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Ocasio-Cortez to Bill Gates: ‘I’m All Ears’ for Better Ideas to Tax Rich

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) delivers her inaugural address following her swearing-in ceremony at the Renaissance School for Musical Theater and Technology in the Bronx borough of New York on Feb. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responded to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates criticizing her call for a 60-70 percent top income tax rate, saying she is “all ears” if he wants to propose other ways to tax the rich.

Ocasio-Cortez has floated the 60-70 percent tax rate as a way to fund investments included in her Green New Deal proposal to combat climate change.

In a recent interview, Gates said the Ocasio-Cortez tax plan is “missing the picture” and too “extreme.”

“We can be more progressive without really threatening income generation,” Gates said.

PJM asked Ocasio-Cortez for her reaction to Gates’ assessment of her tax rate suggestion.

“Well, I mean, if he wants to propose other ways to tax the rich in a way that’s equitable, I’m all ears – I’m all ears,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a recent interview on Capitol Hill. “I think there’s multiple ways to get to the same solution.”

The Green New Deal summary released by Ocasio-Cortez’s office on Feb. 7 called for a total overhaul of transportation by “massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing” with plans to “build charging stations everywhere, build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all,” along with a goal to “replace every combustion-engine vehicle.”

Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), a supporter of the Green New Deal, was asked about the portion of the summary that mentioned phasing out air travel over time as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

“What do you envision in that area?” Levin was asked.

“I can tell you I think there will be a role for air travel for the foreseeable future,” Levin replied. “And while I certainly appreciate a lot of the efforts around high-speed rail, I think in California we’ve seen it has to be done in a responsible way and a cost-effective way.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom dramatically scaled back California’s high-speed rail plans to a 119-mile stretch in the state’s central San Joaquin Valley, arguing last week that the plans to link major cities in the north and south were just too expensive.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Miss.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said his constituents are not taking the Green New Deal seriously because they think retrofitting every building in the U.S. and controlling “cow farts” is laughable.

“You talk about laughs – this bill truly, when I go home, gets laughed out of the discussion,” Luetkemeyer said, referring to portions of the original that detailed ways to reduce carbon emissions.

“We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero,” read the outline.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said House leadership approves of the “objective” of the Green New Deal.

“There is no ‘Green New Bill’ yet – it’s an outline, it’s a framework and we’re all for the objective,” Hoyer told PJM.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the Green New Deal would ultimately get a vote in the Senate. Luetkemeyer said McConnell has the right approach.

“I think you get a vote and it will let you know exactly where everybody is on controlling cows – that’s really important,” he said.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked for her opinion of the Green New Deal.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said. “The ‘green dream’ or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”