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During Bill and Melinda Gates’ guest appearance on The Late Show Tuesday night, host Stephen Colbert referenced their status as “billionaires,” asked their opinions on the functionality of the U.S. tax system and brought up the question of a presidential candidacy.
Speaking first about taxes, the Gateses said that wealthy individuals should be taxed at a higher percentage than the middle and lower class. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Melinda said. She argued that the American economy needs a “fair system” that “stimulates good growth.”
Their appearance came right after the couple’s Gates Foundation sent its annual letter for 2019, in which it identified the biggest “surprises” of the previous year. “From especially devastating natural disasters on the one hand to record numbers of women campaigning for office on the other, 2018 felt to us like a series of surprises,” the letter began. Highlighted surprises included the fact that Africa is the youngest continent, that data can be sexist and that “textbooks are becoming obsolete.”
Asked by Colbert what the “purpose” of the letter is, Bill replied, “Every year we travel to Africa, meet with scientists, see all kinds of things that are going very well, so this is a chance to share why we’re excited about the work.”
In other press stops promoting the annual letter, Bill elaborated on his view of a higher tax on the wealthy but that he was against “extreme” propositions. ” We can be more progressive without really threatening income generation — what you have left to decide [is] how to spread around,” he told The Verge. He may have been referencing a proposition by newly elected Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to apply a 70 percent tax to the top-earning Americans.
Noting that Howard Schultz is considering a run for president as an independent candidate, Colbert took the opportunity to ask the Gateses whether they would run for the highest office. Bill replied, “We are specialized in what we dig into and what we know, and we hope to get good politicians, but we’re not going to run.”
By ruling out a run on The Late Show, Bill did the opposite of Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced her presidential campaign on the show. Kamala Harris also teased her interest in running for office during her interview with Colbert in January.
Somewhat disappointed, Colbert still gave the Gateses t-shirts emblazoned with the words, “Gates 2020: It’s Not an Option.”
The Gateses also touched upon women who are living in countries with less resources than we have in the United States, to which Melinda brought up the use of cell phones and how they can be transformative. “It’s not the only tool, but it’s one of the tools that help empower women,” she said.
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