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Fox News host slams Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘living wage’ for staffers

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“Fox & Friends” host Pete Hegseth accused Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday of imitating “communism and socialism” by redistributing her office budget in order to raise the salaries of her lowest-level staffers to $52,000.

Ocasio-Cortez, who describes herself as a democratic socialist, announced last week that her office will pay all aides a “living wage” between $52,000 at the entry-level and $80,000 at the senior levels. Ocasio-Cortez’s senior aides will take a pay cut in order to boost the salaries of the lowest-level staffers, who make as little as $36,000 in other offices.

“It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it’s worth every dime to pay a living wage.”

Read more: ‘2020 class warfare?’: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the left face off against billionaires in a fight to tax the r ich

Hegseth called it “communism and socialism” to cap a congressional chief of staff’s salary at $80,000, far below what he called the “market rate” for a top Hill aide. He then suggested that Ocasio-Cortez should redistribute her own salary to her staffers.

“She makes $174,000 as a congresswoman,” Hegseth said. “She should probably redistribute some of that. Will you share some of that money, Ms. Congresswoman, with the rest of your staff who is not making as much as you?”

In reality, members of Congress can only alter their own pay by passing a law.

Ocasio-Cortez hit back at the criticism on Monday morning.

“The GOP is so disconnected from the basic idea that people should be paid enough to live that Fox actually thinks me paying a living wage in my office is ‘communism,'” she tweeted. “So the next time GOP screams ‘socialist,’ know that’s their go-to attack for any common-sense, humane policy.”

The median pay for a senior Hill staffer is $154,634, while low-level staff assistants make as little as $36,000 a year. Every congressional office is apportioned a set budget that it then distributes as it sees fit.

“I don’t think you always put the burden on the bottom,” the congresswoman’s communications director, Corbin Trent, who makes $67,000, told Roll Call. “We think that if a person is working, they should make enough to live.”

Last December, Ocasio-Cortez called out her future colleagues in Congress, including Democrats, for paying their low-level staffers salaries below the “living wage” and for employing unpaid interns. Ocasio-Cortez announced then that her office would pay interns at least $15 per hour in addition to benefits.

“It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns & underpaid overworked staff just bc Republicans want to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility,'” she argued.

The 29-year-old former bartender has asserted that low congressional salaries are a “a big reason why money in politics is a problem.”

House members are paid between $174,000 and $223,500 a year, and 40% of senators and representatives are millionaires, according to a March 2018 Roll Call report. The median US household income was $59,039 in 2017, according to the census.

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