Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained what she understands socialism to be during an Instagram Live stream, and decried what she called “business-owned government” for delivering America multiple crises and the election of President Donald Trump.
Ocasio-Cortez is a New York Democrat, self-described democratic socialist, and, at 29, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
She is the most prominent of all the freshman congresspeople and is using her newfound fame to advance political projects including the Green New Deal, Medicaid for all, a higher minimum wage, and large-scale student debt forgiveness.
To supporters she is the left’s great new hope, a revitalizing force for the politics of social and economic justice in a decaying capitalist society. To her critics she is the modern face of the red menace, a dangerous socialist who wants to confiscate wealth and control people’s lives.
Speaking during an Instagram live stream on Monday night, Ocasio-Cortez said markets are not incompatible with the type of socialism she subscribes to.
“You can have free market economies with democratic socialist businesses. What on earth is a democratic socialist business? A perfect example of that is worker cooperatives…which means that…workers own the shares of the company,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“So a more ‘democratically socialist’ business would have workers on the board of the corporation instead of billionaires on the boards of corporations. So it’s really about democracy in the economy.
“It does not mean government owns everything. Socialism does not mean government owns everything. I disagree with that notion as well because I think it is undemocratic. I think that it is very easily corrupted and I don’t think that that’s a good thing.
“But I do think that having more democracy in our economy, aka worker power, worker accountability, is a very positive thing.”
However, Ocasio-Cortez said there are sectors where the profit motive should be removed and that, at the very least, a public option should always be available. She used America’s public school system as an example.
“Imagine if we had to pay tuition for our kids to go to school from kindergarten all the way through twelfth grade. It would be untenable, unfeasible, and we would have to rely on businesses that are always trying to profiteer,” she said.
“Imagine if Walmart ran your public school. That does not sound fun at all. And so, some people are able to send their kids to private schools. You can do that if that’s what you want to do. If you want to pay $30,000 to send your kid to kindergarten, which some people do in New York City, that’s your business.
“But we as a society have decided that it is important and that it is vital enough that we provide a public option for elementary education in the United States,” she said, adding that the U.S. military is the “original federal jobs guarantee.”
Ocasio-Cortez said her generation has never experienced a capitalist society that benefited the majority of people, whereas those of middle age and older, such as baby boomers, had. She said millennials were entering the workforce around the time of the financial crisis.
“So we have never seen a world where government owned all businesses, but we have lived in a world where big business has owned and bought our government. It has resulted in catastrophic consequences,” she said.
“Business-owned government has gotten us a student loan debt crisis, it’s gotten us a health care crisis where people are turning to GoFundMe to keep their children alive after car accidents.
“Business-owned government has gotten us stagnated wages for 30 years while we watch children of billionaires go on their third yacht and do whatever. And frankly, business-owned government has gotten us Donald Trump.
“And so we have never seen business-owned government work for the American people. We have seen greed and a desire for profit at any human cost and any environmental cost, kill our planet, endanger our children, and create miserable conditions.”