Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) called on fellow Democrats to pursue an “agenda of reparations” through a dramatic expansion of the welfare state during her remarks at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Conference in New York on Friday.
Describing the restructuring of the American economy articulated in her Green New Deal proposal, the freshman Democrat argued that, in addition to combating climate change, the plan would result in a massive redistribution of wealth administered by the federal government.
“That is the moral, political, and economic underpinning of making bold investments and dignified jobs, because that is the necessary plan to fix the pipes in Flint and clean the air in the South Bronx and create unionized energy jobs for transitioning workers in Appalachia and West Virginia, for single-payer health care and Medicare-for-all and tuition-free public colleges and universities to prepare our nation for the future, and for the end of mass incarceration, the war on drugs, examining and pursuing an agenda of reparations, and fixing the opioid crisis too,” she said.
The reference to reparations is reflective of the Democratic party’s embrace of legislation introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas) in January that would create a commission to explore how best to compensate the descendants of American slaves.
The legislation, known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, has already received the backing of a host of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Speaking ahead of Ocasio-Cortez at the conference on Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who has previously dismissed the idea of direct cash payments to the descendants of slaves, said he would back Jackson Lee’s bill if he’s elected in 2020.
“If the House and the Senate pass that bill, of course I would sign it. There needs to be a study. But I think what we need to do is to pay real attention to the most distressed communities in America,” Sanders said.