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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates sat down with GeekWire for an interview in early 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Three of the business leaders who have benefited most from the current economic system sat down Monday morning to discuss the rise of socialism in American politics.

There weren’t many surprises in CNBC’s interview with business leaders Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Charlie Munger. They defended capitalism as the system that they believe is most effective and criticized the emotionally charged environment in Washington, D.C. But Gates, the Microsoft co-founder who went on to become one of the world’s most prolific philanthropists, offered a unique perspective on socialism’s growing popularity.

What Gates said: “Some people think when you defend capitalism you’re defending the tax rates we have today and saying that higher absolute tax rates or more progressive tax rates, that you’re disagreeing with them. I don’t think Warren and I are disagreeing that you could make the taxes more progressive … Socialism used to mean that the state controlled the means of production and a lot of people who are promoting socialism actually aren’t using that classic definition. What we’re going to have is capitalism with some level of taxation. Most people really aren’t arguing against capitalism. There may be a few but most people are just saying that the taxes should change.”

The backdrop: “Socialist” ideas, such as Medicare-for-all, are gaining popularity thanks to politicians on the left like Sen. Bernie Sanders and rising progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Though many policies floating around go beyond increasing taxes, most politicians in this group are advocating for a form of democratic socialism that doesn’t involve the government controlling all markets.

Fact check: Though Gates is correct in asserting that this new breed of American socialism differs from previous iterations of the ideology, the vision put forth by the Democratic Socialists of America isn’t just about tax reform. It involves government control of sectors that provide essential services, like healthcare and utilities.

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