Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D, N.Y., said workers should be excited by the prospect of job automation and blasted capitalism as irredeemable at the South By Southwest festival in Austin this weekend.
In response to a question from the audience about the threat of automated labor, the firebrand liberal said workers should be "excited" about having their jobs automated, but were not because of larger systemic issues in American society.
"We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem," Ocasio-Cortez, who has championed moonshot ideas like the Green New Deal and universal health care, said.
According to The Verge, the freshman congresswoman also referenced a proposal from Bill Gates to potentially tax robots that replace human workers.
“We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in,” she said, according to The Verge. “Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.”
During her talk, which reportedly drew the largest crowds at the popular Austin festival, Ocasio-Cortez slammed capitalism.
"Capitalism is an ideology of capital — the most important thing is the concentration of capital and to seek and maximize profit,” Ocasio-Cortez said. "And that comes at any cost to people and to the environment, she said, according to Bloomberg News, “so to me capitalism is irredeemable."
Although the self-described Democratic socialist stopped short of saying capitalism should be scrapped altogether, she explained that "we're reckoning with the consequences of putting profit above everything else in society. And what that means is people can't afford to live. For me, it's a question of priorities and right now I don't think our model is sustainable."
The congresswoman, who unseated a 10-term Democratic incumbent in a district spanning parts of Queens and the Bronx, said Democratic Socialism is more about the rights of workers than explicitly government-run industries.
"It’s just as much a transformation about bringing democracy to the workplace so that we have a say and that we don’t check all of our rights at the door every time we cross the threshold into our workplace," she reportedly said. "Because at the end of the day, as workers and as people in society, we’re the ones creating wealth."
"We should be scared right now because corporations have taken over our goverment," she added.
The 29-year-old congresswoman did not offer any new proposals at SXSW, but she did reference income inequality in the United States during her talk.
“We should be working the least amount we’ve ever worked, if we were actually paid based on how much wealth we were producing,” she said. “But we’re not. We’re paid on how little we’re desperate enough to accept. And then the rest is skimmed off and given to a billionaire.”