IOWA CITY — In town for his Aunt Betsy’s 100th birthday party, 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer called for a progressive capitalism that creates wealth and shares it fairly across society.
In what his campaign bills as a major economic policy address that was livestreamed nationwide from MERGE in downtown Iowa City, the California billionaire explained the differences between himself and his Democratic rivals for the nomination — as well as what separates him from President Donald Trump.
Although he respects the others seeking the Democratic Party nomination, Steyer, who is polling at less than 3 percent in Iowa and nationally in the RealClearPolitics.com poll averages, laid out the argument that he is the best candidate to go toe-to-toe with Trump because of his experience in the private sector.
“None of them ... has built or run a successful international business,” he said about the other Democrats. “None of them has private sector track record of creating jobs. None of them has firsthand experience growing wealth and prosperity.”
Steyer started a business in a one-room office and grew it into a multibillion-dollar international enterprise. He studied the United States economy and economies around the world to learn what makes them work.
Steyer believes he’s the only candidate who can come to Iowa or go to battleground states “and credibly talk about growth and prosperity ... deliver a compelling narrative that puts people over profits,” Steyer told an audience of about 50 people.
Steyer’s business background and understanding of the economy appealed to Greg Ward, a University of Iowa student who attended the speech and said he found Steyer’s economic principles in agreement with his.
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“It’s important for the president to understand where growth comes from and how to disperse it to the people,” Ward said.
If voters were looking for a nominee with decades of experience in politics, Donald Trump would not be president, Steyer said. In 2016, Democrats nominated “the most experienced and qualified candidate in history ... and Donald Trump still prevailed.”
“If Democrats want to win in 2020, we need to realize that Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate,” Steyer said. “Conventional wisdom isn’t going to work against Trump.”
Kyle Kingsley of North Liberty agreed that in 2016 “most people were looking for that outside voice.”
“People thought (Trump) cared, but he’s a con man” who has corrupted the White House and government, Kingsley said. “With Steyer, you hear that he cares.”
Before laying out his economic plan, Steyer prefaced it by saying unfettered capitalism is not working and Trump is making it worse.
“The answer is not socialism,” he said, drawing a sharp distinction between himself and those candidates who are calling for a larger role in the economy by the federal government. “The real answer is to make sure that the American people write the rules, not corporations. We need to put people in the driver’s seat and let the innovation and competition of the private sector power our growth and prosperity.”
First, he called for a wealth tax because there’s been “a historic and unjust redistribution of wealth over the last 40 years and in the wrong direction.” The $1.7 trillion it would generate over a decade would put into education and research that will “build sustained shared growth for the entire economy, not just for those at the top,” he said.
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Under Steyer’s plan, anyone worth $32 million or more will pay 1 cent on the dollar. At $500 million, it would go up 1.5 cents and at $1 billion it would rise to 2 cents on the dollar.
Steyer would treat all taxable income — paychecks and investment income — the same. The new revenue will be used for a 10 percent tax cut for low-income and middle class taxpayers — 95 percent of all Americans, Steyer said.
His people-over-profits plan calls for “investing in the American people and building up the innovation competition of our thriving private sector,” Steyer said. His plan, including addressing climate change, will create millions of good-paying union jobs “and invest in education research to bolster our greatest asset — the American people,” Steyer said.
Later, Steyer visited the Center for Active Seniors in Davenport.
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