Speed Reads

2020 Democratic debates

Bernie Sanders says billionaires shouldn't exist. Billionaire Tom Steyer agrees.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is no friend of billionaires, which had the potential to make things pretty awkward at the Democratic debate on Tuesday night, seeing as he was sharing the stage with one. When CNN moderators asked Sanders about his claims that billionaires shouldn't exist, the question seemed to directly target former hedge fund entrepreneur Tom Steyer, who is worth an estimated $1.6 billion and was standing only a few feet away.

Sanders played it safe, saying "if you're asking me that the wealthy should start paying their fair share of taxes ... that's exactly what I believe." But Steyer wasn't shy when he was given the floor to respond: "Sen. Sanders is right," he said. "There have been 40 years where corporations have bought this government and those 40 years have meant a 40-year attack on the rights of working people and specifically on organized labor. The results are as shameful as Sen. Sanders said."

Steyer called the American income gap "absolutely wrong and absolutely unfair" and pointed out that he was "one of the first people on this stage to propose a wealth tax." Steyer added that he would undo every Republican tax cut for rich people and major corporations. "Our government has failed," he went on. "That's why I'm running for president."

Steyer's agreement with Sanders even surprised some of the other candidates on stage. "Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires," joked Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.