The Wealth That’s Killing Us Will Save Us: Politics Through the Looking-Glass

Photograph Source: Michael Galpert – CC BY 2.0

The Bloomberg for President campaign office looks like a complete anachronism in the heart of Harlem in New York City. The office is located on Harlem’s famous 125th Street near the Metro North commuter railway station. The Bloomberg campaign office, a space that has the depth of a bowling alley, has a few campaign staffers working on computers at a table in the otherwise darkened space. The campaign office appears so out-of-place amid the fast food storefronts and comings and goings of the many people on the street. Bloomberg campaign signs cover much of the front window’s plate glass. The commuter trains make for constant background clatter and lurching sounds from the elevated tracks.

Around the corner on Madison Avenue, two men walk toward 125th Street and one man is wearing a Bloomberg campaign button. Bloomberg had a net “worth” of $40.7 billion as of January 2018, money that most people on the streets can’t even begin to imagine.

Here is the world that Michael Bloomberg inhabits and the environment he created in New York City. “The Corporate Media Is Directly Profiting from Mike Bloomberg’s Rise as He Spends Fortune on TV Ads,” (Democracy Now, February 14, 2020):

What he never talks about, though, is, he has apologized for his stop-and-frisk policies, but if you look deeper into what happened during that period of time, not only did Bloomberg systematically defend stop-and-frisk for all those years, but his people attempted to smear the judge, the federal judge, Scheindlin, who was on the case [stop and frisk case], and convinced all of the media, behind the scenes, to write articles that she was biased and that she was unhinged.

And the other policies of Bloomberg, whether it’s the privatization of the public parks in the city, the massive privatization of public schools through expansion of charter schools, massive subsidies for commercial development in the city while rents skyrocketed, this is classic neoliberalism. And the idea that Democrats and some progressives might actually rally behind him, I find astonishing.

And this latest issue of redlining, of saying that that was the cause of the — not redlining, but eliminating redlining, was the cause of the financial crisis.

Bloomberg and his immense fortune are so different from the people on the streets that his campaign office could be compared to an alien presence given his reactionary and deadly policies of stop and frisk and redlining that has furthered the expansion of the income gap to historic levels.

Here’s Michael Bloomberg in his own words (“Bloomberg, in 2008, said ending ‘redlining’ helped trigger financial crisis,” Fox News, February 13, 2020) on his take of the cause of the 2007-2008 Great Recession:

It all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone, Bloomberg, now a Democratic presidential candidate, said at a forum that was hosted by Georgetown University in September 2008. Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighborhoods and said, ‘People in these neighborhoods are poor, they’re not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas.’

The walk or bus ride to Riverside Drive, across Manhattan, is quite an affluent neighborhood, where Martin Luther King, Jr, gave his famous April 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech in which he highlighted the consumerist society whose government then waged a vicious and immoral war in Vietnam.  The site of King’s speech, Riverside Church, could not be a better backdrop for the immense wealth that those like Bloomberg have amassed in a nation with unfathomable discrepancies in assets and the well-being of ordinary people. It’s like being in two worlds at one time within the distance of just a few miles.  Many in the mass media are trying to convince voters not to vote for, at the very least, moderate change, when it’s the corrupting influence of obscene wealth that has brought the world to the brink of complete ruin. Somehow, the mass media wants to convince voters that immense wealth will somehow magically restore the Earth and ourselves. It’s the idea of tickle-down once again.

Just as the stop and frisk and redlining debacles have come to light from the former mayor’s past, now a “Wit and Wisdom [sic]” booklet from 1990 has surfaced in which alleged sexist remarks toward women on the part of Bloomberg are logged (“Michael Bloomberg rocked by re-emergence of sexist remarks,” Guardian, February 15, 2020).

The wealthy don’t play by the same rules as most people. Take a quick look at Trump for a sampling of not playing by any rules. They can buy their way into political campaigns and influence opinion in ways that twist reason to unfathomable extremes. And they (the mass media) call the most moderate of liberals in the 2020 presidential campaign extremists!

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).