Ocasio-Cortez floats 70 percent tax on rich to pay for 'Green New Deal'

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer

Less than a day after being sworn in as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appears ready to push an ambitious plan to combat climate change.

In an interview with Anderson Cooper scheduled for broadcast on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez suggested implementing an income tax rate of up to 70 percent on wealthy Americans to pay for the so-called Green New Deal, a program to move the country toward zero carbon emissions.

“People are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes,” the 29-year-old said. “You look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system your tax rate, you know, let’s say, from zero to $75,000, maybe 10 percent or 15 percent, etc. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops — on your 10-millionth dollar — sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Screengrab courtesy CBS News, “60 Minutes.”)

“That doesn’t mean all $10 million [earners] are taxed at an extremely high rate,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “But it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.”

In 1932, Congress raised the marginal income-tax rate on top earners to 63 percent. It remained high from the 1950s through the 1970s, reaching a maximum of over 90 percent, and never dipped below 70 percent. It was slashed in the 80s. In 2018, the highest rate on earned income was dropped from 44 percent to 37 percent.

For married couples filing a joint return, that rate currently applies to income above around $600,000, which represents the top bracket (of seven); their effective rate would be less, because lower rates apply to income below this threshold. The impact of a change in income-tax rates would depend on the bracket structure.


In a speech Thursday afternoon, newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress needs to address the “existential threat of our time: the climate crisis,” and suggested an economic component would be needed to solve it.

“The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future,” Pelosi said. “This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water; an economic decision for America’s global preeminence in green technology; a security decision to keep us safe; and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s climate plan would reduce U.S. carbon emissions to zero — and eliminate the use of fossil fuels — within 12 years.

“It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now,” she said. “What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?”

When Cooper suggested her plan to pay for it was “radical,” Ocasio-Cortez embraced the label.

“Well, I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country,” she said. “Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security. That is radical.”

“Do you call yourself a radical?” Cooper asked.

“Yeah. You know, if that’s what radical means, call me a radical,” she replied.

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