By Dave Lindorff
Even as Bernie Sanders' insurgent "democratic socialist" campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination is really starting to look like it might actually succeed, with polls now showing him ahead of Hillary Clinton in both the earliest primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire, and with Republicans engaged in a circular firing squad where all the people with guns are nut-jobs of one kind or another, making a Sanders presidency even seem possible, we read that former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is contemplating running for the White House as an independent candidate.
Now while the idea of a mega-billionaire as president may be a sick joke, Bloomberg's running for president on his own tab (he's ready to spend $1 billion of his own money) is no joke at all. With Forbes magazine listing his current worth as $36.8 billion at the start of this year, he is the eighth richest man in America, just behind Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and just ahead of Jim Walton.
It is hard to think of a worse idea than having a smug, self-congratulatory billionaire -- someone not just from the top 1% of the population but the top 0.01% -- sitting at the top of government telling us all what to do, but I suppose in the interest of fairness we should tote up his pros and cons. So in memory of the departed but not forgotten TCBH! co-founder Chuck Young (see his 2010 article Where Mayor Mike Can Push His Poll), here's my list of five good and five bad things about having Bloomberg join the race for president as an obscenely wealthy independent candidate:
5. Good: Donald Trump, the likely GOP candidate at this point, will no longer be able to boast about his supposed business acumen. Forbes says Trump, no a self-made man but rather a trust-fund baby who got staked $1 million by his old man, is now worth $4.5 billion, making him only the 72nd richest man in America. That might seem a decent sum, but it's just lunch money for Bloomberg ,who added more than that amount to his assets just over the past year, according to Forbes. And Bloomberg, who hails from an ordinary working family, made all his money himself (or rather, his employees made it for him), first in the securities industry and then with his Bloomberg financial information network.
Bad: Bloomberg is a tight bastard. During his three terms as mayor of New York, he allowed the New York public school system to sink into a funding black hole, as he tried to squeeze teacher salaries and pensions and to both close some schools and convert others to charter schools. The worst year was the Great Recession year of 2010-11, when revenues from the city budget for the city's schools fell by 10.4% and from the state government, by 24.1%. Federal aid to New York City public schools was boosted that year, rose to New York City's schools by 1%, leaving the schools system short by 17%, or about $4.5 billion. Now it wouldn't be fair to have expected private real estate magnate Trump to turn over his whole nest egg to get the schools in his hometown through that one-year crisis, but Bloomberg in 2012 was worth a cool $25 billion according to Forbes. He could have funded the schools for the mostly impoverished kids of his city fully that school year and wouldn't have even known the difference.
4. Good: Bloomberg is 73 years old, just a year younger than Sanders, which should defuse the charge, made by mainstream pundits and no doubt soon by the 69-year-old died-blonde Trump, that that Sanders is too old to be president.
Bad: Bloomberg is impeccably groomed, and probably gets $200 haircuts regularly, which leaves both Trump and Sanders as the messy hair candidates.