and a waitress before becoming the youngest woman elected to Congress. She has been pushing her tax plan for the past few weeks, saying taxes on the wealthy need to greatly increase to enact meaningful change.
Critics have derided Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, saying it could deter Americans from working hard or pursuing higher education. Proponents of the plan refer to the historical precedent for the marginal tax rate, which existed in the U.S. until the 1970s.
*with files from Reuters