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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/7/20

Of Course Bloomberg's an Oligarch -- and He's Coming For Your Social Security

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The argument between Turner and Johnson involved another compelling example of Bloomberg-as-oligarch. The DNC's rules said each candidate had to have a minimum number of donors to quality for the debate stage. That rule wasn't overruled for Cory Booker or Julian Castro, despite calls for greater diversity in the race. But it was overturned for Bloomberg, who had donated more than $1 million to the DNC and a related organization a few short weeks before.

Will Michael Bloomberg Cut Your Social Security?

If you thought there were problems with Joe Biden's Social Security record, wait until you see Bloomberg's. His record of espousing austerity economics has including a special enthusiasm for cutting Medicare and Social Security.

As he told Face the Nation in 2013:

"No program to reduce the deficit makes any sense whatsoever unless you address the issue of entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, interest payment on the debt, which you can't touch, and defense spending. Everything else is tiny compared to that."

Bloomberg has called for raising the retirement age, a move that would cut Social Security benefits for all retirees and create physical hardship for many older workers.

These are bad ideas. They make for even worse politics. Voters love Social Security. A Pew study released in March 2019 found that "74 percent of Americans say Social Security benefits should not be reduced in any way."

And voters don't like entitlement cuts, or the Bloomberg-endorsed thinking behind them. That can be seen in a GBAO/Center for American Progress survey conducted in October 2019. Less than half of Republicans, one-third of Democrats, and roughly one-third of independents agreed with the Bloomberg-like statement that "our national debt is way too high, and we need to cut government spending on the biggest programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

Trump has given Democrats an opening on Social Security. His administration is currently engaged in a de factor program to cut Social Security disability benefits, by forcing millions of disabled people to endure the punishing process of eligibility screening as often as every six months. Newsweek reports that the Social Security Administration concluded that this would lead to $2.6 billion in benefit cuts and an additional 2.6 million case reviews between 2020 and 2029. It's a brutal assault on the health and security of a vulnerable population.

Trump also said he intends to pursue additional cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after the upcoming election, when he no longer has to worry about public opinion. Worse, he did so at the annual gathering of billionaires in Davos. That reinforces the perception that he's imposing hardship on the majority to help a privileged few.

Most leading Democrats understand that there is wide support for protecting and expanding Social Security. Most leading candidates -- including Joe Biden -- have offered some form of Social Security expansion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has embraced the idea in principle. There's an opportunity here -- if Bloomberg doesn't stop them from taking it.

What about inequality?

Bloomberg has sometimes embraced tax increases, but he has long opposed tax hikes that reduce inequality by targeting the wealthy.

In fact, he called the idea "class warfare" in a 2012 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. The op-ed was called "Federal Budgets and Class Warfare," and it trotted out some hoary cliche's about "class war" -- which is more like asymmetrical warfare on behalf of the rich -- along with other stale and debunked right-wing talking points. Bloomberg wrote, for example, that "the top 5% already pay 59% of all federal income taxes, while 42% of filers have no federal income tax bill at all."

That statistic omits state, local, and sales taxes, so it doesn't prove Bloomberg's point. What it does demonstrate is the extent of today's income inequality.

Now that he's running, Bloomberg's had a seeming change of heart. He has a plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations -- the same idea he bitterly condemned in 2012. It's a modest plan, compared to Sanders and Warren, but it's not bad. The question is, does he mean it?

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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