In his annual letter to CEOs this year, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink urged other chief executives to harness the “power of capitalism” to influence society and serve as a catalyst for positive change.
Progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist, has a very different view on the nature of capitalism. In a new interview with Yahoo Finance taped on Jan. 27, Ocasio-Cortez suggested that people often have different definitions of terms like socialism or capitalism.
“When we toss out these big words, capitalism, socialism, they get … sensationalized, and people translate them into meaning things that perhaps they don’t mean,” she told Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief, Andy Serwer. “So to me, capitalism, at its core, what we’re talking about when we talk about that is the absolute pursuit of profit at all human, environmental, and social cost.”
Ocasio-Cortez, widely known as AOC, has attacked this notion of capitalism frequently since she beat longtime incumbent Joseph Crowley, the No. 4 House Democrat, in 2018 to represent a New York district covering parts of the Bronx and Queens. She is one of four democratic socialists in Congress, along with Cori Bush of Missouri, fellow New Yorker Jamaal Bowman, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
The Democratic Socialists of America defines this system as “one where ordinary people have a real voice in our workplaces, neighborhoods, and society.” For her part, Ocasio-Cortez envisions a “more just economy” as one where workers have more power — as they do in unionized workplaces or in worker cooperatives that workers collectively own and operate.
“You know, we’re here in the Bronx,” she said during her interview with Yahoo Finance, which was filmed in that borough. “I represent a community that has the largest concentration of worker cooperatives in … one of the largest concentrations in the world.”
One worker cooperative in the Bronx, an employee-owned home care agency called Cooperative Home Care Associates, describes itself as the largest worker cooperative in the U.S., employing roughly 2,000 Black and Latinx workers.
“Now these are alternative ways of doing business,” Ocasio-Cortez told Yahoo Finance. “Free markets are not the same thing as capitalism.”
AOC has pointed to her own online store — which sells merchandise like “Tax the Rich” T-shirts — as a different way of doing business. When former White House press secretary Sean Spicer accused her of “using capitalism to push socialism” in a tweet, she tweeted back the same definition of capitalism that she used with Yahoo Finance.
“Not sure if you know this Sean, but transactions aren’t capitalism,” she wrote. “…but fwiw, our shop is unionized, doesn’t operate for profit, & funds projects like free tutoring, food programs, & local organizing.”
Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Ocasio-Cortez described American billionaires as the epitome of capitalism.
“What we’re also discussing is the ability for a very small group of actual capitalists, and that is, people who have so much money that their money makes money, and they don’t have to work,” she said. “They can control industry, they can control our energy sources, they can control our labor …They can essentially have power over the many. And to me, that is not a redeemable system.”
Erin Fuchs is deputy managing editor at Yahoo Finance.
Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance
Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Flipboard, and LinkedIn