It has been a genuine pleasure to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at work in the House. Her efforts on behalf of her district, and the American people in general have been inspiring, and have been a much-needed demonstration of what members of Congress should be doing with their time, power, and resources. It has also underscored how much more can be done when a legislator relies on donations from the general public, rather than spending all their time on begging oligarchs and would-be oligarchs for money.
She has also continued to interact with the public, and to build a movement for a better world. This video from November shows her making the case for greater investment in the public good, and taking on the aristocratic propaganda of “free stuff” and “handouts”.
From yesterday, @aoc had a Green New Deal for public housing townhall in the Bronx. “I don’t want to hear the term free stuff ever again…I am already hearing from some of these neoliberal folks who are trying to flip the script on us.” pic.twitter.com/ugxsCTa6r3
— David Freedlander (@freedlander) November 25, 2019
And it’s not that we deserve it because it’s a handout. That people like to say “oh, this is about free stuff.” This is not about free stuff. It’s 30% of your salary, first of all. We know this is not free stuff. Second of all, these are PUBLIC GOODS. I don’t want to hear the term free stuff ever again…I am already hearing from some of these neoliberal folks who are trying to flip the script on us, and when we talk about tuition free college, or when we talk about public housing, saying “oh, well, I don’t want to pay for a millionaire’s kid to go to college. That’s their jui jitsu on us. I believe everyone should be able to go to public library, everyone can to drive on public roads, everyone should be able to send their kids to public school, and person who needs it should have access to public housing [transcript not verbatim, just as good as I could get it, somewhat cleaned up for clarity -Abe]
And that’s really the crux of it. Some people are rich enough that they can take a helicopter everywhere they need to go – they don’t need public roads, but they have the right to use them just like the rest of us. The same is true of public schools, and should be true of public housing, and of health care. If you want to spend more money on something over and above what everybody gets, you can do so, but you don’t get to use that as an excuse to say that public goods should be taken away from everybody, just because you personally don’t need them at this particular moment. The whole point is that everybody gets them, and everybody pays for them as they are able.
Certain portions of the population love to say “freedom isn’t free”, but they seem to have trouble understanding that the price for freedom isn’t just the blood of soldiers (and the civilians of foreign countries). Freedom also costs resources.
I’ll periodically hear people say “money can’t buy happiness”, and I think there’s some misunderstanding over what that phrase really means. It doesn’t mean that money can’t increase happiness, or help one achieve happiness, it means that having your basic needs met won’t guarantee happiness. For some people that might be enough, but most people want some level of fulfillment beyond simply existing. We’re often told to find that fulfillment in the jobs we work to survive, but that is, in my estimation, propaganda. It’s a lie told to keep us working for the enrichment of other people, most of whom already have far, far more than they will ever need. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy the ability to pursue happiness.
If the goal of a just government is to ensure the greatest possible freedom for its people, including the right to the pursuit of happiness, then the goal should be for that government to ensure that, when possible, people aren’t forced to spend a majority of their lives and energy simply trying to survive. If we lived in a world where the resources needed for survival were scarce, the calculation might be a bit different, but that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world of incredible abundance, in which artificial scarcity is created by the concentration of that abundance in the hands of a few insatiably greedy individuals. Their hoarding is made possible b the destitution of hundreds of millions of people, and that’s a violation of the basic rights proposed in the American Declaration of Independence.