Tom Steyer talks corporate influence and student loan debt


Presidential candidate and businessman Tom Steyer speaks to potential voters Aug. 10 at Cafe Diem in downtown Ames.

Jake Webster

As the last major Democratic candidate to enter the party’s presidential primary, Tom Steyer started off weeks, and in many cases months, behind his opponents in the race.

Steyer did not qualify for Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, missing the qualification criteria by one poll. Steyer spent the day traveling to meet with voters in eastern Iowa instead. He has qualified for the debate scheduled for October.

A Morning Consult tracking poll released Monday of voters in the early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — found Steyer with the support of four percent of likely voters, in sixth place.

Steyer spoke with the Daily in a phone interview early Thursday.

Steyer said he believes people are looking for a vision for the future, and someone who can take on President Donald Trump. Steyer said he can “expose [Trump] as a fraud as a businessman.”

Trump and Steyer are both billionaires, though Trump inherited hundreds of millions of dollars of his fortune. Steyer worked at both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, eventually founding his own hedge fund firm.

Central to Steyer’s presidential bid is a call to end corporate influence in American politics.

“We have to break the corporate stranglehold on our democracy,” Steyer said.

Beyond that central point, Steyer said he believes Americans have a right to five things: health care, education from pre-K to college, a living wage, clean air and the right to vote.

Discussing education, Steyer said people who are using their education as a means to get a job that is “beneficial for society” should have their student debt forgiven. Steyer said government should be supporting students, “not treating them as a source of income.” He said he spent six weeks going “door to door” in California trying to get state legislators to support a “bill of rights” for student borrowers.

“Student borrowers aren’t even treated honestly and fairly in a way that all other borrowers are,” Steyer said.

Regarding the corporate influence on health care in the United States, Steyer said “it’s not a fluke that we pay twice as much as any other country in the world on health care.”

In order to reduce corporate influence in government, Steyer said he supports term limits for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. A 2018 McLaughlin and Associates poll found 82 percent of Americans are in favor of term limits for congressional term limits.

Dozens of people were killed in mass shootings in August, with many more injured. Steyer said implementing universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons are “obvious” actions to take.

However, Steyer said the number of gun deaths in the United States is high overall, adding “we’re going to have to deal with the ubiquity [of] the incredibly high numbers of guns in the United States.”

“I think there’s a broader point here, what we’re seeing,” Steyer said. “I think we see huge stories in the press about mass shootings […] but I think what’s also true is we see an incredibly high number of regular old murders that aren’t mass shootings and our suicide rate is incredibly high. So really what we’re seeing is [high levels of] gun violence across the board.”

Steyer said he believes the United States has a failed government, but if the government is stabilized, the country is well positioned to move forward.

“We have a failed government […] but we don’t have a failed society. We have the greatest society in the history of the planet,” Steyer said.