Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you probably know who Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is. The representative for New York’s 14th district, Ocasio-Cortez took office in early 2019, and her tenure has seen quite a few controversies. From her proposal to pay for medicare for all to the Green New Deal to shady campaign financing (Although that can apply to pretty much any politician within the past nine years) and, most recently, Ocasio-Cortez is under fire for getting a $300 haircut. This is seen by some as antithetical to the socialist principles she advocates. This is completely unprecedented. A politician being hypocritical? Who could have seen this coming?
In all seriousness, I believe that Ocasio-Cortez is free to spend her salary frivolously, even if it comes across as hypocritical. With that in mind, let’s evaluate the facts of the situation.
In early October, it was reported that she had spent $80 on a haircut and $180 on low lights, and ─ assuming she tipped 20 percent ─ that would bring her total to $312. Ocasio-Cortez identifies herself as a democratic socialist, and the issues which she focuses on the most are medicare for all, climate change and ─ most important in this context ─ income inequality.
It is this emphasis on income inequality that political opponents have used against Representative Ocasio-Cortez. Representatives are paid a salary of $174,000 annually; in addition to this they receive an annual cost-of-living wage increase of 1 percent, unless they vote to decline this, as has been done since 2009.
She has been attacked for this under the pretext of it being a waste of money and a hypocritical use of money, considering her adamant support of combating income inequality. Specifically, Richard Manning, the president of conservative non-profit organization Americans for Limited Government, issued a statement saying that, “There is nothing wrong with spending money to make yourself look better, especially as a personality who depends upon visual mediums for her make power … but it is a bad look to spend hundreds of dollars to get your hair done to make a video decrying income inequality.”
Conversely, Ocasio-Cortez responded to criticisms by pointing out that Mike Pence spent $600,000 ─ Not of his own salary, but taxpayer money ─ to take limos to various Trump golf courses.
Ocasio-Cortez has been given a polarizing and partisan treatment by virtually every major news source. Depending on whether you follow primarily left-leaning or right-leaning news sources more, she’s either a fiery, stunning and brave young politician or an economically illiterate and incompetent ignoramus, respectively. What’s worse is there’s no room in between these two extremes. You’re either “with her,” in which case you don’t know anything about the economy and just want free stuff, or you’re “against her,” in which case you hate poor people, women and minorities. In about one hour of research, do you know how many objective, dispassionate, unbiased analyses of the situation I found? Zero. Do you know how many half-truths and loaded questions I found? Probably an average of 2.5 or so per article, but I digress.
So was AOC wrong for spending her money that way? I’m gonna say no, it’s her money, and if she wants to spend it frivolously, then that’s her prerogative, even if it seemingly conflicts with the values she identifies herself with.