New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained the democratic socialist case against billionaires during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event Monday, saying that it's more about redistributing power than it is about money.
Ocasio-Cortez was talking to author Ta-Nehisi Coates during an event called MLK Now. Coates asked Ocasio-Cortez to elaborate on how the existence of billionaires is problematic toward efforts to provide services like health care to the masses.
"I'm Joe Billionaire, I made widgets, I sold those widgets, I made billions of dollars selling those widgets, making those widgets. Therefore, those billions of dollars are mine. Why am I the enemy of health care?" Coates asked.
"Well, you didn't make those widgets, did you?" Ocasio-Cortez replied. "Because you employ thousands of people and pay them less than a living wage to make those widgets for you.
"You didn't make those widgets," she continued. "You sat on a couch while thousands of people were paid modern-day slave wages, and in some cases real modern-day slavery, depending on where you are in terms of food production. You made that money off the backs of undocumented people. You made that money off the backs of black and brown people being paid under a living wage. You made that money off of the backs of single mothers. All these people who are literally dying because they can't afford to live. And so no one ever makes a billion dollars. You take a billion dollars."
Ocasio-Cortez then went on to say that it wasn't that billionaires are inherently evil or corrupt, but that the problem with capitalism is that "it always ends in billionaires."
The congresswoman said billionaires don't need to simply ask what they should do with their money, but they should surrender the power they have over various industries and institutions out of ethical responsibility.
"Usually if you're a billionaire, that means you control a massive system," Ocasio-Cortez said. "It means that you own oil supplies. It means you control textiles. 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," she said. "The people, not me."