WASHINGTON — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said the wealthy should pay more as the United States continues to grapple with how to rein in its budget deficit.
“There’s no doubt that as you look at balancing budgets to the degree you need more revenue” that lawmakers will need to look to the wealthy “to get a little bit more from them proportionately than you get from people as a whole,” Gates said in an interview with Bloomberg Television before speaking Tuesday at the Peterson Foundation fiscal summit in Washington. “I think that’s pretty likely.”
Later, Gates, the world’s second richest man and co-chairman of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the U.S. is compromising its “values” in its approach to reducing federal spending.
The automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, that took effect earlier this year target discretionary spending programs including education, infrastructure and research, which Gates said he finds worrisome.
“The sequester, I don’t think reflects our values,” he said. “There will have to be a discussion about funding the future.”
Separately, former President Bill Clinton, who joined Gates onstage at the event, said the U.S. should give President Obama’s health-care law time to work before proposing major changes as part of debate over the budget deficit.
“We really need about five years to see if the drivers in the health-care law,” he said, “to see if that works.”
Clinton’s wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is considered a potential candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. In closing his remarks, Clinton didn’t deny that his wife has political ambitions, saying it’s important not to “get off on to politics too early.”
Hillary Clinton is “having a little fun being a private citizen for the first time in 20 years,” he said.
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders expressed skepticism that Congress is close to reaching a bipartisan agreement on addressing the U.S. debt and budget deficit.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said on a panel at the fiscal summit that the inability of congressional lawmakers to work together is hurting the nation.
“All of us are tired of managing by crisis. It’s hurting our businesses, it’s hurting our families,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., on Tuesday proposed that Democrats and Republicans create a conference committee to work out their differences on their budget resolutions. “Why can’t we sit down as reasonable men and women and work out our differences?” Reid said.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., chairman of the House Budget Committee, said at the summit that Republicans object to the timing of a conference committee.
“We don’t want to go to conference for the sake of going to conference. We want to get a deal,” said Ryan. Going to conference before there is basic agreement among lawmakers would be counterproductive, he said.
Ryan said he doubts that lawmakers in Congress can agree on a significant plan to address the budget deficit and other fiscal priorities.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a grand bargain,” he said. “A grand bargain implies you’re going to fix the problem.” Ryan said the goal should be an incremental approach, or “something that’s realistic.”