AOC has thoughts on capitalism, billionaires and power

Last year on MLK day Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed at a public event by Ta-Nehisi Coates and produced some noteworthy soundbites. Perhaps the most newsworthy was this one about the world ending in 12 years: “Millenials and Gen Z and all these folks that came after us are looking up and we’re like ‘The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we going to pay for it?” That quote made the rounds and AOC later claimed you’d have to have the intelligence of a “sea sponge” to believe she was speaking literally. But that wasn’t the only controversial statement that came out of last year’s event. She also said that the system that allows billionaires to exist was immoral and that America was “dystopian.”

Apparently the organizers know a good thing when they see it so this year AOC was once again being interviewed by Ta-Nehisi Coates on MLK day in front of a crowd of fans (or maybe stans). And once again AOC had pearls of wisdom to offer about capitalism, billionaires, and power. In this first clip, AOC says the Democratic Party is a “center or center-conservative party.” She starts to say “we do not advocate for [Medicare for All]” but quickly realizes that’s not true and revises her sentence. “We can’t even get a floor vote on Medicare for All.” She goes on to say that there are “true believers” in the Democratic Party who think you can “capitalism your way out of poverty.”

Two points about this before we move on: First, the fact that Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are both in the top four candidates for the Democratic nomination suggests the party is not center-right. Their support for single-payer, free college tuition, etc. are not center-right positions.

Second, AOC is wrong about capitalism and poverty. In fact there’s plenty of evidence that capitalism has reduced poverty and increased life expectancy over the past 75 years. So as not to oversimplify the argument, I’d recommend this 12-minute video which presents the argument along with some criticism of it as well.

Moving on, AOC made another direct attack on capitalism. “If Jeff Bezos wants to be a good person he’d turn Amazon into a worker cooperative.” She added, “Not what do I do with all of this money that I have created with this unjust system…If you’re a billionaire that means that you control a massive system…It means that you have a massive labor force under your control and to be ethical if you’re a billionaire today the thing that you need to do is give up control and power.

“So I don’t want your money as much as we want your power. The people, not me.”

I’m sure AOC did mean the people, but I’m also 110% certain she believes she will become a celebrated leader of those same people. So the power may go to “the people” but in AOC’s mind it immediately gets delegated to her. And that’s really the nature of socialists systems. The politicians remove a competing source of power by eliminating corporations run by individuals like Jeff Bezos. Fewer centers of power means more concentrated social and economic power in the hands of people like AOC.

So what’s the bottom line here? When AOC introduced the Green New Deal last year I offered a take that, at the time, I hadn’t seen anywhere else. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s a skeleton key of sorts that makes sense of this odd leftist wish list. It’s called capitalism. Really, making sense of this jumble of a proposal is that simple.

The reason much of the document seems to be aimed at rearranging the economy far beyond the already extreme measures that would be required to fight climate change is, I believe, that AOC sees capitalism as the root of the problem. And if capitalism is the root, then it’s not enough to cut emissions or install more solar panels. What you need is to end capitalism by reducing air travel, giving jobs to people even if they won’t work, guarantee free health care, free college, affordable (government subsidized?) housing, and using whatever’s left to repair historic oppression. Because if you do all of that, there is no capitalism left.

I think her statements yesterday highlighting capitalism as the chief flaw in her fellow Democrats’ thinking and the problem with modern billionaires only proves the point. To AOC, capitalism is the problem and everything else is just details.