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Is “Tax the rich” the solution?

By Arjae Red 

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was the center of a large social media debate when she appeared at this year’s Met Gala event wearing a dress with “Tax the Rich” boldly embroidered on the back. The fundraising event is attended by many wealthy individuals and celebrities. 

Much of the debate placed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself under the microscope, dissecting her personal motives and scrutinizing her background. Largely missing from the debate — the most important aspect — was the slogan itself: “Tax the Rich.” To examine this slogan, we need a systemic understanding of the exploitation working-class people face under capitalism.

Class nature of the problem

Wealth inequality is one of the most obvious contradictions of the capitalist system. Beyond the amount of wealth people have, there is the even deeper contradiction that allows the huge income gap between the rich and the poor to exist in the first place. 

Out of all the contradictions within capitalism, the primary contradiction shaping our experience is that contradiction of property ownership — between those who own and those who do not. The capitalist class owns the means of production — the property central to wealth creation. They therefore claim the “right” to all the products the workers they employ produce. The rest of us, the working class, own nothing that we can use to produce but our own labor power. 

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