Billionaire candidate Tom Steyer: America's income inequality is 'unbearable, unjust'

Tom Steyer speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer may be worth $1.6 billion, but he says he knows the extreme wealth gap in the United States is a problem. 

"I believe that the income inequality in this country is unbearable, unjust, and unsupportable," Steyer said during Tuesday's Democratic debate at Drake University in Iowa.

"The redistribution of wealth to the richest Americans from everyone else has to end," he said.

Part of the solution, Steyer says is a wealth tax on "1 percenters like me," he wrote in an op ed in USA Today in October.

Watch CNBC's full interview with 2020 Democratic candidate Tom Steyer
Watch CNBC's full interview with 2020 Democratic candidate Tom Steyer

"If you are worth more than $20 million, you'll pay a single penny on every dollar you have above that level. No deductions, no exemptions, no loopholes at all. Every .1 percenter pays," Steyer wrote of his wealth tax proposal.

"One percent for your country would be a rounding error for the richest Americans. But it adds up for the American people."

Steyer's one fellow billionaire in the Democratic presidential race, Michael Bloomberg, has a different take on implementing a tax on high net worth: It "just doesn't work," he said on CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Tuesday.

Instead, Bloomberg proposes raising income taxes (among other things). "[T]hat's the way you fix income inequality and that's where you get money to do the things we need to do that keeps this country safe and keep the economy going," he said.

Warren Buffett: We should raise taxes on the rich—it won't make them flee the US
Warren Buffett: We should raise taxes—it won't make the rich flee the US

Though the wealth gap needs to be addressed, Steyer says his success story is a reason he should be president, especially facing off against Donald Trump.

"I started a business by myself in one room. I didn't inherit a penny from my parents. I spent 30 years building that business into a multi-billion-dollar international business," he said. "Then I walked away from it and took The Giving Pledge and started organizing coalitions of ordinary Americans to take on unchecked corporate power."

"I have 30 years of international business experience," Steyer said on Tuesday. "I can beat Trump on the economy. We're going to have to beat him on the economy."

See also:

What billionaires said about wealth inequality and capitalism in 2019

Billionaire Ray Dalio: U.S. economy must change or there will be 'conflict' between the rich and poor

Billionaire Marc Benioff: Capitalism has 'led to horrifying inequality' and must be fixed

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