Now that the 2019 Virginia elections are over, it’s time to start focusing in on 2020, including the Democratic race for the presidential nomination to take on Putin’s BFF in the White House. Since multi-billionaire (reportedly he’s worth a hard-to-comprehend $58 billion) and former NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just announced this morning, let’s start with him.
First off, since this is a Virginia-focused blog, it’s worth noting that Bloomberg has donated a s***-ton of money to Virginia Democrats, either directly or via his Everytown for Gun Safety organization, which he founded and heavily finances. As you can see, Bloomberg has donated $410,000 (all to Democrats) directly, and nearly $6.3 million (again, all to Democrats) via Everytown – including over $1.5 million in 2019 alone, helping Democrats win back the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate. So Bloomberg definitely gets credit for that!
What else is positive about Bloomberg besides the fact that he’s richer than King Midas? I’d list the following:
- He’s no doubt very smart and accomplished. Unlike Trump, who was basically born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Bloomberg grew up middle class, didn’t inherit his fortune, and instead earned it for himself. According to this article, “After graduating from Johns Hopkins with an electrical engineering degree and earning an MBA from Harvard, Bloomberg went to work on Wall Street…landed a job at Salomon Brothers in New York City, where he spent countless hours counting out stocks and bonds in the bank’s vault. His starting salary was $9,000 a year, according to his website.” And again, he’s built this into $58 BILLION, in large part through his “financial information technology company now known as Bloomberg LP.” Impressive.
- Bloomberg served as Mayor of NY City for three terms. According to this book, Bloomberg “transformed the city in his 12 years as mayor,” as “[c]rime plummeted, schools improved, racial tensions eased, the arts flourished, tourism boomed and city coffers swelled…rank[ing him] by any fair reckoning as one of Gotham’s all-time greatest leaders,” and “I say this having voted against him three times.”
- Politically, Bloomberg “has been a registered Democrat for most of his life. He is regarded as socially liberal or progressive on multiple issues, supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage, strict gun control measures, environmentalism and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
- As Mayor of NY City, Bloomberg was a leader on tackling the climate crisis: “During his second term as the mayor of New York City, Bloomberg unveiled PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York on April 22, 2007, to fight global warming, protect the environment and prepare for the projected 1 million additional people expected to be living in the city by the year 2030. Under PlaNYC, in just 6 years New York City reduced citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 19% since 2005 and was on track to achieve a 30% reduction ahead of the PlaNYC 2030 goal. In October 2007, as part of PlaNYC, Bloomberg launched the Million Trees NYC initiative, which aimed to plant and care for one million trees throughout the city in the next decade. In November 2015, New York City planted its one millionth tree, two years ahead of the original 10-year schedule.”
- Since then, Bloomberg has “consistently pushed for transitioning the United States’ energy mix from fossil fuels to clean energy,” [donating] $50 million through Bloomberg Philanthropies to Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, allowing the campaign to expand its efforts to shut down coal-fired power plants from 15 states to 45 states,” and then in 2015, “build[ing] on the success of the Beyond Coal campaign…announc[ing] an additional Bloomberg Philanthropies investment of $30 million in the Beyond Coal initiative, matched with another $30 million by other donors, to help secure the retirement of half of America’s fleet of coal plants by 2017.” Also: “On January 31, 2014, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bloomberg as his first Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change to help the United Nations work with cities to prevent climate change. In September 2014, Bloomberg convened with Ban and global leaders at the UN Climate Summit to announce definite actions to fight climate change in 2015. Noting in March 2018 that “climate change is running faster than we are,” Ban’s successor António Guterres appointed Bloomberg as UN envoy for climate action.” And “[i]n early June 2019, Bloomberg pledged $500 million to reduce climate impacts and shut remaining coal-fired power plants by 2030 via the new Beyond Carbon initiative.”
- Bloomberg has “joined The Giving Pledge, whereby billionaires pledge to give away at least half of their wealth,” and “[t]o date, Bloomberg has given away $8.2 billion, including his November 2018 $1.8 billion gift to Johns Hopkins University for student aid—the largest private donation ever made to a higher education institution.”
So all those are most definitely positives, including some VERY impressive stuff. How about negatives?
- As Mayor, Bloomberg “was a staunch proponent of stop-and-frisk in New York City and has argued that it lowered the murder rate,” but “the manner in which the NYPD utilized the practice was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.” “On November 17, 2019, while speaking in Brooklyn‘s African American-dominated Christian Cultural Center, Bloomberg renounced his previous support for stop-and-frisk and issued an apology.” Current NY City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded, “This is LONG overdue and the timing is transparent and cynical.” Also, while he was Mayor, “There were also poorly received crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street protesters and the questionable surveillance of Muslim Americans“
- As this article notes: “This is far from the first time that Bloomberg has dispatched pollsters to test the waters for a potential presidential run. In 2008 and 2012, Bloomberg’s name was floated as a possible candidate, and he certainly took steps to weigh his chances. Each time, demographic challenges squandered his hopes and Barack Obama emerged triumphant. This year’s campaign may be the closest he’s ever come to actually getting in, but if he doesn’t it will simply be part of a larger narrative about Bloomberg’s ambitions clashing with the realities of running.”
- As Mayor, Bloomberg had “bitter battles with NYC unions,” having “once unfavorably compared members of the United Federation of Teachers to the NRA.”
- Not sure how much to blame Bloomberg for this, but: “Although the Bloomberg era of New York is usually heralded for its economic growth and cultural cache, the dark underbelly was the pervasiveness of homelessness on the city’s streets. This oft-overlooked population paid the price for skyrocketing income inequality and the lack of affordable housing options. For Bloomberg critics, rising rents, stagnating wages and increasingly gentrified neighborhoods will be the real legacy of his 12 years in office.”
- [UPDATE 11/25]: This is appalling. “Failing to fairly cover the most important story of our time — with built-in provisions for complete independence — may be the Bloomberg way at the moment. But it isn’t the right way.”
Finally, here are a few items that are kind of “mixed” – not definitively positive or negative.
- If you are a fan of “Medicare for All” (and personally, I lean heavily towards building on “Obamacare” by adding a robust public option, such as Sen. Tim Kaine’s “Medicare X” plan), you won’t like the fact that Bloomberg has said, “I think you could never afford that…You’re talking about trillions of dollars.”
- Also, if you’re a fan of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax (personally, I’m all for estate taxes and strongly progressive taxation in general, but not sure specifically about Warren’s version of a wealth tax), you won’t like that Bloomberg has said “it probably is unconstitutional” and alluded to Venezuela.
- More broadly, Bloomberg “is viewed as a more Wall Street-friendly, centrist candidate,” although how much of that’s perception and how much reality, I’m not sure.
- On the “Green New Deal,” Bloomberg has “expressed optimism…and said all of the concepts in it deserve consideration, but warned that it should not put forth “things that are pie in the sky.”
- Bloomberg is certainly not a young person – he’ll turn 78 this February 14, making him a few months younger than Bernie Sanders, a few months older than Joe Biden, and about seven years older than Elizabeth Warren. Yeah, all of these folks are very old, but how much of a negative should that be? I’d argue that we should look at people’s physical and mental health, and whether or not they are up to the job of President of the United States.
- Bloomberg has gone back and forth over the years in terms of his political identification, from Democratic before 2001, then Republican from 2001 to 2007, then Independent from 2007 to 2018, and now Democratic again. Is that good or bad for beating Trump (e.g., might it attract independents)? Got me. But Bloomberg certainly hasn’t been a loyal, bleeds-Democratic-blue partisan over the years, if that’s what you’re looking for in a nominee.
- Bloomberg being super-rich isn’t an unmitigated good or bad thing, IMHO. On the positive side, it would mean that we wouldn’t have to worry about getting outspent by Trump and his allies in a general election. On the negative side, a mega-billionaire might not be what a lot of Democrats are looking for right now, even if Bloomberg earned his money honestly, in stark contrast to Trump.
So what do you think of a Michael Bloomberg candidacy for President as a Democrat in 2020? I’m neither totally opposed to it nor particularly enthusiastic about it, but I do wonder why Bloomberg – and Tom Steyer, for that matter – couldn’t do a LOT more good by, instead, focusing their energies on helping to beat Trump, combat the climate crisis, etc., without necessarily running for president themselves…
UPDATE: OK, this is not good…
Yes, he said it! This is Bloomberg defending his racist stop-and-frisk. When I posted this quote the other day some commenters couldn’t believe he said it. This is a video-as-proof culture. Well, here’s your video… pic.twitter.com/MdBdrcs4DY
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) November 26, 2019