Ocasio-Cortez Calls Existence of Billionaires 'Immoral'

January 22, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) called the existence of billionaires "immoral" during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event.

During a Monday event at New York City's Riverside Church, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates asked Ocasio-Cortez about whether it is right for billionaires to be billionaires. "Do we live in a moral world that allows for billionaires? Is that a moral outcome, in and of itself?" Coates asked.

"No it is not," the freshman congresswoman said to applause. "I don't think that necessarily means that all billionaires are immoral," she clarified, 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 did not say what she would do to right the moral wrong and end the billionaires' existence so long as the least fortunate continued to suffer.

Ocasio-Cortez shifted focus from moralizing about the wealthy to focusing on the poor. "And I think that it's wrong that the vast majority of the country does not make a living wage," she added. Measurements from the University of California, Davis place the national poverty rate in 2017 between 12 and 14 percent, less than a "vast majority." The hourly federal minimum wage is $7.25. A single parent working 100 hours per week for 52 weeks at that minimum wage would make $37,700 before taxes. A married couple in the same situation would make $75,400.

"I think it's wrong that you can work 100 hours and not feed your kids," she said. Approximately 3 percent of Americans – 6 percent of the workforce – log more than 60 hours per week, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.