Former Mayor Bloomberg is portrayed by the media and his campaign as a pragmatic, non-ideological centrist and an experienced manager who can get things done. Indeed, his campaign theme is “Mike Will Get It Done.” Columnists and pundits have emphasized a number of themes used to support Bloomberg. He has been characterized as non-ideological, a centrist who can appeal to swing voters such as moderate Democrats, Independents and suburban women, a philanthropist who gives to “good causes,” and an experienced executive who has the resources needed to win. Thomas Friedman, a columnist with the NY Times, summarized his endorsement because Bloomberg stresses “…national unity, personal integrity and a willingness to pursue bipartisanship whenever the other side is ready…. And this candidate knows how to get stuff done.”
Are these portrayals correct? The answer is a resounding NO as the following analysis will reveal. Bloomberg provides an almost textbook illustration of how the entire political system is being increasingly dominated by the very wealthy. After all, Bloomberg is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world who is using his money to directly purchase an election—something he has already done as mayor of New York City. I have previously analyzed the process through which corporations and billionaires dominate our political economy through a system of legalized corruption in which Big Business basically purchases the allegiance of politicians by investing billions of dollars in campaign contributions; obtains favorable legislation by spending billions more in lobbying; and ensures that the legislation is supported by pro-corporate judges who have been appointed by those same politicians (see here, here and here). Bloomberg provides a prime example of this entire process.
“Bloomberg espouses a decidedly pro-Wall Street, pro-free market ideology that undermines democratic institutions. And he can do all of this with impunity because he really does not have to answer to or rely on others.”
Bloomberg is unique. Usually, billionaires basically buy politicians to do their bidding. But Bloomberg has cut out the middleperson, other politicians. Since he is self-funded, he can do what he wants without depending on other politicians or even other donors. There are billionaires who have provided vast amounts of money to allied politicians and causes they support. For example, Sheldon Adelson a multi-billionaire casino magnate has pledged to give $100 million to President Trump and Republicans during the 2020 elections; the Koch family who made their billions in the energy sector have given vast sums to politicians and think tanks who support their pro-business, libertarian philosophy; George Soros who made his billions in hedge funds has contributed millions to progressive politicians. However, none of these billionaires have run for the presidency. Other billionaires have run for the presidency such as Donald Trump (worth an estimated $2.9 billion) and Ross Perot (worth an estimated $3 billion)—but none have been entirely self-funded or even spent as much of their own money on their campaigns as Bloomberg (worth an estimated $60 billion). In other articles, I have analyzed the close ties of Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden to Wall Street and billionaires both in terms of campaign contributions and the policies they support. But Bloomberg takes all of this to a new level—Bloomberg is a self-funded billionaire who is entirely independent of other politicians and donors. Consequently, Bloomberg can basically do what he wants. He consistently sides with the interests of Wall Street and billionaires to the detriment of the millions of workers and small businesspeople who inhabit Main Street. Bloomberg also espouses a decidedly pro-Wall Street, pro-free market ideology that undermines democratic institutions. And he can do all of this with impunity because he really does not have to answer to or rely on others. Yes, he depends on voters to be elected—but he actually buys votes by spending unprecedented amounts on advertising and campaign staff. As the following analysis will reveal in detail: Bloomberg takes the U.S. ever closer to becoming a formal plutocracy in which a wealthy elite publicly, directly and unapologetically control the entire U.S. political economy.
A Wall Street Billionaire With a History of Buying Elections
Bloomberg’s presidential campaign strategy is a form of “shock and awe” geared to overwhelm his opponents by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an unprecedented effort to buy the election – the same strategy he used to become NY City mayor.
Bloomberg is Not Only Tied to Wall Street – His Business IS Wall Street.
According to Forbes, Bloomberg is the twelfth richest individual on the planet with an estimated net worth (assets minus liabilities) of approximately $60 billion. New York Magazine has a brief but interesting article on how Bloomberg made his money. Bloomberg initially got rich by selling stocks and bonds for Salomon Brothers. However, most of his wealth comes from his 88% ownership of Bloomberg LP, the financial data services firm he founded in 1981. This firm generates approximately $10 billion in annual revenue. Most of this revenue comes from the sale of software and/or hard terminals that provide real-time access to a wealth of detailed financial data used by corporations tied to Wall Street. Terminals sell for $20,000 a year and there are 300,000 terminal subscriptions around the world. Bloomberg LP has captured an estimated 32.7% of the global market data industry – much more than the 22.2% of Refinitiv, its top competitor. Bloomberg’s wealth depends on Wall Street’s health and expansion– and, as will be detailed later – he will support policies that would benefit Wall Street and oppose policies that would hurt Wall Street.
Bloomberg Is Attempting to Buy the Presidency and It Is All Legal.
Bloomberg is so much richer than any other presidential candidate. Here is a list of the wealth of the Democratic candidates: Buttigieg $100,000; Klobuchar $2 million; Sanders $2.5 million; Biden $9 million; Warren $12 million; Steyer $1.6 billion; and Bloomberg $61.9 billion. But it’s not just the size of his wealth that is striking – it is the fact that he is willing to spend unprecedented amounts of his own money on his own campaign.
“Bloomberg takes the U.S. ever closer to becoming a formal plutocracy in which a wealthy elite publicly, directly and unapologetically control the entire U.S. political economy.”
Bloomberg stated that he is open to spending $1 billion to defeat Trump. And it is all legal because a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no legal limit to how much a candidate can spend on his/her own campaign declaring that rich candidates have a First Amendment right to “unfettered speech.” In other words, money is free speech and the more money you have, the more free speech you can have.
Bloomberg did not enter the presidential race until late November 2019. He did not run or establish on-the-ground organizations in the four states with caucuses and primaries occurring before March 3rd. He missed all eight Democratic presidential debates occurring before his first appearance at the February 19th debate. In late November when he declared his candidacy, Bloomberg registered just 2% in national polls. Yet, in just a few weeks he has exploded to third place at 15.3% just 1.9 percentage point behind Biden.
Bloomberg’s meteoric rise in the national polls can be explained by one word: Money. While most of the other candidates obtain funding from many different donors, Bloomberg has one unique donor: himself. In the roughly fourteen weeks since he declared as a candidate, Bloomberg has contributed more than $464 million to his campaign far outpacing total contributions to any other individual candidate.
And it’s not just the size of his contributions—it is the way he has spent his money. The Washington Post has a great article examining Bloomberg’s advertisement spending compared to his rivals. Bloomberg spent $233 million on advertising ($183 million on TV and $50 million on digital ads) in just fourteen weeks. All the other Democratic candidates combined spent just $100 million over their entire candidacies. “This year, Google and Facebook have served up 2 billion Bloomberg ads, which works out to 30,000 per minute… Since joining the race in November, he has outspent all other candidates combined on Google by more than $10 million… A recent Yahoo News-YouGov poll found that two-thirds of registered voters have seen a Bloomberg ad on TV.” If you are interested, fivethirtyeight tracks each candidate’s TV ad buys here.
Bloomberg is also spending unprecedented amounts on campaign staff. The New York Times reports, “In under 12 weeks, Mr. Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events featuring swag, drinks and canapés. Entry-level field organizing work for Mr. Bloomberg, for example, pays $72,000 annually — nearly twice what other campaigns have offered.” The article also includes specific salary levels, “Mr. Bloomberg’s state communications directors and state political directors uniformly receive $12,000 monthly, according to the campaign, while state press secretaries make $10,000 monthly and the campaign’s national political director commands $30,000 a month, or $360,000 annually.” The very high pay offered by Bloomberg also makes it more expensive and difficult for other campaigns to hire campaign staff. An article in The Intercept entitled, “Mike Bloomberg is Hiring So Many Operatives State and Local Campaigns Are Starving for Help” gives specific examples of the impact the Bloomberg spending spree is having on other campaigns.
There is a Precedent: Bloomberg Overwhelmed His Opponents by Setting New Records for Spending on His Mayoral Campaigns.
Mark Green, his progressive Democratic opponent in the 2001, race spent $16.3 million on his campaign – the most of any mayoral candidate in history. He made 30,000 phone calls and received 11,000 contributions. Bloomberg spent $74 million on the race basically overwhelming Green’s on-the-ground organization. Green’s comments about this race are instructive and illustrate Bloomberg’s strategy for his current presidential campaign: “In the closing weeks of our 2001 race, I had the helpless feeling that there was no strategy that could counter his spending. Everywhere I went I saw or heard a Bloomberg ad: in between innings during the Yankees’ World Series games, on hip-hop stations, on walls in Chinatown, on the rotating billboard at a Knicks game, on mailings that piled up in the lobbies of buildings across the city. He even sent small radios with his name on them to potential voters.” Green lost the race to the Bloomberg, the Republican candidate by a margin of 50% to 48%. In the 2005 NY City Mayoral race, Bloomberg set a new record. And in the 2009 race Bloomberg set another record by spending $102 million. Bloomberg defeated city comptroller William Thompson by fewer than five percentage points – a margin that was much smaller than the polls indicated.
Bloomberg’s presidential campaign strategy is basically modeled on his mayoral campaign strategies: overwhelm your opponents with a tsunami of political advertising at every level. This strategy relies on one component—an almost unlimited supply of money—which Bloomberg possesses because of his Wall Street career.
Bloomberg Literally Proclaimed “We Love Rich…[and]…a Bigger Income Gap”—And Then Proved It as Mayor
There is no nuance in Bloomberg’s support of wealthy people, income inequality and Wall Street. As Mayor of New York City, Bloomberg declared that “We love rich people…if we could get every billionaire around the world to move here, it would be a godsend that would create a much bigger income gap.” Bloomberg got his wish – New York now has 105 billionaires, which is more than any other city in the world (Hong Kong is second with 87). And the income gap grew under Bloomberg’s terms as Mayor.
Widening Income Gap with Wall Streeters Doing Especially Well.
“There is no nuance in Bloomberg’s support of wealthy people, income inequality and Wall Street.”
The New York Times reported that the share of the total income obtained by the top 1% of New York City wage earners grew from 27% at the beginning of Bloomberg’s tenure in 2002 to 40% by the end of his tenure. Conversely, the share of total income obtained by 99% of NYC wage earners fell from 73% to 60%. People employed by Wall Street did especially well during Bloomberg’s mayoralty. While real median family incomes were flat from 2000 to 2010 across the city, median family incomes rose an average of 55 percent in eight high-income neighborhoods, including TriBeCa and the Upper East Side, the home ZIP codes of the financial industry. The average salary in the securities industry in 2011 was $362,900, according to the state comptroller’s office, an average higher than before the financial crisis and more than five times the average in the rest of the city’s private sector. As a share of private sector wages, the securities industry grew from 21 percent at the beginning of Mayor Bloomberg’s first term to 28 percent early in his second, while never accounting for more than 6 percent of jobs. The widening income gap in NYC and the nation as a whole was primarily the result of national policies independent of Bloomberg such as massive tax breaks to the wealthy, the stagnant wages of working families, the declining value of the minimum wage, trade deals that ravaged good paying manufacturing jobs and the weakening of unions. However, Bloomberg did contribute to the worsening income gap in NYC while mayor in a number of ways including those described below.
A Boom in Luxury High Rises and Gentrification.
Bloomberg helped spur the development of massive new luxury high-rise buildings on Manhattan’s West Side, the development of the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Long Island City as well as the gentrification of entire neighborhoods. Bloomberg’s drive to get more millionaires and billionaires to move to NYC actually worked and distorted the real estate market so much that the New York Times reported that the New York City Budget Office had “determined that nearly one quarter of the apartments in New York City are not used as primary residences, serving either as pieds-à-terre or investment properties that are rented out to tenants.” An article in CityZone summarized some of the themes in a book by Jeremiah Moss titled, “Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul.” The article states that Moss “nails a valuable argument: New York City’s current state of “hyper-gentrification,” as he calls it, is no passive turn of the free market, but the culmination of a calculated takeover by elites decades in the making…But for Moss, it was Michael Bloomberg who served hyper-gentrification’s kiss of death to the vulnerable post-9/11 city. This book delivers an unflinching indictment of the growth-above-all ethos the billionaire mayor fashioned in New York and now spreads to downtowns around the world. Bloomberg rezoned an incredible 40 percent of the city and demolished nearly 25,000 buildings in a quest for wealth-oriented redevelopment, Moss writes; for all their good, the expansion of bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and the High Line are implicated in the displacement and culture-suffocating effects of the era. Bloomberg above all, Moss declares, was how New York became a city of absent oligarchs, super-talls, and poor doors; of a historic homelessness crisis…”
“Given the lack of affordable housing and stagnant wages, it is not surprising that the number of homeless people in NYC shelters grew from less than 30,000 a night to 50,000 a night during Bloomberg’s three terms as Mayor.”
Deterioration of public housing and the subway system that workers and low-income people rely on. Bloomberg oversaw the deterioration of public infrastructure such as the subways and public housing that primarily serve working class and low-income residents. An article in Curbed New York provides a good analysis of Bloomberg’s track record on housing policy. He actually disinvested in the NY Housing Authority and stopped inspections for lead paint. It is estimated that NYC’s public housing infrastructure now requires $32 billion to replace broken elevators, antiquated boilers and leaky roofs following years of federal, state and city disinvestment. Consequently, 400,000 low-income residents live in inadequate and worsening conditions. Bloomberg did add 165,000 units of affordable housing and rezoned 40% of the city to allow for higher density development. However, affordable housing became an increasing problem under Bloomberg as median rents increased 19% between 2002-2011 while the median income of renters decreased as wages stagnated. Bloomberg also disinvested in the NYC subway system. A NY Times investigative report chronicled the deterioration of the NYC subway system that has a daily ridership of 5.7 million. Workers are especially reliant on the subway system. Yet, the entire system was allowed to erode because of inadequate investment and maintenance. Many politicians are guilty of this process including the NY governors and NYC mayors that preceded Bloomberg. Yet, the NY Times report stated, “Michael R. Bloomberg, used city funds to help finance bonds for a development project — the extension of the 7 line to the Hudson Yards on the Far West Side of Manhattan. But he otherwise left subway funding where it was, which effectively cut the city’s contribution by not allowing it to keep up with inflation.
Increasing Number of Homeless People.
Given the lack of affordable housing and stagnant wages, it is not surprising that the number of homeless people in NYC shelters grew from less than 30,000 a night to 50,000 a night during Bloomberg’s three terms as Mayor. As reported in the Curbed article, Bloomberg’s policies specifically exacerbated the problem. For example, he ended the long-standing practice of giving homeless people priority for federal housing vouchers that limited the amount paid by these renters to 30% of their income with the government paying the balance. The policy was a disaster and homelessness soared. Christine Quinn, the New York City Council Speaker at the time stated, “In a time of prosperity, he took aggressive steps from a policy perspective to hurt the homeless…I never understood that.”
Mayor Bloomberg’s Pro-Wall Street, Anti-Worker Policies
The contrast could not be starker: Bloomberg supported billions of dollars in subsidies to corporations while he opposed minimal improvements in workers’ wages and benefits. And he antagonized the major NY City unions—including those that previously supported him.
Supported billions of dollars in subsidies to big corporations even when they did not deliver on their promises for creating new jobs. Bloomberg supported multi-billion tax breaks and low-cost financing to corporations that promised to increase jobs. Unfortunately, many of these corporations failed to deliver the promised jobs but still kept the money. The Guardian reported that under Bloomberg, a city audit found that, in 2009 alone, almost half a billion dollars in public subsidies were given to 576 corporations in New York. Yet, 334 of those firms went on to fail to meet their promises to use that cash bonanza to create jobs. One analysis of the ten years of Bloomberg’s rule estimates the city was “owed” some 45,000 jobs from businesses and banks that had greedily taken public cash and then failed to deliver jobs.”
“Bloomberg supported multi-billion tax breaks and low-cost financing to corporations that promised to increase jobs. Unfortunately, many of these corporations failed to deliver the promised jobs but still kept the money.”
Vetoed a Very Limited Living Wage Bill and a Paid Sick Leave bill. In 2012, Bloomberg vetoed the so-called “living wage bill” that had passed the New York City Council. The bill was very narrow: it would have ensured that workers on large projects backed with more than $1 million in public subsidies would earn a minimum wage of $11.50 an hour or $10 an hour plus benefits. The bill was so watered down that it would have applied to an estimated 400-500 workers a year. Yet, Bloomberg immediately vetoed the bill and sued the NY City Council after it overrode his veto. When discussing the bill in a radio interview, Bloomberg stated “The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR, and that didn’t work out so well.” In 2013, Bloomberg vetoed a paid sick leave bill. The legislation would have required city businesses with at least 20 employees to offer five paid sick days a year beginning in April 2014. The following year, the mandate would extend to businesses with at least 15 workers. One million workers eventually would have been covered by the bill, which also prevented companies from firing employees for taking unpaid sick days. San Francisco, Washington DC and Milwaukee had already passed similar laws. In June 2013, the NYC Council overrode Bloomberg’s veto.
Bloomberg Alienated Major NY City Unions. A number of articles have described Bloomberg’s rocky relationship with the unions representing NY City workers (see here, here and here.)
- DC 37 is NY City’s largest municipal union representing 150,000 workers and 50,000 retirees. In 2005, DC 37 endorsed Bloomberg for a second term as Mayor. Four years later, DC 37 endorsed Bloomberg’s Democratic rival and relations between the union and Bloomberg continued to deteriorate. Bloomberg was focused on cutting costs by downsizing and privatizing the union-represented workforce and reducing pension benefits. Bloomberg argued that there was no money due to the 2008 financial meltdown – though he did not seek to cut the multi-billion-dollar subsidies given to corporations
- The United Federation of Teachers represents 200,000 NY City education workers including 75,000 teachers and 19,000 classroom paraprofessionals. Facing deficits after the 2008 financial crisis, Bloomberg demanded reductions through teacher layoffs and attrition – even though $1 billion in federal stimulus funds were available to avoid education cutbacks. The NY City Council countered the mayor by using the federal money to restore teachers’ jobs and budget reductions. Later, overall education funding did increase but the mayor increased funding for charter schools at a much greater rate than for public schools
- Transport Workers Union Local 100 represents 41,000 workers primarily employed in the NY City public transportation system. In 2005, the TWU engaged in a strike after negotiations between the union and the Metropolitan Transit Authority broke down. Bloomberg stated, “The TWU have shamefully decided that they don’t care about the people they work for and that they have no respect for the law… The leadership of the TWU has thuggishly turned their backs on New York.” In February 2020, the TWU issued the following tweet, “”The TWU has first-hand experience with anti-Union Bloomberg’s true colors. Wannabe President Plutocrat belongs in the Republican primary, not with the Democrats @MikeBloomberg”
- Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 1181. Mayor Bloomberg wanted to cut costs by opening bus contracts to new bidding. He also removed job security provisions from the ATU contract. In 2013, 8,000 bus drivers went on strike. The city and the bus companies filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to deem the strike illegal, but the board ruled in favor of the union.
Bloomberg Falsely Blames Congress and the End of Redlining Rather Than Wall Street for the 2008 Financial Meltdown
In 2008, Bloomberg blamed the end of redlining for causing the financial crisis. As reported by the Associated Press and picked up by many newspapers, Bloomberg stated: “It probably all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone… Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighborhoods…People in these neighborhoods are poor, they’re not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas… And then Congress got involved — local elected officials, as well — and said, ‘Oh that’s not fair, these people should be able to get credit… And once you started pushing in that direction, banks started making more and more loans where the credit of the person buying the house wasn’t as good as you would like.” Bloomberg repeated these arguments. As reported by Politico, at a 2011 business breakfast, Bloomberg stated, “It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis… It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp… they were the ones who pushed Fannie and Freddie to make a bunch of loans that were imprudent, if you will. They were the ones that pushed the banks to loan to everybody. And now we want to go vilify the banks because it’s one target, it’s easy to blame them and Congress certainly isn’t going to blame themselves.”
This entire “blame the government not Wall Street” line has been popular with Wall Street apologists even though it has been thoroughly debunked in articles such as this one in Slate and most importantly the Financial Crisis Inquiry Report. This report was developed by the bi-partisan “National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis of the United States” that was created by Congress and signed into law by the President in 2009. The Commission report issued in 2011 specifically rejected the claims that federal housing policies and Congress as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were significant contributors to the financial disaster accompanying the 2008 Great Recession. Instead, the Commission specifically concluded, “the failures of corporate government and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions were a key cause of this crisis.” The Commission also stated that governmental deregulation and “the lack of mortgage-lending standards and the mortgage securitization pipeline lit and spread the flame of contagion and crisis.” In other words, and in complete opposition to Bloomberg’s analysis, the Commission blamed Wall Street excesses, rampant speculation and unrestrained risk taking as well as the lack of governmental regulation and standards as the prime culprits for the financial disaster. As a Wall Street mogul, Bloomberg should have been aware of the report’s findings; after all, the report made the New York Times and Washington Post best-sellers lists. In any case, Bloomberg continued to tout his debunked theories even after the report was issued.
Furthermore, Bloomberg’s identification of the end of “redlining” as a cause of the financial crisis is not only factually incorrect but also perpetuates racial stereotypes and distorts the history of racism. An article published by the Brookings Institute states that Bloomberg even misrepresented the very purpose of redlining, “Redlining was not about banks identifying which neighborhoods were poor. It was, as historian Richard Rothstein famously described, “a state-sponsored system of segregation.”… It was not government efforts to make homeownership affordable that provoked the risky investments that preceded the crash. It was predatory lenders’ greed.”
Bloomberg Undermines Democratic Institutions
At the 2014 annual meeting of SIMFA, one of Wall Street’s most powerful lobbying groups, Bloomberg laid out his general philosophy of government – minimize the input of democratic institutions like Congress and maximize the input of experts which, in the case of Wall Street, means financial industry insiders. It is quite an astounding attack on democracy.
Bloomberg Stated that Wall Street, Not Congress, Should Regulate Wall Street.
Here are some relevant quotes from Bloomberg’s assessment of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms instituted in response to the financial meltdown accompanying the Great Recession and reported by BuzzFeed.
“The administration should have sent out a carefully crafted, consistent, well thought-out piece of legislation…created by the people who really understand how the world works, how financial services work, and went to Congress and maybe you tweak it a little bit and you get it through…. [The current financial rules] can be dysfunctional…You don’t write a piece of legislation that way by letting Congress do it…Complying with it [Dodd Frank] is really impossible, which means you’re not going to comply with it. The world adjusts to stupid laws…”
In relation to fines that have been imposed by government regulators based on bank malfeasance Bloomberg stated: “Some of these fines I think are outrageous and shouldn’t be allowed to take place.”
Furthermore, Bloomberg basically attacked any limitations on Wall Street’s speculative activities: “The trouble is if you reduce the risk [by governmental regulation] at these [Wall Street] institutions, they can’t make the money they did… If they can’t make the money they did, they can’t provide the financing that this country and this world needs to create jobs and build infrastructure.”
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Bloomberg Ignored Popular Referenda to Change Laws that were Inconvenient for His Political Advancement.
The changing positions that Bloomberg took in relation to NY City term limits is especially illustrative of his attitude towards democracy
- Support for two-term limit. In November 1993, New Yorkers voted to “limit all elected officials in New York City to two consecutive terms in office” by a vote of 59 to 41 percent. In 1996, the City Council tried to amend the term limits law, placing an initiative on the ballot to extend terms from 8 to 12 years Voters rejected the idea. In 2002, Bloomberg supported the two-term limit and vetoed a bill that allowed the Council Speaker an extra two years in office. The Council overrode the Mayor’s veto. When asked about a term limit extension in 2004, Bloomberg stated, “They already did, I thought, monkey around with it to extend the definition of two terms to two and a half. Enough.” When running for a second term in 2005, Bloomberg vowed to resist any change in the two-term limit, stating “I think it would be an absolute disgrace to go around the public will.”
- Opposition to two-term limit so he could run for a third term. Bloomberg had a change of heart as his second term was winding down. In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg successfully conducted a power play and got the NY City Council to extend the limit from two to three terms – which allowed him to run for a third term. Bloomberg stated, ““You can make that case for two terms or three terms,” he said at the time. “In this case, after listening to everybody, I’ve been convinced that three terms is right.”
- Support for reestablishing two-term limit after his third term. In 2010, after he won his third consecutive term, Bloomberg reverted to his previous position in support of the two-term limit. The NY Times reported, “The mayor said he would vote to restore a limit of two terms, down from three, and to ban the City Council from rewriting the rule for sitting elected officials, closing a legislative loophole that Mr. Bloomberg exploited in his quest to remain in office beyond eight years. The results of the ballot initiative would not affect Mr. Bloomberg but would affect his successors.” In 2010, NY City voters overwhelmingly approved the two-term limit for city officeholders, for the third time.
Bloomberg Is a Freek Market Idealogue Seeking to Privatize Public Education and Climate Change Policies
Bloomberg wants to address major issues such as climate change and education in ways that focus on private corporations and the “free” market as opposed to governmental action.
Corporate and Free Market Approach to Climate Change.
Bloomberg has made addressing the climate change crisis a priority. And he has funneled a lot of money to candidates who do address the climate crisis. However, Bloomberg has not, as yet, provided a plan to address the climate change crisis. One indication of what he would do can be found in a 2017 book he coauthored with Carl Pope entitled Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses and Citizens Can Save the Planet. The strategy promoted in the book relies primarily on “free market principles.” Bloomberg states, “many of the government actions that are most necessary — like opening utilities up to competition from solar panel companies and ending subsidies for fossil fuels — require nothing more than applying the free market principles that conservatives champion.” An article in the Institutional Investor summarized the strategy laid out in the book, “Most of the book’s recommendations involve some variation on the idea that to address climate change, government needs to get out of the way and let private enterprise, via various tax and investment incentives, do its thing.” Bloomberg has supported fracking, the Keystone pipeline, and nuclear power – all of which have major support in the corporate community including Wall Street. Bloomberg has not, and is not likely to, support the Green New Deal proposal introduced in Congress. The Green New Deal calls for the federal government to simultaneously and significantly address climate change and economic inequality as well as create well-paying, largely union jobs in the clean energy sector. The scale of the program is reminiscent of the expansion of governmental programs that characterized the New Deal of the 1930s.
Corporate and Free Market Approach to Education Policy.
Bloomberg’s education policy included a set of reforms that were very popular with corporate, often Wall Street related, education “experts.” These reforms included the privatization of public schools, the imposition of standardized tests and merit pay, and attacks on teacher unions. An investigative report in TruthOut is entitled, “Bloomberg’s Education Legacy Is a Case Study in Disastrous Privatization.” The article lays out a litany of disruptive and ultimately failed “reforms” that had a devastating impact on students, teachers and communities. Bloomberg was a champion of privatizing the public school system through charter schools. During his terms as mayor, the number of charter schools increased from 19 to 183. “NYC charter schools tend to enroll far fewer of the neediest students, including English language learners, students with severe disabilities and homeless kids. Many had “no excuses” disciplinary policies, leading to high rates of suspension and teacher attrition.” The Bloomberg administration “encouraged the growth of privately-run charter schools by spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build them separate facilities or even more frequently, give them space inside public school buildings for free. This too-often forced public schools, which already inhabited those buildings, to lose their libraries, art or music rooms and sufficient access to their dining halls and gyms.” The article found that Bloomberg’s charter school movement failed, “On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the most reliable, low-stakes exams administered by the federal government every two years, student progress between 2003 and 2013 lagged behind that of every other large city except Cleveland, when average test score gains were disaggregated by their students’ ethnic, racial and economic status.” Bloomberg also failed to deliver on his promise of reducing class room sizes, “subsequent audits from the state and city comptrollers showed, his administration misused hundreds of millions of state dollars meant for class-size reduction. As a result… by 2013, his last year in office, class sizes in the early grades in public schools had risen to the highest levels in 15 years.” Bloomberg also imposed other policies popular with the Wall Street education including the imposition of standardized tests to determine whether students would be able to advance to the next grade and determine ratings for schools. These all failed miserably as described in the article. And it appears that Bloomberg still supports these failed policies. “’Mike’s education plan will absolutely promote charter schools,’ campaign spokesman Stu Loeser told the New York Post. ‘The record number of charter schools opened under Mayor Bloomberg is clear. That isn’t changing.’”
Bloomberg’s support of charter schools extends far beyond NY City. According to a NY Times report, Bloomberg given more than $5 million in political contributions to pro-charter school politicians in Louisiana as well as $18 million to Louisiana institutions that support charter schools. He also spent $2.3 million in ads supporting the successful reelection of Governor Snyder of Michigan specifically citing his support for charter schools. The governor was having a rough time because the Flint water crisis exploded just a few months before the election.
Diane Ravitch, one of the leading experts on education in the U.S., was an initial proponent of charter schools. She has since changed her position and sees charter schools as undermining public schools and education overall. She clearly identifies Bloomberg as being in the camp of Betsey DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education. In an interview with the Washington Post, Ravitch stated, “As I listen to DeVos, Gates, [Mike] Bloomberg, Broad, Hastings, Koch, the Waltons and other billionaires, I hear the voices of people who admittedly know nothing about education but believe that the market will produce the best outcomes. But they will not admit that it is highly inefficient to send government funds to three competing school systems — one of which is regulated and the other two of which (charters and vouchers) are lightly regulated, if at all….There are some public services that government is obligated to provide and that government is required to provide on an equal basis. We should be striving together to assure that public schools are well resourced, have experienced teachers and have reasonable class sizes and a full curriculum in every community, rather than starve the public sector that still enrolls 85 percent of America’s students.”
Corporate and Other Scandals Undermine Bloomberg’s Claim to be a Master Administrator
Being Mayor of the largest city in the U.S. is an admittedly difficult job—especially over a three-term period stretching from 2002-2013. NYC employs approximately 325,000 workers – more than any city in the U.S. and more than 47 states (only California, Texas and New York employ more workers). During Bloomberg’s terms, NYC experienced a significant decline in crime and an increase in revenue. However, these were secular trends exhibited in major cities across the U.S. and cannot be primarily attributed to Bloomberg’s administration. Bloomberg did play a major role in convincing his friends at the large Wall Street firms to remain in NYC following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Bloomberg has been generally praised for his abilities as an administrator. However, there were three major scandals that militate against this view: Stop-and-Frisk, CityTime, and Deutsche Bank.
The largest NYC “corruption scandal in decades.” An article in Salon detailed two major scandals that occurred during Bloomberg’s mayoralty. The article states that “the CityTime scandal, which federal Judge George Daniels called ‘the largest city corruption scandal in decades,’ was a 2011 debacle in which digitizing the city’s payroll system resulted in ballooning costs and the conviction of three contractors for bilking the city. Unions had adamantly opposed the proposed system, but Bloomberg, who oversaw and championed the overhaul, pressed on…As longtime city reporter (and Salon contributor) Bob Hennelly noted, the irony here is rich. ‘The massive scheme’ started as an outsourced city contract to design a payroll system that would precisely track the hours worked by city employees. After a couple of false starts with other vendors, defense contractor Scientific Applications International Corporation was awarded the job in a no-bid contract by the Giuliani Administration.” The contract that under Giuliani amounted to $63 million exploded under Bloomberg to more than $700 million. Federal prosecutors stated that at least $600 million was “tainted” and that CityTime was a “paragon of corruption.”
City contract with Bloomberg-tied firm leads to two deaths and injuries to 115 firefighters. The 39-story Deutsche Bank Building in lower Manhattan was damaged during the 9/11 attacks. The City entered into a contract for a simultaneous decontamination and destruction of the site in order to meet a deadline set by J.P. Morgan Chase to develop a new building. Lower Manhattan residents and worker advocates warned that shoddy contracting could endanger the community – especially due to the heavy contamination of the site. There were many fires and accidents that plagued the site once the decontamination and deconstruction began. A report by famous investigative reporter Wayne Barrett in the Village Voice stated, “a high-powered consultant, URS, reported to state and city officials that the giant construction management firm on the project, Bovis Lend Lease, could “no longer be trusted to ensure building safety,” and that the project was “an accident waiting to happen.” Fifteen days after that alarm, a cigarette butt discarded on the 17th floor sparked a fire that later consumed nine stories. So many firefighters rushed up steps and elevators that 115 were injured, 46 seriously enough to require medical leave.” Two firefighters died. The deadly fire resulted from a series of failures in permitting, inspections and heeding red-flag warnings. But it also resulted from corruption and favoritism shown by Bloomberg and his administration. The Village Voice report stated “But the record of miscalculation is not limited to inspectional dysfunction. It extends into the upper reaches at City Hall, where the mayor’s most trusted deputy, Dan Doctoroff, disregarded warnings from DOI commissioner Rose Gill Hearn in favor of the reckless predilections of Bovis, a company that had built the Lexington Avenue headquarters of Bloomberg’s media company and prospered in the Bloomberg administration.” Bovis was also the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with nearly a half-dozen city agencies.
“After Bloomberg took office in 2002, the number of recorded stops increased five-fold and totaled more than 5 million stops during his three terms.”
Stop and Frisk. Though not directly related to Wall Street and big corporations, Stop and Frisk still represents a major scandal that Bloomberg cannot escape. Stop and Frisk is a policing strategy that allows police to basically detain anyone they reasonably believe is, has been or will be involved in a crime. The police officers can frisk the detainee if they believe that person possesses a weapon. An article in the NY Times provides a very good review of Stop and Frisk during the Bloomberg Administration including the following findings. After Bloomberg took office in 2002, the number of recorded stops increased five-fold and totaled more than 5 million stops during his three terms. The rationale for stop and frisk was the mistaken contention that it reduced crime. While crime did decrease, it was not because of this particular policy. After all, crime declined in major cities across the U.S. regardless of stop and frisk and crime continued to decline after stop and frisk was significantly reduced. Yet, more was involved with stop and frisk than the supposed benefit of reduced crime.
Approximately 87% of the stops were black and Latinx people roughly totaling 4.4 million. In other words, blacks and Latinx people were 9 times more likely to be stopped than white people. In 2011, at the height of the stop and frisk policy, the NYC police reported that 87% or 574,483 of the total stops were black or Latinx people. This represented 12.5% of the total black and Latinx population of NYC at that time. This is staggering even though the total number of stops may include a number of the same individuals. Yet, during this entire period only 0.14% of total stops revealed a weapon and only 1.2% resulted in a fine, arrest or seizure of a weapon. An ACLU attorney cited in the NY Times article stated that the stops were no better at seizing a weapon than chance and that while whites were twice as likely to be found with a gun, the vast majority of stops were of blacks and Latinos. The ACLU sued the city and won in court. Bloomberg appealed the decision. Bloomberg’s successor as mayor, Bill de Blasio, abandoned the appeal and agreed to implement the court’s recommendations. Under Bloomberg recorded stops peaked in 2011 at 685,724 before declining to 191,851 in 2013, his last year in office. Recorded stops in 2018 (latest available full year) amounted to 11,008 (a 98% decline since 2011 and a 94% decline from 2013). Meanwhile, the number of major crimes has decreased by almost 14% from 2013 to 2018. As recently as January, 2019, Bloomberg continued to defend the policy. But, as reported in the NY Times article, Bloomberg offered an “apology” in November 2019 at the Christian Cultural Center, a black megachurch in Brooklyn, right before he announced his campaign for President: “I got something important really wrong, I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.”
Cutting Social Security and Government Social Programs in Order to Reduce the Federal Debt
Bloomberg has consistently advocated for cuts to social security and government programs along with modest tax increases as a means to reduce the federal debt (see here, here and here). This is a position that remains popular with Wall Street billionaires and CEOs.
As Mayor of NYC Bloomberg called for balanced federal budget and supported big cuts to federal programs including Social Security. In a 2011 speech delivered at a forum organized by the Center for American Progress, Bloomberg presented his own plan to reduce the federal debt and to balance the budget by 2021. Bloomberg stated, “I believe the best economic stimulus is fiscally responsible, long-term deficit reduction that sends a clear signal to the private sector about Washington’s commitment to economic stability.” Bloomberg proposed a plan to increase taxes and to impose spending cuts on government programs. He also advocated cuts to Social Security, “…by…gradually phasing in a higher retirement age…and by adopting…the Chain Weighted CPI [in calculating cost of living increases]… we can make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years…” These proposals would represent significant cuts in social security benefits. Obviously, raising the retirement age would shorten the period people could collect benefits and changing to the Chain Weighted CPI would mean lower cost of living increases to benefits. It should be noted that the U.S. economy was still in the throes of the Great Recession: the gross domestic product only grew by an anemic 1.6% and the unemployment rate was 8.9%. Economic research and practical experience have proven that government spending should be increased, not decreased during such periods of economic stagnation.
As Co-Chair of Campaign to Fix the Debt. In 2012, Bloomberg became co-chair of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. The goal of the campaign was to cut the federal debt. It was funded by corporate CEOs and billionaire Pete Peterson. The Huffington Post reported that the group’s bipartisan leadership masks politically conservative backing, and the group’s leading council of CEOs is made up largely of Republican political donors. The campaign’s core principles include “reforming Medicare and Medicaid,” making Social Security “solvent,” and enacting “pro-growth tax reform,” which includes lowering tax rates.
As Presidential Candidate, Bloomberg has left the door open to cutting Social Security benefits. Senators Sanders and Warren and former mayor Buttigieg have unequivocally pledged not to cut Social Security benefits. Bloomberg has made no such promises. Instead, his website states that “As president, Mike will explore ways to put the system on sound financial footing for the long-term… Consider options for preserving and strengthening Social Security’s long-term finances, while maintaining and enhancing benefits for the neediest recipients.” In a Common Dreams article, authors Nancy Altman and Linda Benesch parse what such language actually means. “For those who have followed the Social Security debate closely, Bloomberg’s words about “options” are a clear signal. His language is insider speak, a wink and a nod to the donor class that he, like them, favors cutting Social Security. His promises to “strengthen” and “preserve” Social Security are meaningless. Those words are frequently used by billionaire elites like Bloomberg as code for “cut Social Security to save it.” Nor does Bloomberg’s support of targeted Social Security increases inspire confidence. Bowles-Simpson [a blue-ribbon commission advocating for a balanced budget] also included targeted benefit increases, alongside huge cuts to overall benefits. So did Paul Ryan’s [former Republican Speaker of the House] plans.”
Bloomberg’s refusal to explicitly reject any cuts to Social Security benefits during his presidential campaign along with his past history of support for such cuts should be very unsettling.
There are many articles and investigative reports about Bloomberg’s philanthropic activities including Inside Philanthropy, Axios, Influence Watch, the Brookings Institute, New York Magazine, and the New York Post.
Since 1997, Bloomberg has donated $9.9 billion to various causes including climate change, anti-tobacco, gun control, road safety, charter schools and cities. But this is not all just generosity. There is an indelible political component also. For example, in 2018, he invested $102 million in a number of Democratic Party candidates.
One of the most comprehensive analyses of the political character of Bloomberg’s philanthropy was undertaken by the New York Times. “A [New York] Times examination of Mr. Bloomberg’s philanthropic and political spending in the years leading up to his presidential bid illustrates how he developed a national infrastructure of influence, image-making and unspoken suasion that has helped transform a former Republican mayor of New York City into a plausible contender for the Democratic nomination…. The Times’s examination — based on a review of years of campaign and nonprofit tax filings, as well as interviews with more than 50 people who have benefited from his support — illustrates how deeply that philanthropy is entwined with Mr. Bloomberg’s political preoccupations. In fact, in 2019, the year he declared his presidential candidacy, Mr. Bloomberg’s charitable giving soared to $3.3 billion — more than in the previous five years combined. It is not simply good will that Mr. Bloomberg has built. His political and philanthropic spending has also secured the allegiance or cooperation of powerful institutions and leaders within the Democratic Party who might take issue with parts of his record were they not so reliant on his largess.”
In terms of the 2020 presidential race, the NY Times report concluded: “In the presidential race, Mr. Bloomberg has activated his sprawling network of allies to great effect — drawing on his foundation and its beneficiaries to build a campaign staff, and calling on politicians he has supported in the past for their endorsement. … It is that network, as much as the raw force of his campaign spending, that has propelled Mr. Bloomberg into contention in the Democratic race.”
A Brookings Institute article reached similar conclusions: “But politics in America is increasingly organized around institutions reliant on big-donor philanthropy. Candidates, local and state parties, advocacy organizations, think tanks, and many foundations are in a constant scramble for money. Few leaders of these organizations will want to offend a man whose personal wealth makes their entire operating budgets look like a negligible rounding error.
“And in case Bloomberg’s potential support had escaped the attention of any would-be grantees, he ramped up his giving in advance of his presidential bid. Bloomberg outspent every other billionaire philanthropist last year, giving away $3.3 billion dollars, nearly five times more than he did in 2017.
“His tactical philanthropy gives Bloomberg the unique capacity to influence the decision-making of the institutions that are traditional power brokers and opinion makers in Democratic politics. As Bloomberg knows well from his stint as mayor, big money “charity” is an imposition of the giver’s political will. While he is best known for his work on the crucial issue of gun control, Bloomberg has also deployed his wealth to bully and sideline potential opponents. “When church groups or community organizations threatened to get noisy in opposition to him or his programs, he wrote checks that tended to quiet them down,” writes Edward-Isaac Dovere in his analysis of Bloomberg’s mayoralty. Bloomberg can run pork-barrel politics out of his own pocket. And, of course, the political effects of Bloomberg’s philanthropy are not limited to New York.”
It is interesting to note that Bloomberg has donated directly to a number of politicians or to their cities or home districts who are now Super Delegates to the Democratic Convention. Some have already endorsed Bloomberg. But they all will be able to vote for the candidate of their choice on the second ballot if there is a contested convention.
No Surprise: Wall Street Billionaires Like Mike and His Opposition to Wealth Taxes and Wall Street Regulations
Opposition to Sanders and Warren Tax Plans. The election of Sanders and Warren would be quite expensive for Bloomberg. According to Alexis Goldstein of the New Republic, Bloomberg would pay $3.7 billion and $3 billion under Sanders and Warren’s wealth tax proposals, respectively. Just from a business perspective, Bloomberg comes out ahead by a one-time campaign expenditure of $500 million or even $1 billion to defeat Sanders and Warren rather than an annual wealth tax of $3.7 billion (Sanders) or $3 billion (Warren). Bloomberg is on record as opposing these wealth tax proposals calling them “probably unconstitutional” and warned that they could wreck the country’s prosperity. It should be noted that Bloomberg publicly stated that he will support the final Democratic presidential nominee and would be willing to spend $1 billion to defeat Trump.
“The election of Sanders and Warren would be quite expensive for Bloomberg.”
Goldstein also points out that Bloomberg has more at stake than just wealth taxes: the very profitability of Bloomberg LP could be adversely affected by proposals offered by Sanders and Warren. For example, a small financial speculation tax on Wall Street trades (ranging from 0.1% to 0.5%) would generate an estimated $2.4 trillion over 10 years from Sanders proposal and $800 billion from Warren’s proposal. This would not only be a tax on the wealthy but also would create incentives to reduce the volume of trades on Wall Street and the fees going to Wall Street trading firms. Another example is the Stop Wall Street Looting Act introduced by Warren and co-sponsored by Sanders that would re-work the way private equity firms do business and add protections for workers whose companies are taken over by private equity firms. New rules and regulations on banks, private equity firms and Wall Street trading could adversely impact bank profits and the overall volume of Wall Street trading. Such statutory and regulatory changes could squeeze the profitability of banks, Wall Street trading firms, and private equity firms while reducing the volume of Wall Street trades – all of which could reduce the profits of Bloomberg LP – the source of Bloomberg’s personal fortune.
Wall Street Billionaires Like Mike. According to CNBC and the Financial Times, Bloomberg already has the support of Jeff Bezos (the founder of Amazon who is the second richest person in the world with a net worth of $115.6 billion attempted to get Bloomberg to seek the Presidency in March 2019); Stephen Schwarzman (the founder of The Blackstone Group, a global private equity firm, and the 59th richest person in the world with net assets of $20.1 billion); John Mack (Former CEO and Board Chair of Morgan Stanley); Leon Cooperman (billionaire chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors); Kyle Bass (founder and manager of Hayman Capital); Bradley Tusk (venture capitalist and former Bloomberg mayoral campaign manager); and Robert Steel (partner at the global financial services firm of Perella Weinberg).
Stop the Presses—Presidential Candidate Bloomberg Suddenly Changes Long-Held Positions on Almos… Everything
An article by Paul Blumenthal in HuffPost is titled, “Many Candidates Change Positions Over Time. Mike Bloomberg Did It Almost Overnight: The billionaire presidential candidate has fully or partially reversed himself on stances he took as recently as 2019.” This and other articles have pointed out the many policy reversals that Bloomberg has undertaken as a presidential candidate. Here are a few highlights.
Changed Position on Wall Street. As presidential candidate, Bloomberg has rolled out a series of Wall Street reforms including a financial transaction tax on all stock, bond and derivative sales; reinvigorating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (basically created at the insistence of Elisabeth Warren to protect consumers) and empowering the Justice Department to go after corporate crime. These are significant changes for Bloomberg who, as previously discussed, blamed the federal government for ending redlining and, thus, causing the financial meltdown of 2008.
Changed Position on Minimum Wage and Paid Family Sick Leave. As a presidential candidate, Bloomberg supports the $15 minimum wage and paid family sick leave. However, as recently as 2018, Bloomberg criticized the minimum wage an “impediment” to job creation. As previously discussed, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed a 2012 living-wage bill that would have affected just 500-600 workers. And he even linked the proposal to communism: “The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR, and that didn’t work out so well.” And, as previously discussed, Bloomberg as mayor also vetoed a 2013 bill providing 5 paid sick leave days.
Changed Position on Social Security Cuts. As presidential candidate, Bloomberg has supported some targeted increases in Social Security benefits for the neediest recipients. This is a bit different from the outright Social Security cuts he called for in the past. And, as previously discussed, Bloomberg has still left open the possibility of cutting Social Security benefits in the future for “preserving and strengthening Social Security’s long-term finances.”
Changed Position on Stop and Frisk. As presidential candidate, Bloomberg has apologized for the stop and frisk policy he embraced as mayor. “I now see that we could and should have acted sooner, and acted faster, to cut the stops… I wish we had — and I’m sorry that we didn’t.” The policy only ended after a judge ruled that it was “a policy of indirect racial profiling.” Bloomberg was still defending the stop and frisk policy as recently as 2018 in an interview with the New York Times. As summarized by Blumenthal in his HuffPost article “Bloomberg fought the ruling, personally attacked the judge who issued it and refused to admit that anything was wrong with the policy until he ran for president.” The NY City public advocate, Jumaane Williams stated, “Forgive many of us for questioning apologies a decade late and on the eve of a presidential run… It is not nearly enough to erase the legacy of the systemic abuses of stop-question-and-frisk on the people whose lives were harmed by over-policing, nor the communities criminalized by it.”
“Bloomberg’s political strategy is a form of ‘shock and awe’ geared to overwhelm his opponents by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an unprecedented effort to buy the election—the same strategy he used to become NY City mayor.”
Changed Position on Unions. As presidential candidate, Bloomberg has endorsed the PRO Act recently passed by House Democrats. The PRO Act would make it easier for unions to organize, give workers more power in relation to work-place disputes, add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize and grant collective bargaining rights to hundreds of thousands of workers who don’t currently have such rights. And it would weaken “right-to-work” laws in 27 states that allow employees to not pay union dues though unions still have to represent them in negotiations and grievance procedures. As previously discussed, Bloomberg had a very rocky relationship with the NY City unions. During his final speech as mayor of New York City. Bloomberg warned of the “labor-electoral complex,” claiming that labor unions obstruct fiscal reforms in the form of cuts to pensions and benefits. Indeed, Bloomberg continued to oppose unions right up until his current presidential campaign. The American Prospect article by Michael Sainato includes quotes of Bloomberg extolling Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in 2014 as “an extremely competent guy who took on the unions to get Detroit and Michigan going in the right direction. And he was re-elected despite being attacked by the unions.” Snyder made Michigan a right-to-work state. Bloomberg donated $3 million to his re-election campaign. Even more blatantly, Bloomberg’s website promises to “Protect workers’ ability to strike.” Explaining that “Employees’ ability to withhold their work is a core source of their bargaining power, highly effective at resolving labor disputes and generally protected by the NLRA.” Yet, as previously discussed, when he was Mayor, Bloomberg bitterly criticized strikes by the TWU and the ATU. Sainato closes his article with the following observation, “The labor movement is pushing for the Democratic nominee to address the needs of workers—to reverse long trends of declines in union membership, stagnant wages, and growing wealth and income inequality. Mike Bloomberg’s record offers little reassurance that he would begin to meaningfully address these issues as president.”
Bloomberg and his political and media allies want to portray him as a non-ideological centrist, a good administrator who will “get it done,” and a pragmatic politician who can work with both major parties. He also is portrayed as the rational alternative to the excesses of both the progressive Democratic candidates who attack the rich and President Trump who is too erratic and divisive. However, on a closer look, Bloomberg emerges as a free-market ideologue who supports legislation written by corporations rather than by Congress; a Wall Street apologist who consistently defends Wall Street even when presented with overwhelming evidence of its primary role in creating the 2008 financial crises; an administrator beset by massive corruption scandals; a politician who gave billions of dollars in contracts and subsidies to corporations while vetoing modest living wage and paid sick leave to workers and antagonizing all the major public sector unions. He is a strong supporter of privatizing public education and cutting Social Security and government programs to balance the federal budget. He has also used his sizable philanthropic donations to create a national network of institutions and politicians who are beholden to him and his policy preferences. Bloomberg’s political strategy is a form of “shock and awe” geared to overwhelm his opponents by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an unprecedented effort to buy the election—the same strategy he used to become NY City mayor. Bloomberg has also proven to be an opportunist who changed the NY City term-limit law to allow him to run for a third term and then supported the re-instatement of term limits after he left office. And now he is suddenly supporting policies as a presidential candidate that he had steadfastly opposed throughout his political life including the minimum wage, social security, union power and Wall Street regulation. His record offers “little reassurance that he would begin to meaningfully address these issues as president.” In terms of the bottom line, Bloomberg is the candidate who most supports government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street.