Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer met with members of Culinary Local 226 on Thursday in Las Vegas as part of the union’s town hall series.
Steyer’s mix of progressive economic and climate platforms with a strong rebuke of “Medicare for All” resonated with his audience perhaps better than any of the leading candidates seeking the powerful union’s endorsement before the Feb. 22 Nevada caucuses.
Though himself a billionaire and employer of hundreds, Steyer’s message of using grassroots organizing to empower workers and fight a government corrupted by corporate greed drew strong support.
“My first partner has always been unions,” Steyer told the crowd. “My best has always been unions. And my last partner will be unions.”
Praise for Trump attacks
The audience cheered Steyer’s willingness to sling mud at President Donald Trump, whom he called a “fake,” “crook,” “racist” and “anti-American” at several intervals during his 40 minutes on stage.
He said Trump’s only campaigning point is on the economy, which Steyer said is ensuring the wealthy get wealthier at the expense of working people. Steyer favors a wealth tax and a higher minimum wage.
Steyer criticized Trump’s business acumen and said he could run the economy better. Taxing investment income at the same rate as regular earned income, he said as an example, could fund a 10 percent tax break for nearly every American.
Trump campaign spokesman Keith Schipper accused Steyer of wasting millions of dollars on a “vanity campaign.”
“Nevadans are finally getting ahead thanks to President Trump’s leadership and have zero interest in the California billionaire’s radical agenda,” Schipper said.
Steyer pledged to end family separations at the U.S./Mexico border, where he also accused Trump of “committing crimes against humanity in the name of the U.S. government.”
“This is a racist president who is not against immigration,” Steyer said. “He’s against the immigration by non-white people.”
In answers on health care and other topics, Steyer referred to himself as a political outsider with no allegiances to any lobbies or corporate interests.
On health care, Steyer said drug companies, insurance groups and private hospitals are driving up costs, and no one in Washington will stand up to them. The government must work to cut costs while also ensuring access through a public option in the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s wrong, but it ain’t complicated,” Steyer said. “They are just kicking our ass. And we have to push back and not compromise.