It’s been a big week for highly ambitious legislative economic proposals from the Democratic Party’s left flank. Following Sen. Bernie Sanders, who on Tuesday revealed a sweeping new wealth tax on the super-rich as part of his presidential agenda, on Wednesday New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled a six-part policy proposal titled “A Just Society.”
The package is the follow-up to her pace-setting Green New Deal plan, which set the bar high for the kind of environmental action young progressives demand. “A Just Society” has a similar goal, but for economic equality, and offers a simple but profound framework: “America today is at its wealthiest point in its entire history. In a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live,” said Ocasio-Cortez in a video announcing the program. “That’s what a ‘just society’ means to me.”
The bluntness of the freshman Democrat’s message presents a sharp rebuke to Republican austerity and corporate power. She divided the proposal into six separate policy areas, which together aim to tackle everything from accessible housing and poverty to ending discrimination against the formerly incarcerated.
The parts are as follows:
- The Recognizing Poverty Act: This bill would order the Department of Health and Human Services to change the federal poverty line to account for geographic cost of living.
- The Place to Prosper Act: One of the plan’s most aggressive proposals, this would create national rent control. The bill would limit rent increases to 3 percent annually, as well as establish new penalties for “corporate landlords,” with the goal of easing the national housing crisis.
- The Embrace Act: This would address racial inequality in how certain benefits, like social security, are distributed, by making sure that immigrants would be able to collect their welfare regardless of immigration status
- The Mercy in Re-Entry Act: Similar to the Embrace Act, the Mercy in Re-Entry Act aims to expand the social safety net. The bill would include the formerly incarcerated in eligibility for benefits in an effort to reduce the number of people who return to crime due to poverty.
- The Uplift Our Workers Act: Ocasio-Cortez’s plan argues that “the purchasing power of the federal government should be used to improve the quality of life for workers, rather than accelerate a race to the bottom.” This bill would direct the Department of Labor to rate federal contracts with what it calls a "worker-friendly score,” which would help the government prioritize contractors who treat workers fairly. Employers would be evaluated on whether they pay an hourly wage of at least a $15, support unions, and offer family leave.
- Ratify the U.N. Covenant on Economic, Social, & Cultural Rights: This bill urges the executive branch to agree to a U.N. covenant that states that “all persons have the right to work, fair and just conditions of work, social security, an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing, housing, and healthcare.”
With this comprehensive package — her most ambitious legislative effort since the Green New Deal — Ocasio-Cortez has taken a bold step towards alleviating the drastic economic inequality that keeps millions of people in America suffering from extreme poverty. Rather than only oppose Republican austerity, she’s offering a vision for the future that aims to inspire Democrats. Whether such a sprawling and progressive package will be embraced by her fellow party members, though, remains to be seen.