CORALVILLE, Iowa - When U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders learned Saturday that Amazon owner Jeff Bezos reportedly asked fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg about running for president, Sanders couldn't contain his laughter to speak.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was in Iowa campaigning for Sanders, jumped in while Sanders composed himself.
"Of course!" she said in an interview with the Des Moines Register. "They've got class solidarity. The billionaires are looking out for each other. They're willing to transcend difference and background and even politics.
"The fact that Bill Gates seems more willing to vote for Donald Trump than anyone else tells you everything you need to know about how far they're willing to go to protect their excess, at the cost to everyday Americans."
Sanders jumped in to joke that the two billionaires make for their own "strong grassroots movement."
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"Jeff Bezos, worth $150 billion, supporting Mike Bloomberg, whose worth only $50 billion, that's real class solidarity," Sanders said with a chuckle. "I'm impressed by that grassroots movement. We on the other hand have had over a million people contribute to our campaign, in millions of individual contributions averaging $16 a piece. That's what we get from working class people. So a little bit different approach to politics."
On the campaign trail, Sanders frequently says that Amazon raised its starting wage to $15 an hour after pressure from him.
Earlier Saturday, at a Des Moines summit on the climate change crisis, Sanders criticized billionaires deciding to run for president just because they have tremendous wealth. He didn't name Bloomberg then, but made his point clear in an interview. Extreme wealth inequality, coupled with lack of regulation - like unlimited political spending allowed under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision - is seeping deeper into politics via things like the "absurdity" of Bloomberg pondering a run, he said.
"He's deciding because he is worth $50 billion, he's going to run for president of the United States," Sanders said. "He doesn't have to worry about coming into Iowa, he doesn't have to worry about going to New Hampshire or Nevada or South Carolina. He's just going to spend, I suspect, hundreds of millions of dollars in media in California because he's a billionaire. So that's the corruption of the political system based on the kind of massive wealth inequality that exists right now."
Sanders brought up Bloomberg when tying his "Green New Deal" - the stated theme behind Ocasio-Cortez's visit to Iowa - to a broader "class war" Sanders sometimes describes on the campaign trail.
"When you talk about class warfare within the context of climate change, like Alexandria was just saying, the fossil fuels industry makes billions of billions of dollars in profits every single year, and the people who suffer the most are often lowest income people. But it's not just low income people. Family farmers in Iowa and agriculture in Iowa is going to be suffering."
The "Green New Deal" would create "millions of good paying jobs while we save the planet for our children," Sanders promised. The $16.2 trillion proposal, spread over 10 years, aims to fundamentally remake the economy around renewable energy and decarbonization.
Ocasio-Cortez, a lead sponsor of the "Green New Deal" in Congress, agreed with the class war framework. Oil companies knew in the 1970s that carbon emissions would lead to global temperature increases, she said, and prioritized profits over being part of the solution.
"The climate crisis is not impacting all of us equally," Ocasio-Cortez said. "It's happening along class lines, so I think it's important to acknowledge the essential classism in the issue and how it's impacting us."
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Bernie Sanders, AOC react to Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg report