As millions hope to receive support as soon as possible from the massive coronavirus stimulus bill passed by Congress without adequate oversight mechanisms, we look at who will benefit from “extraordinary asymmetrical assistance” that went to corporations instead of working people. “Some of the people who need it the most are not getting it,” says Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “This contributes to a public health crisis in addition to an economic one.” She also discusses plans for the 2020 election and a “progressive future” for the United States with a single-payer health system and a living wage.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We’re spending the rest of the hour with Congressmember Ocasio-Cortez. This is the congresswoman speaking on the floor of the House about the $500 billion corporate bailout part of the massive coronavirus stimulus package.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We have to go into this vote eyes wide open. What did the Senate majority fight for? One of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history. Shameful! The greed of that fight is wrong for crumbs for our families. And the option that we have is to either let them suffer with nothing or to allow this greed and billions of dollars, which will be leveraged into trillions of dollars, to contribute to the largest income inequality gap in our future.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez prior to the vote on the stimulus package. Congresswoman, could you talk about the debate that you had within yourself in terms of whether to support this package, given the enormous tax breaks and the direct grants and loans to corporate America?
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yeah. Well, you know, I think, ultimately, this debate, it was up to each and every member. I don’t slight any member for how they voted. I could not bring myself to ultimately support this bill, because I believe that people will soon see the extraordinary asymmetrical assistance that went to corporations. We’re not just talking about half a trillion dollars that went to Wall Street, as I mentioned in my remarks. That is being leveraged to $4 trillion for Wall Street and corporations. And what we’re seeing in payroll protection for small businesses is just a drop in the bucket compared to that.
But, ultimately, what this administration did was hold every hospital hostage, hold every frontline worker hostage. And it is not an easy decision whatsoever for any member. But, ultimately, I think that people will soon see the betrayal that was in this bill, that was pushed forward by the administration and by Mitch McConnell. It is completely — it is completely unethical and inhumane, what has been done. And we talk about the oversight of this bill. It is far too little. It is far too flimsy. And what we have essentially done was give Steven Mnuchin a blank check to pick and choose who this administration will reward with $4 trillion.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you, on the portion of the stimulus package that supposedly will go to the American people and the American workers, the particular issue of what happens to — first, there’s a $1,200-per-person outright grant that is given by the government, and then the added unemployment benefit of $600 a month for several months. The reality is, as you well know, that especially when it comes to the undocumented, they will not get any of that $1,200. And more importantly, even on unemployment, there are so many millions of people that work off the books in America, and obviously they cannot qualify for unemployment, so they will get no assistance whatsoever.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Mm-hmm, that’s exactly right. And then, on top of that, you also have a carveout of young people, where if you are claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes but you are above the age of — if you are 17 or older, you also receive no assistance and no cash assistance, as well. So this is disproportionately hurting the young, it’s hurting the undocumented, it’s hurting people who work off the books, and which is to say that it hurts some of our most vulnerable populations. And the people who need that help the most right now, some of the people who need it the most, are also not getting it, which, again, contributes to a public health crisis in addition to an economic one.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Ocasio-Cortez, before we go, we wanted to ask you about the election. They’re holding the Wisconsin primary today despite the adamant opposition of the governor and so many in Wisconsin. I mean, I think in Milwaukee, they’ve closed over 100 polling places, because they’re often run by elderly poll workers, and they’re not coming in. But I want to ask you about the presidential election. You are the most high-profile surrogate of Bernie Sanders. You have been there with him in state after state. What is happening with his campaign right now? What are the plans?
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I do know that, like myself, the senator and I have both been focusing very heavily on COVID relief, up into the CARES 2 package.
I think right now one of the key things that we must push for, we must fight for, is the same thing that we have continued to fight for. We need to make sure that — I believe, that there are very strong concessions and accommodations made for a progressive future in our country. And I think when it comes to that, we need to see very serious movement towards a single-payer healthcare system, towards a living wage, towards justice for incarcerated people and justice for our immigrant populations. We need to have a strong agenda across the board. And without any sort of progressive conversation or progressive definition or concession to our party, we have to continue pushing forward.
And so, you know, when it comes to the specific things, ultimately, that is up to the senator. But I know, for one, that we must continue pushing to make sure, and particularly on climate change, what kind of agenda is being formed right now, and not only what that agenda is, but who is going to be making those decisions and really administering and executing on that agenda in a potential administration.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know if he will go to the convention — if he will continue to be a presidential candidate through to the convention, if a convention is even held?
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yeah, the whether the convention is held is an excellent question. I do not know. That is ultimately up to the senator. You know, I think he makes these decisions one phase at a time, looking ahead to the next primary. I don’t think that — I do not believe that he is set one way or another.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it —
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think, ultimately —
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there now, and I want to thank you so much for being with us, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District.
That does it for our show. Democracy Now! is brought to you by an amazing group of people committed to bringing you the most accurate information. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.