Michael Bloomberg: The new billionaire presidential candidate who promises to tax the poor [Opinion Piece]

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This beckons the question, by virtue of being financially successful and wealthy, are these billionaire individuals the right candidates to manage and administer the government of a country for the benefit of the majority? 

Michael Bloomberg has thrown his hat in for the next US presidential elections to take place in November of 2020. Spending $57 million of his own money within ten days, Bloomberg has managed to position himself as one of the top five Democratic candidates currently polling.

The billionaire media mogul is the 9th wealthiest individual in the US with an estimated net worth of $53.4 billion, making him 17 times wealthier than the current president of the US. It seems that billionaires have decided not only do they want to succeed in creating enormous and historically unseen wealth for themselves, but they feel a sense of responsibility to manage the lives of the US citizens, and as the US is an influential country around the world, the lives of everyone else in the world.  

Other Democratic candidates have not taken kindly to the late entry of Bloomberg into their ranks, accusing him of wishing to buy the presidency. Bernie Sanders, one of the leading Democratic candidates stated: “We do not believe that billionaires have the right to buy elections.” He went further: “That is why multi-billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg are not going to get very far in this election.”

How far Bloomberg will succeed in his efforts to grab the White House away from Donald Trump remains to be seen; the battle of the billionaires may not be so civil. To what extent can these billionaires who live luxurious lives identify with the financial uncertainties, struggling mortgage payments, skyrocketing tuition fees, and increasing healthcare premiums that the vast majority of hard-working Americans have to deal with daily? Do they wish to change the system that has enabled them to hoard vast amounts of wealth, and are they inclined to side with the needs of the majority of Americans who are feeling and experiencing the vast inequality not seen for five decades?

Bernie Sanders is campaigning on a platform not too different from the UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, of taxing the super-rich and spending on the infrastructure and needs of the majority. Sanders highlights the inequality of the wealthy: “The wealthiest three families now own more wealth than the bottom half of the country, and they will do everything they can to block our agenda.”

This beckons the question, by virtue of being financially successful and wealthy, are these billionaire individuals the right candidates to manage and administer the government of a country for the benefit of the majority? 

Bloomberg in a 2018 speech to the International Monetary fund in Washington stated that placing higher taxes on sugary drinks will benefit the poor because they will drink less and become healthier. Not taking into account that it is not just sugary drinks that are unhealthy, but a lot of other American foods that are using harmful ingredients, and the emphasis is not being placed on powerful, wealthy manufacturers to change ingredients; Bloomberg seems to have slightly missed the mark. Is this a candidate looking at the problem holistically or placing the blame on the poor and taxing them? 

There is another issue dogging Bloomberg’s campaign that has recently been highlighted by academics and activists across North America. A recent open letter sent to Bloomberg highlights his inaction as the chairman of the September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City against Islamophobic and anti-Muslim individuals and elements within the organisation he leads. 

One particular individual who has been campaigning against Muslims is Debra Burlingame, where the open letter advises Bloomberg: “Of most obvious concern, despite repeated messages by Arab and Muslim organizations, you have continued to allow Debra Burlingame, one of the most prominent anti-Islam activists in the United States, to serve on the museum’s board.”

The letter raises the issue of inaction by Bloomberg as the chairman of the board to deal with this issue, and how this lack of action and the indirect support for anti-Muslim individuals and elements within an organisation he manages may reflect on his stance and views as the President of the United States: “As your presidential campaign seeks to reconsider the national and international implications of past New York-based policies such as stop-and-frisk, we implore you to institute reforms at the National September 11 Memorial Museum.” The letter further states: “These would be strong acts demonstrating national and international leadership as you seek broad support.”

To what extent Bloomberg will make changes is a reflection of how much he believes it will affect his candidacy and voter’s support. The majority of political candidates running for office only react on issues that have a strong and influencing lobbyist support, and unfortunately anti-Muslim policies still seem not to warrant much fear of backlash by politicians.  

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