At Riverside Church in Harlem New York on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates in conversation for MLK Now. For the fourth annual event, which honors the legacy of Dr. King, Coates said he believed that AOC embodied MLK’s radical vision. The two discussed her childhood, how there’s a lack of knowledge over her proposals, and the criticism she faced. But it’s what she said about her proposal for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on those who earn more than $10 million a year that was the highlight of the conversation.
When Ocasio-Cortez brought up that MLK’s message about economic inequality made him a target, Coates asked her to respond to criticism to her marginal tax rate proposal.
“The question of marginal tax rates is a policy question, but it’s also a moral question,” she said. “What kind of society do we want to live in? Are we comfortable with a society where someone can have a personal helipad while this city is experiencing the highest levels of poverty and homelessness since the Great Depression?”
Coates then asked if a moral society could include billionaires. “No … ” she said. “I’m not saying that Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral, 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… I think it’s wrong that the majority of the country doesn’t make a living wage. I think it’s wrong that you can work 100 ours and not feed your kids. I think it’s wrong that corporations like Walmart and Amazon can get paid by the government, experiencing a wealth transfer from the public, for paying people less than a minimum wage. It only doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make moral sense.”
Check out the rest of the conversation below.