Bill Gates isn’t interested in space exploration and doesn’t like Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax: Here are 5 highlights from the billionaire’s DealBook interview

Bill Gates said he has

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Bill Gates said he has “read a lot of science fiction but I guess not as much as [Bezos and Elon Musk] did.”
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Photo credit: Mike Cohen/ The New York Times

Bill Gates isn’t interested in space or juggling iPhone apps to communicate.

These are just two of the thoughts the billionaire shared in a wide-ranging discussion with New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook Conference on November 7. The day-long conference brought together Airbnb CEO Brain Chesky, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Hillary Clinton, Kim Kardashian West, Kris Jenner, Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow, and others to discuss the intersection of business and policy at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Here are five highlights from the Gates interview.

1. Bill Gates thinks billionaires should pay higher taxes

However, Gates said he isn’t a supporter of the wealth taxes proposed by Democratic presidential candidates.

“I happen to believe something in the middle [of the two parties],” Gates said. “I think you can make the estate tax higher; you could even take people who have sat on huge gains for say ten years, and say okay, you should create a taxation event there. I think just by treating capital income the same as labor income, that goes a very long distance, so I’m all for super progressive tax systems.”

Warren’s wealth tax would cost Gates an additional $6 billion in taxes annually, Sorkin said during the interview. Gates said he’s already “paid more than anyone in taxes,” totaling more than $10 billion in his lifetime.

Other ultra-wealthy Americans including George Soros and Abigail Disney have lobbied for a moderate wealth tax and cited Warren’s proposal as an example, Business Insider previously reported.

Hillary Clinton, who was interviewed by Sorkin later in the day, also expressed support for a high estate tax, saying that a wealth tax would be “too disruptive,” and that she “couldn’t see” how it would work. While the idea of using a wealth tax to solve America’s inequality problem has gained traction in recent years, proposals have been hampered by questions over the effectiveness and the constitutionality of such a tax, Business Insider previously reported.

2. Gates is more interested in solving malnutrition than exploring space

When asked by Sorkin if he was interested in space exploration, Gates replied, “No.” When Sorkin alluded to Jeff Bezos’ plan for space colonization, Gates interrupted to say, “He can have it.”

Gates said he has talked about space exploration with Bezos, and that he “read a lot of science fiction but I guess not as much as [Bezos and Elon Musk] did.” Business Insider previously reported that Bezos’ space exploration plan was heavily influenced by a 1976 book he read in high school that proposed connecting the Earth and the moon via a series of enormous, cylindrical tubes.

Sorkin asked Gates why he isn’t interested in space, to which Gates responded: “Because malnutrition is so much more impactful. You know HIV is more impactful, malaria is more impactful.

3. Gates thought Warren Buffett played a “parasitic” game before they became friends

“I didn’t even want to meet Warren,” Gates told Sorkin, “because I thought, ‘Hey, this guy buys and sells [companies],’ and so he found imperfections in terms of markets – that’s not value-added to society, that’s a zero-sum game that is almost parasitic. That was my view before I met him.”

The pair has since gone on to share a 28-year friendship, Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz previously reported. Gates was even introduced at the conference as “Warren Buffett’s best friend.”

4. Gates believed “billions of dollars” would come from his meetings with Jeffrey Epstein

“I made a mistake in judgment in thinking those discussions would go to global health,” Gates said. “That money never appeared.”

A New York Times investigation published in October found that Gates met with Epstein multiple times after Epstein’s conviction in 2011, including at least three meetings at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse. Following the publication of that story, a spokesperson for Gates said Gates regretted the association, but Gates himself hadn’t publicly addressed it until Wednesday afternoon, Business Insider’s Aaron Holmes reported.

“I gave him the benefit of my association,” Gates said.

5. Gates said he’s too “large-screen oriented” for his kids

“I have kids that think I don’t see the world in a modern enough way, including even some technology things they use,” Gates said while explaining that he is a normal parent who washes dishes and takes his kids to school. Gates has three children: Jennifer (23), Rory (20), and Phoebe (17).

“I’m not as phone-centric as they are,” Gates said. “I mean, I have to tell myself, ‘Oh I’ve got to check Instagram because my youngest daughter likes to communicate there,’ I have to check WhatsApp because another child likes to communicate through that. It’s like, oh my God, I have to do all this? But you know, if I forget to do it, then it’s like, ‘Wow, you’re not paying attention to my life.'”

When it comes to communication, Gates said he prefers emails.