Mike Bloomberg was elected New York mayor two months after the outrage of Sept. 11, 2001. He took over a city reeling with grief and suffering economic losses tied to the terrorist attacks. Rather than lay off public workers who had performed gallantly in the crisis, he raised taxes on the well-to-do.
The conservative media beat him up with their usual argument that tax hikes kill off business. The opposite happened. The city grew new veins. Bloomberg led this revival with grit and smarts, not his personal wealth.
That’s what Bloomberg should be talking about and everyone else should be hearing. Bloomberg must explain that he brings to the table an experience and success in public service unmatched by any other candidate.
A New York mayor must manage the nation’s largest city, a cauldron of races and ethnicities. That’s why it is called the second toughest job in America. Bloomberg was elected to it three times.
There is something perverse about Bernie Sanders accusing Bloomberg of racism. The ‘60s was a time of rising crime, racial tension and white flight (followed by black middle-class flight) out of the cities. In 1968, Sanders joined a liberal white flight to the whitest state, Vermont.
He and other ex-New Yorkers could hang around Burlington coffee shops and plan a socialist utopia without having to deal with angry black people. (Cameo appearances at civil rights marches did not hide that fact.)
Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy — for which he has apologized — was a great mistake because it mostly swept up black and Latino men simply going about their business. But it was intended to take guns off the streets in a city where up to 96% of the shooting victims were black or Latino.
Sanders voted against the Brady bill five times. Consider the racial implications of his saying that he opposed gun control because guns weren’t a problem in Vermont.
Bloomberg’s activism in this area has won him the endorsement of prominent African Americans. One is Rep. Lucy McBath, who lost her 17-year-old son to gun violence. A Democrat, McBath made headlines in 2018 by flipping the suburban Atlanta seat once occupied by Newt Gingrich. Hers is the sort of district that would be imperiled were Sanders at the top of the ticket.
I happen to think that mass extinction as the Earth burns up is a bigger issue than some boneheaded comments Bloomberg may have made in the pre-”Me Too” era. When President Donald Trump said he’d pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, Bloomberg was the American voice assuring our allies that American cities, states and businesses would take over from Washington and meet the goals. He has helped lead that effort.
Sanders is the only Democrat to oppose a tax on carbon, widely considered one of the essential tools for reducing emissions. Canada, Western Europe and all of Scandinavia have put prices on carbon. So have California and nine states in the Northeast.
Bloomberg is right that he’s the only candidate to have started a business, actually a good thing. His fortune made selling data to the financial industry, Bloomberg knows where the money comes from and how to tax it. Wall Street has expressed shock at his proposals to tax financial transactions, toughen stress tests for banks and so on.
Bloomberg’s bottom line is that he left moneymaking to pursue a life of doing the really hard stuff in public service. Populist ranting can be entertaining, and Sanders is good at it. But his bottom line is having accomplished almost nothing in his 29 years as a professional politician in Washington.
Clearly, Bloomberg has strengths that Sanders couldn’t buy, even with Bloomberg’s money.