Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer

Investor and activist

Tom Steyer is a billionaire investor, political fundraiser, environmental activist, and philanthropist. The founder of NextGen America, a super PAC that supports pro-environment candidates, Steyer centers his campaign on combating climate change and ending corporate influence in politics.

He began his career in private equity and in 1986 founded his own investment firm. Born in Manhattan, Steyer holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University.

China

Steyer calls China a competitor, but says that “like it or not” the United States has to maintain a political and economic relationship with Beijing. 

  • Steyer opposes President Donald J. Trump’s trade war with China but says the United States must “stand up strongly” to Beijing’s theft of U.S. intellectual property. 
  • He believes that Trump’s America First policy has created a void in international power politics that China and Russia are eager to fill.
  • He says the United States will have to work with China on climate and regional security.

Climate and Energy

Steyer’s campaign is centered on addressing climate change. He says he would declare the climate crisis a national emergency on day one of his presidency and push to enact sweeping legislation to transition away from fossil fuels.

  • Steyer backs the Green New Deal framework proposed by many Democrats and says that if Congress fails to enact it he would use the emergency powers of the presidency to implement climate policies.
  • His plan calls for a carbon-neutral economy by 2045. He would invest at least $2 trillion in federal spending over a decade into new infrastructure, transportation systems, and clean energy.
  • His plan would also create a civilian climate corps, which Steyer says would generate one million new jobs at a cost of $250 billion.
  • He would dedicate $50 billion to helping workers in fossil fuel industries transition to new careers while ensuring their health care and other benefits.
  • Other proposed measures include new air- and water-quality regulations, a tripling of federal spending on climate science, the creation of a new cabinet-level position to coordinate climate efforts, and the elimination of all federal subsidies for fossil fuels.
  • He promises to rejoin the international Paris Agreement on climate, which Trump withdrew from in 2017. He also pledges more aid to other countries to help them transition from fossil fuel use.

Counterterrorism

Steyer’s comments on counterrorism policy focus on the threat of white nationalist domestic terrorism.

  • He says the country is facing a “domestic terrorism crisis” fueled by white nationalism, and that Congress must tighten gun control to address it.

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Steyer says the U.S. election system is “under attack,” arguing that Trump has sought election help from Russia.

  • Steyer has funded efforts to impeach Trump over his alleged collusion with Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 U.S. election. 
  • He backs paper ballots for all fifty states and says he would seek to implement “risk-based auditing” to protect election systems from malicious attacks.
  • He criticizes Trump’s removal of Obama–era net neutrality rules, which he says “put the internet into the hands of powerful corporations.”

Defense

Steyer’s comments on defense policy focus on reversing what he calls Trump’s isolationist stance. 

  • He criticizes Trump for losing the trust of military leadership, unnecessarily increasing Pentagon spending, and appointing “incompetent” officials in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • He backs an overall reduction in U.S. military spending, but says he will ensure the U.S. military is the “best-trained and best-equipped fighting force in the world.” He argues that more defense spending should go toward emerging threats, including information warfare and climate change.
  • He promises to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in his first year in office.
  • He pledges to “rebuild” military alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • He has identified space as an arena “in which we compete with adversaries” and promises to support air force efforts in space.
  • His climate plan includes provisions to protect military bases against the effects of climate change.
  • He promises to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide more coverage for veterans’ mental health, as well as other services including workforce training, housing support, and student debt reduction. He opposes any privatization of the VA system.
  • He says he would reverse the ban on transgender personnel in the military.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Steyer harshly criticizes Trump’s America First agenda, arguing that his transactional approach to alliances is isolating and weakening the United States.

  • Steyer says he would “work with our traditional allies in a multilateral way” and argues that Trump’s pullback from global institutions has left a vacuum that China and Russia are eager to fill.
  • He says he will “reinvigorate” the State Department, where Trump has sought budget and staffing cuts.
  • He would focus much of his diplomatic effort on helping other countries end reliance on fossil fuels and build clean energy infrastructure.

Economic Policy

A centerpiece of Steyer’s campaign has been the need to end corporate domination of the U.S. political system, which he says is preventing Washington from achieving any other policy goals. 

  • He opposes the 2017 tax reform, which cut both individual and corporate taxes. He would reverse that policy and institute new tax credits for working people.
  • He also argues that a new wealth tax is needed to address rising inequality and pay for infrastructure, climate policies, and other priorities. His plan would levy an annual 1 percent tax on net wealth of over $32 million, which he says will raise $1 trillion per year.
  • He calls the right to a living wage one of the “five rights” that should be guaranteed to all Americans. He supports a $15 per hour minimum wage, paid family leave, childcare subsidies, and greater union rights.
  • He warns about the “threat of automation” and says the government must invest in giving workers new skills.
  • He says he will make higher education more affordable by forgiving “certain types” of student loan debt, making refinancing student debt easier, and “cracking down” on predatory loan servicers. 
  • He proposes a $50 billion national public service program that will create one million positions in five years.

Immigration

Steyer supports comprehensive immigration reform and criticizes Trump’s approach to border security, arguing that the United States must again become a “safe haven” for those fleeing persecution and violence.

  • Steyer favors immigration reform that would create a path to citizenship for the estimated eleven million undocumented residents of the United States.
  • He promises to use executive action to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that shielded those brought to the country as children from deportation, and expand temporary protected status (TPS), a program that allows those from crisis-racked countries to live and work in the United States.
  • He sees climate change as a major reason for mass migration, and also says he will provide more foreign aid for Central American countries.
  • He says the United States must “invest in smart border security” and is against building a wall along the southern border. He says Trump’s border policies and rhetoric have “desensitized” border officials “to a shocking degree.” 
  • He has spent around $1 million helping undocumented immigrants fight deportation.

Middle East

Steyer criticizes the Trump administration for playing an overly militaristic role in the Middle East and opposes current U.S. policies toward Israel and Saudi Arabia.

  • Steyer has been critical of U.S. support for Israel’s security policies, especially its use of force in the Gaza Strip. He disagreed with Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is opposed by Palestinians.
  • He criticizes Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, arguing that it is increasing tensions in the region and pulling the U.S. deeper into a “proxy war” in Syria.
  • He opposed Trump’s 2019 buildup of U.S. troop levels in the Persian Gulf in the wake of increased tensions with Iran.
  • He condemned Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, arguing that the mission there to help the Kurds contain the self-proclaimed Islamic State was successful. He says Trump “sold out” the United States “for the benefit of Vladimir Putin.”
  • He says the Saudi government is responsible for the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and he opposes continuing U.S. military support for the kingdom.

North Korea

Steyer’s brief comments on North Korea have expressed skepticism over Trump’s diplomatic efforts with Kim Jong-un.

  • He has said that Trump’s direct talks with Kim “arguably elevated North Korea while unquestionably alienating our six closest allies.”

Russia

Steyer condemns Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and argues that Trump is hoping to benefit from the same support in 2020.

  • Steyer has funded efforts to impeach Trump over his alleged collusion with Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 U.S. election.
  • He warns that Russia is continuing its efforts to interfere in U.S. politics, and that Trump is welcoming it
  • He argues that Trump’s America First policies are creating a geopolitical vacuum that Russia, along with China, is hoping to fill.
  • He pledges to “rebuild” the NATO alliance, originally created to defend Europe from Soviet aggression.

Trade

Steyer opposes Trump’s use of tariffs on both adversaries and allies, arguing that the president “has no strategy,” even as Steyer acknowledges the need to push back against countries that abuse global trade rules.

  • Steyer opposes the Trump administration’s trade war with China but says the United States must “stand up strongly” to Beijing’s abusive trade practices. 
  • He says he would “negotiate trade agreements with everyone at the table, including labor and environmental groups.”

Venezuela and Latin America

Steyer has not taken a position on the economic and political crisis in Venezuela, and he has made few comments on U.S. policy elsewhere in the region.

  • He says he will provide more foreign aid for Central American countries as part of his plan to address the record number of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. southern border.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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