Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose sudden rise to prominence has made her a target of Republicans and a sometime irritant to her party’s leaders, called capitalism an “irredeemable” system that is to blame for income inequality.
The 29-year-old, first-term U.S. House member from New York and self-described democratic socialist addressed an enthusiastic crowd Saturday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, about issues that resonate with her fellow millennials, from universal healthcare to combating climate change.
She directed some of her sharpest comments at an economic system that she said values profit over people.
“Capitalism is an ideology of capital –- the most important thing is the concentration of capital and to seek and maximize profit,” Ocasio-Cortez said. And that comes at any cost to people and to the environment, she said, “so to me capitalism is irredeemable.”
Though she said she doesn’t think all parts of capitalism should be abandoned, “we’re reckoning with the consequences of putting profit above everything else in society. And what that means is people can’t afford to live. For me, it’s a question of priorities and right now I don’t think our model is sustainable.”
Instead of conservative politicians scaring people that socialism means the government is going to take over their business, “we should be scared right now because corporations have taken over our government,” she said.
Texas’ South by Southwest conference has evolved into one of the country’s defining cultural events combining music and film festivals with showcases for technology and politics. One year away from the Super Tuesday primary where Texas will loom large, it’s an ideal venue for presidential aspirants to raise their profile and test their message early in the race.
Several Democratic party’s presidential candidates, including Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar, were at the festival making their appeals to the same audience. Ocasio-Cortez has taken an outsized role as a freshman representative with her outspokenness and social-media savvy.
Republicans have been citing remarks by Ocasio-Cortez and some of her allies to attack Democrats as trying to push the country toward socialism. Although senior Democratic officials dismiss that allegation, Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks in Austin are likely to be highlighted by GOP critics.
‘Fewer Than Ever’
While America is wealthier than ever, wealth is enjoyed “by fewer than ever,” she said.
“It doesn’t feel good to live in an unequal society,” she said, citing an increase in homelessness in New York City among veterans and the elderly while penthouses sit empty. “It doesn’t feel good to live in a society like that.”