Ray Dalio is living the American Dream. He can see it clearly hundreds of feet beneath the Caribbean as he glides along in his own submarine. But most others will never see his or any other version of the dream because the American Dream is lost, its engine, capitalism, broken, says the hedge fund billionaire on this week's 60 Minutes.
Dalio thought his message important enough to agree to allow 60 Minutes cameras into his place of business as part of his profile. Bridgewater Associates in Westport, Connecticut, the hedge fund he founded in 1975, is the most successful in the world with assets of $160 billion. He's never allowed news cameras full access before. It was important enough because the income disparity is dangerous says Dalio.
"I think that if I was the president of the United States… what I would do is recognize that this is a national emergency," says Dalio. "If you look at history like the late 1930s, if you have a group of people who have very different economic conditions and you have an economic downturn, you have conflict. I think the American dream is lost," Dalio tells Whitaker. All the wealth being created, Dalio says, isn't translating to opportunity for others. "It's not redistributing opportunity. We can call it a wealth gap, you can call it an income gap… It's unfair… it's unproductive, and at the same time… [it] threatens to split us."
Looking out of his submarine at a dying coral reef, Dalio sees a metaphor for the state of economic opportunity in the US. "The coral reefs are dying and the population is dying, I know that we're out of balance… you should do something."
In the interview, Dalio advocates on raising taxes on people like himself and scoffs at the idea that cutting taxes on the rich will promote productivity.
"That doesn't make any sense to me at all," Dalio says. "One way or another, the important thing is to take those tax dollars and make them productive."
Dalio is trying to restore some balance in his home state, where he just announced a $100 million donation to Connecticut's public schools. He's also promised to leave half his $18 billion fortune to charitable endeavors he thinks can make a difference, like a good education. Ultimately, the very engine of the American Dream must be fixed he says.
"Capitalism needs to be reformed. It doesn't need to be abandoned… like anything, a plane, a school system, anything, it needs to be reformed in order to work better," Dalio tells Whitaker. "I don't think [capitalism] is sustainable. We're at a juncture. We can do it together or we will do it in conflict… between the rich and the poor."