Tom Steyer is a billionaire hedge fund manager who got his start at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs before starting Farallon Capital in 1986.
He became a top campaign contribution bundler for Democratic candidates like Barack Obama. In 2014, he poured $74 million of his own money into the midterm elections. Now he’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, and the billionaire capitalist is pushing a radical socialist agenda for his campaign.
Steyer says he wants to emphasize “people over profits,” a tagline reminiscent of the campaigns of die hard socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), far-left welfare statist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), or universal basic income proponent Andrew Yang. But it sounds strange coming from a billionaire banker who’s made billions in profits. He says he wants to repeal Citizens United, but he’s already taken advantage of it to deploy tens of millions to influence politics.
Taking a page right out of fellow business magnate, Donald Trump’s 2016 playbook, Steyer has pledged to spend $100 million of his own money on his 2020 presidential ambitions.
The wealthiest Democratic contender for the 2020 presidential nomination has a platform that’s among the most radical in the field. Steyer unveiled his economic plan Monday. His support for a $15 minimum wage is standard fare in this primary. And there’s nothing too radical about his call for congressional term limits, repealing Citizens United, or rolling back the Trump tax cuts.
But his plan also calls for amending the Constitution to add new constitutional rights: “the right to healthcare, clean air and water, a livable wage, an equal vote, and a quality education.”
This is a radical re-imagining of the American form of government. It would fundamentally alter the Constitution from a document chartering a constitutional republic, to one that codifies the ideology of Karl Marx into the supreme law of the land.
This would be no trivial transformation. What Steyer would codify as “rights” to be administered by the federal government, are qualitatively distinct from those in the Bill of Rights. These rights as conceived by America’s framers place restrictions on the government’s power. Steyer’s socialist conception of rights would grant the government a vast and undefined field of power.
In a 1792 essay for the National Gazette, future president James Madison draws the distinction:
“In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example… of charters of power granted by liberty. This revolution in the practice of the world, may, with an honest praise, be pronounced the most triumphant epoch of its history, and the most consoling presage of its happiness.”
Indeed, James Madison and fellow future president Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party in 1792, which would become today’s Democratic Party, whose nomination Tom Steyer seeks. Here’s what Thomas Jefferson might say about Steyer’s economic agenda, from a letter Jefferson wrote to Madison in 1787:
“I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.”
On CNBC’s Squawk Alley Monday, Steyer said:
“If you look at what’s happened since 1980, working Americans haven’t had a raise. That’s two generations of working people who haven’t had a raise when you take into account the increases in health care, the increases in rent, and the increases in education. So when you talk about redistribution of money, excuse me, for 40 years, we’ve been redistributing the money in the United States to the top 1%.”
Steyer’s claim is not exactly true. Average hourly earnings adjusted for inflation seem to have barely changed since 1979. That is, until you calculate the “time cost” of most big ticket items used by every American house hold in average nominal hourly wages. In 1979, it took the average worker 61 hours to afford a microwave. In 2015, it took three hours. And today’s appliances are not only more affordable, they look better, have more features, and use less electricity.
That all happened without radical government reforms.
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Last modified: January 10, 2020 3:36 PM UTC