The first 2020 presidential debate is over--and it featured plenty of topics near and dear to entrepreneurial hearts.

On Wednesday, 10 of the 23 Democratic presidential candidates faced questions in Miami from five NBC News moderators. From  income inequality and the gender pay gap to large corporations and tax cuts, here are the five most pressing small-business issues the candidates discussed:

1. Large corporations and small businesses

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts started the debate by targeting drug and oil companies, noting the struggles of people affected by the policies of those businesses.      "[The economy] is doing great for giant drug companies. It's just not doing great for people who are trying to get a prescription filled," she said, later continuing: "It's doing great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, just not for the rest of us who are watching climate change bear down upon us."

Thematically, it set a tone: Much of the evening's conversation focused on large corporations. Notably, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey specifically called out corporate consolidation as a cause of "an economy that's hurting small businesses and not allowing them to compete," a concept that Warren later echoed when discussing monopolies and super PAC contributions.

2. Income inequality

The most comprehensive answers to questions about income inequality came from former Maryland representative John Delaney and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. Delaney, a former entrepreneur who co-founded two startups that have since traded on the New York Stock Exchange, proposed doubling the earned income tax credit, raising the minimum wage, and creating paid family leave. Inslee took a different tack, arguing that unions and collective bargaining are the most effective way to raise wages.

3. Health care

The night's most contentious moments surrounded health care. Warren, Booker, and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said they'd transition the health insurance industry completely away from the private sector. Specifically, Warren and Booker both noted their appreciation for Bernie Sanders's single-payer health care proposal, Medicare for All.

Other candidates--including Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Texas representative Beto O'Rourke, Delaney, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii--argued for both public and private options. The conversation devolved into a multi-candidate sparring match.

4. Taxes and tax cuts

O'Rourke led the conversation on tax cuts, proposing a reversal of the Republican-led Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and an increase of the corporate tax rate to 28 percent (from the current 21 percent). He declined, however, to comment on a Democratic plan to institute a marginal individual tax rate of 70 percent on Americans making more than $10 million per year.

Booker similarly declined to address a 70 percent tax bracket, though he did specifically note "companies like Halliburton or Amazon that pay nothing in taxes and [a] need to change that." Only De Blasio specifically endorsed the 70 percent tax on top earners.

5. No big tech

One of the debate's most notable takeaways was the lack of conversation about breaking up large tech companies, especially considering Warren's previous proposals to do so. In March, Warren cited boosting small-business growth as a primary driver behind her plan to break up entities like Alphabet, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon using antitrust laws.

During the debate, moderators mentioned Warren's plan and Booker described broad outlines of his preferred changes to antitrust law. No other candidates delved into the issue, an expected hot-button topic.

It could, however, be discussed during the second 2020 presidential debate, which will feature the same moderators and 10 more of the 23 Democratic candidates. That debate will take place on Thursday, June 27, on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo from 9-11 p.m.

Published on: Jun 27, 2019