Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hits back at Fox News after a host slams her 'living wage' for staffers as 'socialism and communism'

YouTube/C-SpanRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • A Fox News host on Sunday accused Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of imitating “socialism and communism” by redistributing her office budget to raise the salaries of her lowest-level staffers.
  • The New York Democrat announced last week that her staffers would make between $US52,000 and $US80,000.
  • “It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it’s worth every dime to pay a living wage.”

The “Fox & Friends” host Pete Hegseth on Sunday accused Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of imitating “socialism and communism” by redistributing her office budget to raise the salaries of her lowest-level staffers to $US52,000.

Ocasio-Cortez, who describes herself as a democratic socialist, announced last week that her office would pay all aides a “living wage,” from $US52,000 at the entry level to $US80,000 at senior levels. Some senior aides will take a pay cut to boost the salaries of the lowest-level staffers, who in other offices can make as little as $US36,000.

“It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it’s worth every dime to pay a living wage.”


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Hegseth said an $US80,000 salary for a congressional chief of staff was far below the “market rate” for a top Hill aide and suggested that Ocasio-Cortez should redistribute her own salary to her staffers. An analysis last year cited by Roll Call found that the median pay for a chief of staff was $US154,634.

“She makes $US174,000 as a congresswoman,” Hegseth said. “She should probably redistribute some of that. Will you share some of that money, Ms. Congresswoman, with the rest of your staff who is not making as much as you?”

Members of Congress can alter their own pay only through passing a law.

Ocasio-Cortez hit back at the criticism on Monday morning.

“The GOP is so disconnected from the basic idea that people should be paid enough to live that Fox actually thinks me paying a living wage in my office is ‘communism,'” she tweeted. “So the next time GOP screams ‘socialist,’ know that’s their go-to attack for any common-sense, humane policy.”

Every congressional office is apportioned a set budget that it distributes as it sees fit.

“I don’t think you always put the burden on the bottom,” Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director, Corbin Trent, who makes $US67,000, told Roll Call.

He added: “We think that if a person is working, they should make enough to live.”

Last December, Ocasio-Cortez accused her future colleagues in Congress, including Democrats, of paying their low-level staffers salaries below a “living wage” and of employing unpaid interns. Ocasio-Cortez announced then that her office would pay interns at least $US15 an hour in addition to benefits.

“It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns & underpaid overworked staff just bc Republicans want to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility,'” she said in a tweet.

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, a former bartender, has said low congressional salaries are “a big reason why money in politics is a problem.”

Most representatives are paid $US174,000, while the speaker of the House receives $US223,500 a year. Roll Call last year found that 40% of senators and representatives were millionaires in 2016, when the median US household income was $US59,039.

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