Billionaire Tom Steyer joins ‘Influencers with Andy Serwer’ to share his thoughts on capitalism and America’s wealth gap.
ANDY SERWER: You’re a billionaire who supports a wealth tax. There are some people who say billionaires shouldn’t exist. What do you say to those people?
TOM STEYER: Look, I have always thought that the capitalist system is going to and should reward people for coming up with ideas and products that make other people’s lives safer, healthier, more fun, more productive. Absolutely. Does that bother me? Absolutely not. Having said that, do I also think that those people, when they succeed, when a Bill Gates succeeds, did he create Microsoft? Yeah, at some level, he did, but he did it within a system that other people, millions of poor people, millions of unassuming people had dedicated their lives to create.
So he was building– you know the old saying, standing on the shoulders of giants? Everyone who creates a company in the United States is standing on the shoulders of giants. They are part of a system that had enabled them. And the idea that their success is theirs alone and is not shared with their fellow citizens makes no sense to me. It seems to me to be absolutely missing the point of America.
So do I have problems with the idea of a wealth tax, where this society has gotten so out of whack in terms of the inequities of wealth? No, that does– I’m totally for that. I’m totally fine. I think, you know, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and Melinda Gates started something about giving away at least half your wealth while you’re alive on the assumption that you recognize that you are part of society.
You have huge obligations, responsibilities, and debts to your fellow citizens who have done so much. That teacher, that soldier, that nurse, who’ve done so much to create a system that is safe for you to go write some code and make a ton of money. So let’s just be clear, we’re in this together. Nobody is going to succeed in the United States of America without everybody else succeeding as far as I’m concerned.