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Politics at Met Gala: What was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Tax the Rich’ gown all about

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The 31-year-old politician said she wanted her white off-shoulder dress to ‘break the fourth wall.’ Predictably, she came in for a Twitter tongue lash from the Trump clan for ‘hanging out with a bunch of wealthy leftwing elites’ even as she challenged institutions. Meanwhile, the US again fails to bring the really rich into the tax net.

Politics at Met Gala: What was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Tax the Rich’ gown all about
The Met Gala, “fashion’s biggest night out,” returned to New York after almost two years. On September 13, celebrity guests from the world of fashion, film, TV, tech, sports, and beyond walked the red carpet of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in head-turning ensembles.
Billie Eilish appeared in full glamour wearing an Oscar de la Renta ball gown, while Rihanna donned a huge black Balenciaga and two chokers with 267 carats of Bulgari diamonds.
Headline queen Kim Kardashian walked the red carpet in an all-black head-to-toe Balenciaga ensemble, heels and her face shrouded.
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, however, carefully picked her outfit that had a political message. The Democratic-Socialist Congresswoman wore a white off-shoulder gown by Brother Vellies with the words ‘Tax the Rich’ splashed in red on the back.
AOC's message is loud and clear
Speaking to Reuters, the 31-year-old politician said it was time to bring all classes into a conversation about having a fairer country.
"I think it's incredibly important, because when we talk about supporting working families and when we talk about having fair a tax code, oftentimes those conversations are happening among working and middle-class people," she said.
"We can't just play along, but we need to break the fourth wall and challenge some of the institutions,” she told Vogue at her maiden appearance at the Met Gala. "While the Met is known for its spectacle, we should have some conversations about it," she added.
They did try to 'tax the rich'
Americans have long been debating over the government taxing the rich more to pay for social spends. In 2011, former US President Barack Obama tried to persuade the Congress to impose a 30 percent tax on individuals with more than $1 million annual earnings. His efforts were scuttled by the Republican opposition and scepticism from Democrats as well.
A decade later, President Joe Biden came up with a similar plan of more aggressive tax increases on the super-rich to fund his $1.8-trillion spending on healthcare and education over a period of 10 years. Popular sentiments in the US have also been in favour of higher taxes on the affluent, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the rich fared well while the low-income households suffered.
However, the White House has been divided on the legislation with some Democrats pushing Biden to overturn a cap on taxes introduced by Trump.
A new proposal
On September 13, the House Ways and Means Committee presented a plan to fund President Joe Biden’s social safety policy and climate change package by raising taxes on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations.
The draft proposal seeks to hike the top marginal rate on individuals to 39.6 percent from 37 percent that was set by the Republicans in 2017. Individuals with taxable income of over $400,000 a year and married couples with over $450,000 joint annual income would fall in this bracket. The proposal also seeks to raise capital gains rate to 25 percent from 20 percent. Apart from this, individuals with adjusted gross incomes in excess of $5 million will have to pay a 3 percent surtax.
The Democrats proposed to increase the top corporate tax rate to 26.5 percent from 21 percent set by the Republicans in their 2017 tax cut law. This would be applicable to businesses with income over $5 million. Before 2017, the top rate was 35 percent. The rate is lower than Biden’s earlier proposal of hiking corporate rate to 28 percent.
The lawmakers also proposed to raise the minimum tax on foreign earnings of American firms to 16.5 percent from 10.5 percent.
The proposal seeks to draw nearly $2.1 trillion in increased tax revenues, according to estimates by the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation.
The revenue will be used to expand the federal government’s role in healthcare, education, paid leave, and climate change.
But the Elon Musks remain untaxable
Despite a hike in taxes, the proposal fell short of denting the vast fortunes of business tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, according to The New York Times, which called the proposal as aiming “to go after the merely rich more than the fabulously rich.”
The Democrats focused on traditional ways of raising tax rates on income instead of targeting wealth itself. The Bill does not close off avenues exploited by the super-rich to pass on their gains to their heirs tax-free.
At present, heirs pay taxes on inherited gains only during the sale of the property. They can also adjust the asset purchase price to the value on the date of death, thereby saving taxpayers $41 billion per year, as per the estimates of the Joint Committee on Taxation.
President Biden had called for treating inheritances as sale, which would lead to heirs to paying taxes on death. This proposal was dropped by the House Ways and Means Democrats.
“It would be a monumental mistake for Congress to pass a Bill that really exempts billionaires,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, told The New York Times.
Trump Junior does not like it
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s outfit drew mixed reaction on social media with some applauding her and others calling her hypocritical.
Donald Trump Jr tweeted, “What makes AOC a bigger fraud? The ‘tax the rich’ dress while she's hanging out with a bunch of wealthy leftwing elites or the lack of masks after spending the past 18 months as one of the biggest authoritarian mask Karens in the country?”
User @hexthekyriarchy  tweeted "Wearing a dress that says #TaxTheRich but will do nothing to make it a reality."
"Partying with celebrities at an elitist event makes us Dems look awful," tweeted @UncvrngTheTruth. "Especially in the middle of a voting rights crisis and women’s rights in TX hanging by a thread. Do better, AOC."
Some others called the move iconic. @JeimiVentura tweeted: “AOC wearing a ‘tax the rich’ dress at the Met Gala is truly the most iconic outfit I’ve ever SEEN.”