Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) continues to shed light on how much easier life is for elite members of society than for the working class.

The 29-year-old former bartender from New York’s 14th Congressional District has been using her social media profiles to make the on-boarding process more transparent for her constituents and her fans across the country, like when she took to Instagram to talk about the “secret underground tunnels” between Congressional office buildings and the U.S. Capitol.

But in a Saturday evening tweet, Ocasio-Cortez remarked on how much cheaper health insurance was for her now that she was a member of Congress than when she was a waitress. This is particularly ironic, as Ocasio-Cortez made less than $27,000 last year as a waitress and bartender, according to her financial disclosure form, and the average member of Congress makes $174,000/year — more than six times what she made last year.

“It’s frustrating that Congressmembers would deny other people affordability that they themselves enjoy,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Time for #MedicareForAll.”

The high cost of health insurance prevents many young people — like Ocasio-Cortez before she was elected to Congress — from even having any health coverage in the first place. Already, since the passage of the Republican tax cuts of 2017, which repealed the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance mandate, health insurance premiums have gone up by roughly 30 percent.

According to the MIT living wage calculator, a single adult living in Ocasio-Cortez’s home of Bronx County, New York can expect to pay around $2,367/year in medical expenses, which would amount to slightly less than 10 percent of Ocasio-Cortez’s 2017 income.

Data from Glassdoor shows that the average annual salary for a waitress in the New York City area is just $27,342, and data from real estate site RentJungle shows that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City is $2,939/month, or $35,268 over the course of a 12-month lease.

Average annual compensation for a waitress in the New York City area (Data and chart by Glassdoor)

Even when splitting that cost with a roommate, one renter’s share would be $17,634/year. If that tenant was a waitress making $27,342/year, that means rent alone — assuming the $2,939/month average for New York City — would eat up more than 64 percent of their annual take-home pay. And if that renter was paying the $2,367/year for medical expenses the MIT living wage calculator estimates they would spend on healthcare, that would leave just over $7,300 over the course of an entire year for other basic needs like food, transportation, and child care.

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez will be part of the new Medicare for All caucus in the 116th Congress, which the Wall Street Journal reports already has approximately 70 members.


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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