Callaghan O’Hare | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and 2020 presidential candidate, pauses during the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is one of the latest Democratic candidates to eschew socialism, declaring that he is a capitalist Tuesday on MSNBC.
However, the South Bend, Indiana mayor said the United States’ system of capitalism needs to change in order to “improve our democracy.”
Buttigieg, 37, is the youngest candidate in the race for the 2020 nomination. He said “the biggest problem with capitalism right now is the way it’s become intertwined with power and is eroding our democracy.”
He recommended removing money from politics, noting that the “ever-expanding” growth of big businesses needs to be stopped from “basically taking over our government.”
Buttigieg is one of the latest Democratic candidates to embrace capitalism in a Democratic primary race that is increasingly welcoming the concept of socialism. Fellow candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and former congressman Beto O’Rourke have also voiced their support for capitalism.
But like other candidates, Buttigieg sees dangers in unbridled capitalism. He used Russia as an example of what capitalism looks like without democracy. He said it can quickly evolve into crony capitalism and then an oligarchy – a government controlled by a small group of wealthy business leaders and officials.
To prevent money from influencing American politics, Buttigieg suggested a possible constitutional amendment “so that we can move past whether Citizens United was decided correctly.”
In 2010, the Supreme Court voted in the Citizens United v. FEC case to change long-standing restrictions on political fundraising and spending. The ruling allowed businesses, nonprofits and unions unlimited spending power.
“It’s one of the reasons why we need to establish a more consistent rule of law,” Buttigieg said. “Capitalism doesn’t even work for the business community properly when you don’t have the rule of law, as well.”
He added that the next president needs to “immediately get to work” on making these changes.
Buttigieg, a Rhodes Scholar and Afghanistan War veteran was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana in 2011 at 29-years-old, making him the country’s youngest mayor of a city that size at the time.
If he wins the Democratic nomination, he will be the first openly-gay presidential nominee by a major party.
But he has a long way to go. He is polling with less than 1 percent of the vote, falling behind fellow candidates Harris, Warren, O’Rourke and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not declared whether he will run for president, leads the field at 28 percent.
Buttigieg’s office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.