With one Twitter thread, Ocasio-Cortez destroys the myth that poor people are poor because they’re ‘irresponsible’

A photo of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Bryan Wall

US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has destroyed the myth that people with less money and who struggle to pay their bills have a “poor character”. Writing on Twitter, she used herself as an example. Previously a waitress, she argued that the main difference today is that she is more financially secure – not that her character has changed at all. Yet she insisted that banks would now consider her more “responsible” as a result of her increased income.

Ocasio-Cortez won the New York 14th district midterm elections in November 2018. This made her the youngest woman ever elected to congress.

Struggling to pay the bills

She began by saying she has had a lot of “life-adjustments” since winning the election. Specifically, her new income has helped her to realise the false idea that people struggle financially because of “poor character”:

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She went over her own history of having a regular job and struggling to pay her bills:

But now, because she’s going through a “huge income transition”, banks will think she’s more “responsible”. They believe this, she argued, even though nothing about her personality has changed. In fact, the only thing that has changed is her income:

The myth

Ocasio-Cortez insisted that it’s a “heinous myth” that people who have trouble paying their bills are somehow ‘irresponsible’. Instead, she argued, the real irresponsibility is employers not paying people a living wage. She maintains that “working people are set up to fail”:

She took particular aim at Chase bank. Chase had written a tweet suggesting that people shouldn’t spend additional money on lunch, coffee, or taxis. Ocasio-Cortez retorted that the bank seems to think anything more than “animalistic survival” is too much:

And she asserted that, even though the US is technically wealthy, it’s “simply not the lived truth”:

Taxing the rich

Ocasio-Cortez also claimed that when she says the rich should be taxed, she is referring to the super-rich. Specifically, she means taxing the kind of people who own multiple yachts, who profit from wars, and who pay their workers so little that they have to rely on food stamps:

And she declared that “living in a moral society, a good nation, means establishing some basic standards of dignity”:

And she ended by encouraging people to join a union and fight until they get better pay:

Making them pay

With inequality in the US at levels not seen since the Great Depression, something has to be done. But Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion of raising taxes on the super-wealthy has (predictably) met with resistance from the people this would affect. For example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates apparently described Ocasio-Cortez as “extreme”. Yet all she is suggesting is that the richest people in society should pay their fair share. At the very least, it might make the US a slightly more equal society. The reality, though, is that the richest in society will do everything they can to avoid paying more. And given this, it’s perhaps not that Ocasio-Cortez is too extreme, but that she isn’t extreme enough.

Featured image via Flickr – nrkbeta

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    1. Very happy to see this article in The Canary. We can all thank Michael Hudson, the economic historian, for the answer to AOC’s question.

      The reason we have poor people in our society is the economic system we copied from the Greeks and the Romans. They both favoured the creditor over the debtor and fixed their law so debtors would eventually fall into bondage and serfdom. Had they extolled fairness and justice it would be different.

      Hudson concludes both those civilisations collapsed because of the unfairness in their economies – the wealth accumulated on a small rich class and the poor had nothing to hope for. Once barbarians were at the gate there was no one willing to stop them.

      The topical point to make today is that the British copied the Romans in everything, indeed all schooling was about Roman precedents, so today the AngloAmerican system is also diminishing and prone to collapse.

      1. The British, are you certain you mean the British? as there are several different systems within the geographical area known as the British Isles. The Scottish system aims to educate as far as the student can go, and there is no charge for education in Scotland all the way to university other parts of the “British system” charge very high fees to educate. Laws also vary there is the English system, the N.Irish system the Scottish system plenty of differences. Just thought I’d mention it.

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