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Melinda Gates on capitalism: 'We don't have it all right'

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

The U.S. capitalistic system has been raked over the coals this year.

You can count Melinda Gates in JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon’s camp. Both think that capitalism isn’t without its faults. Dimon, who devoted an entire chunk of his latest annual letter to shareholders to the merits of capitalism, concluded that capitalism needs work.

Others seem to disagree. Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, a self-described socialist, hit the crowds at the South By Southwest festival in May and called capitalism “irredeemable.” The rhetoric from Cortez and others like her, say Senator Bernie Sanders, will probably only pick up into the 2020 presidential election.

From the finance world, Ray Dalio, billionaire investor and founder of the world’s largest hedge fund Bridgewater, took capitalism to task in an 8,000-word LinkedIn post earlier this month. Guess Dalio forgot what helped him make those billions.

Gates is arguably better at understanding the topic than all of the aforementioned names combined. Her unmatched wealth and leadership atop the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has sent her across the world to help improve the health and education systems of impoverished villages.

Gates has seen firsthand what having money — and not having it — could mean to a society’s health.

“I absolutely want to live in a capitalistic society. And the people I meet in so many countries in Africa and Asia want to live in the United States, because of capitalism and democracy,” Gates, the co-chair along with husband Bill of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, told Yahoo Finance.

“We don't have it all right, though,” she said, echoing Dimon.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 05: Melinda Gates speaks onstage at Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations at PlayStation Theater on February 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for THR)

Dimon explained in his shareholder letter. “This is not to say that capitalism does not have flaws, that it isn’t leaving people behind and that it shouldn’t be improved. It’s essential to have a strong social safety net – and all countries should be striving for continuous improvement in regulations as well as social and welfare conditions.”

He added, “I am not an advocate for unregulated, unvarnished, free-for-all capitalism. (Few people I know are.) But we shouldn’t forget that true freedom and free enterprise (capitalism) are, at some point, inexorably linked.”

Gates, who is the author of a new book “The Moment of Lift,” offered a suggestion: “I think it's time for us to look at our tax policy. We should be taxing the wealthy more than middle-class, middle-class more than low-income. We have too much inequity in society. So we need to have some of these policy discussions, and we need to tweak our capitalistic system so it works for everybody, not just the wealthy.”

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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