I predict we’ll see a Bill Gates for President campaign in 2020.
Will he be a reluctant candidate? Will he have a shot at winning? It’s too early to say.
But if his brief interview on CNN last night represents his thinking, I think he’s thinking about running.
Gates is not normally mentioned among the long list of potential candidates. And, he’s tried to dampen speculation that he might run in the past, that was before the 2016 election.
For just a few minutes last night, he sounded like somebody who might be thinking that his country needs him. The topic was the new tax law, which he was discussing with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria:
“It was not a progressive tax bill. It was a regressive tax bill. People who are wealthier tended to get dramatically more benefits than the middle class or those who are poor, and so it runs counter to the general trend you’d like to see, where the safety net is getting stronger and those at the top are paying higher taxes.”
Most nonpartisan analysts say the new tax law indeed does provide small, temporary tax breaks for many middle class Americans–but also includes big tax hikes for others in the middle class, and giant, permanent tax cuts for the country’s wealthiest people.
Gates, 62, who has an estimated $91 billion net worth and is the second-wealthiest person on the planet, also said he thinks that the government should be taxing people like him at a much higher rate.
“I need to pay higher taxes,” Gates said on CNN Sunday evening. “I’ve paid, in absolute, more taxes, over $10 billion, than anyone else, but the government should require people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes.”
There’s nothing stopping Gates or any other billionaire from simply paying more taxes than he or she is required to. However, since retiring from his role as CEO and founder of Microsoft, however, Gates has devoted himself full-time to philanthropy.
In fact, he and Warren Buffett were the cofounders of The Giving Pledge, via which 158 of the world’s richest billionaires have pledged to give at least half of their fortunes to charity.
When he’s tried to dampen speculation about a political future in the past, Gates often talks about the charitable work he’s doing now as being something he’s better suited for.
“I like my job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation better than I would being president,” Gates said in oft-cited remarks in early 2016. “Also, I wouldn’t be good at doing what you need to do to get elected.”
But, that’s not exactly an ironclad “I won’t serve if elected” speech. Also, note the date: “early 2016.”
A lot has changed since then in this country. And if Gates is thinking about it, I can imagine very few circumstances under which he wouldn’t do run.
He’s been been a consistent, if subdued critic of President Trump’s policies since the 2016 election, pushing back against the tax bill, but also against Trump’s entire “America First” foreign and domestic economic policy, which Gates sees as short-sighted.
And then you start to ask, how many people are there really in the United States who could envision running for president in 2020, and having a shot at winning? A thousand, at the most?
The 2016 election proved we’re willing to consider candidates from outside politics and the military.
And having done what Gates has done, and accomplished what he accomplished, it’s almost impossible to imagine him not thinking of himself as part of that relative small group.
If you need more proof, in writing this column, I came across evidence that somebody else might think he’s potentially running–the Russian government.
I say this because their state-funded news organization, RT, seems to have taken a strong anti-Gates position. Even their article about his remarks on CNN includes a tweet to a satirical video game they’d promoted, mockingly called, “Save Us Bill Gates!“
Do the Russians think they’re experts on U.S. politics now? Do they know something we don’t know? We’ll find out soon enough.
Let us know in the comments: Will Bill Gates run for president? Should he?