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Bloomberg Is the Equal Evil

By Nicholas Levis / counterpunch.org
Feb 21, 2020
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Bloomberg Is the Equal Evil
Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

An oligarch is trying to buy the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination with cash payments from his own personal fortune. If his takeover attempt succeeds, it will smash the party and assure the reelection of Donald Trump. Given their shared interests, we might wonder whether that is Michael Bloomberg’s true intent. His cynical campaign is based on deceiving people into believing the opposite, that he would be a strong candidate against Trump. Many also believe, falsely, that Bloomberg presents a lesser evil than Trump. The following is presented in refutation of these false premises.

Bloomberg’s 12-year record as mayor of New York, his billions in personal spending as a political and “philanthropic” donor, and his many recorded public statements all suggest strongly that a Bloomberg regime would be at least as extreme, dangerous to democracy, lawless, and warlike as a second Trump term. I would never vote for either of these men, who are similar in all the ways that matter most, including a shared record as serial purveyors of misogynistic harrassment of women. Even were it possible to persuade me to “vote blue no matter who” in Bloomberg’s case, there is little point in trying. Tens of millions of others who might vote for a Democrat against Trump will never vote for Bloomberg, the Republican oligarch, if he seizes control of the party.

Republican Oligarch

Bloomberg is a long-standing Republican billionaire from New York City, rated as one of the ten richest men in the United States. He supported George W. Bush for president in 2000 and endorsed Bush’s reelection in 2004. As a speaker at the Republican nominating convention in New York that year, then Mayor Bloomberg heaped praise on the criminal invasion of Iraq and the “war on terror.” In 2008, Bloomberg endorsed John McCain against Barack Obama.

In the years that followed, Bloomberg continued to endorse and fund many Republican candidates. He threw millions in PAC money behind Pat Toomey (PA) in a close Senate election that Toomey won. That was in 2016, the year of Trump’s election. In 2014, Bloomberg donated to the reelection campaigns of the Republican senators Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham. Back in 2012, he also endorsed and funded the Republican Scott Brown against Elizabeth Warren.

On the federal level, in short, Bloomberg’s money has been deployed to keep GOP control of Congress, especially the Senate, and thus helped to assure GOP domination of the judicial appointments process. It does not matter what he says, pretends, or thinks he was doing. Through these actions, Bloomberg bears partial responsibility for the blocking of the Garland appoinment and for the approval of the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh appointments to the Supreme Court. No credible case can be made that concern about the conservative make-up of the Supreme Court is a priority to him; nor can it be assured that this two-faced actor would appoint more liberal judges than Trump.

Since 2018, Bloomberg has been doing business as a Democrat, having switched his nominal party affiliation to accommodate his new political ambitions. He continues to support some Republicans, again doing so in the age of Trump. In his career as a political donor, he has spent about $2 billion in dark-money contributions and “philanthropic” donations to causes favored by local politicians, especially mayors, as documented in the New York Times (15 Feb). This flood of cash has bought a stable of endorsers for Bloomberg’s presidential run, from politicians willing to sell their reputations and services. Following a few hundred thousand in donations to the Democratic National Committee, Bloomberg has also won the DNC’s favor. They have admitted Bloomberg personnel into key party positions, and they changed their debate qualification rules to make it possible for the billionaire to take the stage at the Nevada debate, days before the state’s caucuses. (Other candidates were excluded from earlier debates because they were required to have 200,000 individual donors; Bloomberg has no donors other than himself.)

NYC Mayor Or Real Estate Kingpin?

(And is there a difference?)

During his dozen years as mayor, Bloomberg flew several times a month on average to his compound in Bermuda, where he could manage his global financial empire and presumably vast, unaccountable, offshore assets. Officially, he placed the Bloomberg companies in a blind trust managed by associates. One of them, Dan Doctoroff, first served the Bloomberg administration for a few years as its top city planner, working closely with the mayor before proceeding to management of the mayor’s sequestered billions.

The doings in Bermuda have remained confidential. Bloomberg’s estimated wealth rose from about $2 billion at the start of his mayoral tenure in January 2002 to around $30 billion by the time he left office in January 2014. Seven years later, his wealth is given as $55 billion one month, $60 billion the next. Five billion is a rounding error, as Lee Fang remarked in a podcast interview (Rolling Stone Useful Idiots, 7 Feb).

As mayor of New York City, Bloomberg set off the largest wave of 20-year tax exemptions for new housing towers and other jumbo developments in the city’s history. The uncontrolled luxury building frenzy completely transformed New York for the worse. Rents became impossible. Large populations, mostly of black and brown people, were displaced. Historic neighborhoods turned into dull mall environments.

Bloomberg became the latest of several mayors to announce to lifelong New Yorkers that if they can’t afford to live here, they should move out. The homeless population skyrocketed. He went on record opposing the minimum wage and mocking the idea of a iiving wage as a communist plot. Posing as an education reformer, he aggressively pursued school-charter privatization plans, constantly attacked teachers and their unions, and advocated larger school class sizes. As a servant to the city’s real estate and finance sectors, he was an ally above all of developers like Donald Trump. There is good reason why you can find so many pictures of the two of them laughing together.

Authoritarian Tyrant 

If the term seems exaggerated, consider that in the original Greek, a tyrant was a city boss. Everyone is now recalling Bloomberg’s massive six-fold expansion of the “Stop and Frisk” program he “inherited” from Giuliani, which was eventually ruled unconstitutional. This was just one part of an intensely carceral, punitive and racially targeted approach to the city’s black and brown populations. His racist statements in justifying these policies are well-known. He extended the endless “war on drugs.” More people went to prison for marijuana. He still wishes to keep it illegal and declared that marijuana legalization is “the stupidest thing anybody’s ever done” (Newsweek, 23 Jan 2019).

As under Giuliani, countless innocents were incarcerated on petty charges. Kalief Browder’s three-year torment at Riker’s happened on Bloomberg’s watch. Bloomberg oversaw the violent and militarized expulsion of the peaceful Occupy Wall Street protest from Zuccotti Park in Nov. 2011, an action which was coordinated through the Department of Homeland Security with the simultaneous expulsions of dozens of other Occupy encampments in big cities around the country. In New York the action was run through a new office that for the first time brought all city, state and federal law enforcement agencies together with liaisons from corporate headquarters into a single underground command center.

When it became known that a judge was considering declaring “Stop and Frisk” unconstitutional (as she then did), Bloomberg activated PR and press teams to defame her in advance as unhinged and unreliable. This shows his contempt for the judiciary and the rule of law.

Those who credibly fear “president for life” or other lawless scenarios with Trump need also to recall that the similarly old and unhappily-disposed Bloomberg, who had claimed to support the term-limit laws in New York, switched suddenly to advocating and achieving a one-time repeal of the law in 2009. This allowed him to buy a third term with the most expensive mayoral campaign in history, spending sums variably estimated at $110 to near $200 million. Just like his current campaign, this largesse won the lockstep report of the city’s corporate media. He had thousands on staff, with paid employees accosting people on the street, and no evidence of volunteers.

Back in 2001, Bloomberg was set to lose his original run for mayor, as a Republican candidate. Then the primary election, scheduled for September 11, was postponed due to the attacks on the WTC. Mayor Giuliani, whom Bloomberg had always supported, called for the postponement of the general election and a four-month extension of his own term, effectively demanding that New York City, for the first time in 214 years, be placed under an ad-hoc dictatorship of emergency rule. Bloomberg supported Giuliani’s proposal before it was axed due to widespread opposition. He exploited the fear after the attacks by running an expensive scaremongering campaign, and managed to win the election.

As mayor, Bloomberg supported all of the emergency measures and new repressive policies and agencies initiated by the Bush administration, including the USA PATRIOT Act, the Homeland Security Department, the blanket communications surveillance programs, and the increased direct intervention of the CIA in setting local police policy. New York overturned limits on the use of police video against protesters. The city became a testing ground for new domestic surveillance and repression programs.

The NYPD was deployed to spy on Muslims at mosques, and followed people to jurisdictions in other states without informing the local authorities. Zero actual terrorist plots were uncovered by these programs. When this illegal action was covered in a report commissioned by the Center for American Progress (CAP), publication was abruptly delayed until the chapter on the NYPD program was excised. Bloomberg had donated 1.5 million to CAP, the “Third Way” think-tank influential with the Democratic Party right-wing. Bloomberg later reiterated support for total federal surveillance programs, covering all phone calls and messages in the world. He told an interviewer that “we’d better hope the NSA is reading all of our e-mails.”

Trumpian Politician

Bloomberg supports high military spending but presents himself as a deficit hawk. Along with Mnuchin and the worst kind of Democrats, he has been a speaker at “summits” of the Peterson Foundation and has aligned himself with their efforts to cut or privatize Social Security and Medicare. During the recent budget sequester, he expressed concern that temporary spending cuts might “devastate defense.” He went to on to say, “There are ways to slowly decrease the benefits or raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare.” He recommended the institution of more co-pays, so that people would “make less use of” medical services.

While he derides the single-payer health care system common around the world as an unobtainable fantasy, he also did not support the institution of the ACA (Obamacare). There is no reason to believe current claims that he would maintain ACA. He is, after all, beholden to no one, and changes his claims as required by political convenience. As mayor of New York, he supported fingerprinting for SNAP recipients and public housing residents, in keeping with his many recorded public statements deriding the poor and black and brown people in particular. (If his presidential campaign proceeds, you will be hearing these statements used against him on a permanent loop.)

Bloomberg’s supposed concern for the climate crisis as an issue is undermined by his unwillingness to spend anything to act on it, since this would be “unaffordable.” He mocks the Green New Deal and the federal Jobs Guarantee that it would necessarily entail.  How is this lip service, or support for a toothless climate tax, better than Trump’s overt denialism of the ongoing ecological catastrophe and global extinction event?

What pipeline is Bloomberg going to block? What lands that Trump has given to the drillers and loggers and polluters is Bloomberg going to restore as protected wilderness? What ecologically destructive project is he going to oppose, if a fellow capitalist intends to start it? What international initiatives is he going to lead on behalf of controlling the capitalist drive to burn the planet for profit? What difference is it going to make to life on this planet, if this fraud claims to “believe the science,” or if his foundation pays off select astroturf groups that then praise him as an environmentalist?

Bloomberg neither portends nor promises any change in the aggressive foreign policy, interventionism, escalated bombing campaigns, or primacy of the military budget under the Trump-Pence-GOP regime. He has never suggested any opposition to the perpetual wars.

A Bloomberg regime would be wedded to the Saudi-Israeli alliance, exactly like Trump’s. His business interests are closely linked with the Saudi and Gulf royalists, just like Trump’s. Bloomberg opposed the Iran deal and supports recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. During the large-scale Israeli assaults on Gaza, in 2008-9 and 2014, Mayor Bloomberg flew to Israel, calling these visits expressions of New York City’s support for Tel Aviv. On these occasions the Israeli military bombed the captive and defenseless population of the blockaded Gaza strip continuously from the air, the first time for three weeks consecutively, killing hundreds of defenseless civilians and turning hundreds of houses into rubble. The first of these offensives was timed to occur before the inauguration of Obama, whom the right-wing Israeli established considered weak in his support for Israeli policy. The mayor of New York, meanwhile, dropped all business to rush to Israel’s “defense.”

Oligarch Buying Presidency 

Through his foundation, Bloomberg has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars around in exchange for his current spate of endorsements from Democrats and liberals, performing the important service of revealing which mayors, politicians and activists are willing to sell themselves for cash.

He is documentably and programmatically as authoritarian, racist, personally abusive to his underlings, macho and misogynist, and in no way less a war-monger than Trump. My dear, sad True Blues, the corporate media are currently exploiting your justifiable trauma about Trump in order to deceive you that there is a substantive difference. You should be outraged.

Even if you can still persuade yourself that there is a difference, you should be equally outraged that anyone is attempting to buy your country’s presidency with their personal cash out of pocket. As bad as American oligarchy has become, this is a new frontier in its systemic corruption. It is not less dangerous than what the Trump-GOP-Pence regime already has wrought thanks to its own unlimited political spending. If Bloomberg’s gambit is not beaten back, and if it does not serve as the beginning of reforms to end the rule of pure money in politics, we will be seeing many more oligarchs trying the same stunt in the future.

How much of a sucker are you letting yourself be, to retrofit this man’s record and politics as “liberal” or “blue”? If the Democrats were a family, Bloomberg is the loan-shark who breaks into the house, puts on the father’s “blue” suit, and holds the children at gunpoint, telling them he’s there to save them. Jared Kushner is also a rich guy, possibly richer than his father-in-law. Imagine if he turned coat against Trump and bought the DNC and the Democrats. Would you get it then? Or would you tell people to Vote Kush No Matter Who?

Loser

Not the worst, but the most effective lie from the Bloomberg campaign is that he would have a better chance of winning against Trump than other candidates.

His money and the favor of the corporate media and party establishment may yet prove sufficient to outshout, overwhelm, and sabotage all of the Democratic opponents. I do not expect this, but it is possible. He has already shown that he will cheat and trample on democracy, and he has enough resources to outspend all of the rest combined by a ratio of two or three or ten to one, if he chooses. Just a few months of his returns on wealth suffice to make him literally the biggest purchaser of advertising of any kind, on both corporate media and social media, and for him to employ twice or ten times as much paid staff as all of the other campaigns nationally. He is providing a lesson, not only in why billionaires are bad for society because of the wealth inequality, but are active dangers to democracy because they can buy entire political systems with cash to suit their personal whims.

If somehow he should capture the nomination, however, all of this changes.

First, the Democratic Party breaks up, without a doubt. True Blues, do not bother to moralize at me or anyone else. It’s pointless. You can strap me down, pay me off, brainwash me. But everyone else? You won’t be able to herd tens of millions of cats who are on average smarter and wiser than you. Most Americans were never Democrats in the first place, were they now? You need their votes too. Among the serious Democratic voters, meanwhile, are the ones who actually mean it. Many will not be impressed with your arguments that a literal Republican with Trumpian politics, who conducted a hostile takeover of the party, must be given allegiance because he constitutes a “lesser evil.” This is a scam.

It’s done. People cannot be made to unsee what Bloomberg is, and even he cannot pay everyone enough to play along. (If his entire fortune were liquidated at the current estimated value and distributed equally among all Americans, we would each receive about $180.)

The Democratic Party will also smash apart even if Bloomberg fails to capture the nomination for himself, but serves as the kingmaker at a brokered convention that denies the nomination to anyone who wins a plurality of pledged delegates. True blues, there is nothing you can do about it.

Understand finally that these are not the threats of any organized force. Your imaginary “Bernie Bros.” have no central headquarters with which you can negotiate. The Demexit will be a long-suppressed sociological event: a cat tsunami.

Second, a nominated Bloomberg will be up against members of his own economic class. He’s only the world’s ninth-richest out of 1500-3000 billionaires, and never mind the ultra-trillions available to the major corporate cartels, and never mind the many foreign influences who regularly seek to influence US elections. The Trump-Pence-GOP campaign and the dark-money machines who support them will match and exceed Bloomberg’s spending. Like Bloomberg, they will feel no limits about lying, cheating, sabotage, or use of fascistoid tactics, and they have a much longer and broader and more successful record of election rigging.

It will be easy. They will have no trouble publicizing all of the above, and making it sound even worse than I have.

They will have no trouble convincing people who do not support Trump that Bloomberg offers the same shit as Trump. They will barely need to do that, because it is true.

They will have no trouble convincing Trump’s followers that Bloomberg is the Godless Judeo-Bolshevik head of a globalist free-trader conspiracy to take away their freedoms, their firearms, their flags, their crosses, their trucks, their triple-burgers and big-gulps, their children’s religious education, and their pride, because this is what many of them already want to believe anyway.

In truth, a lot of people who support Trump (and many who  hate him) don’t believe any of that, but think everything’s fucked anyway. They no longer care what is true, as long as it’s good television. Professional wrestling beats the Public Service Announcement, every time. Especially when the PSA comes in as dishonest and unctuous a form as Bloomberg with his unconcealed contempt for the poor, for minorities, for farmers and for workers. Imagine the media carpet-bombed with the clip of him explaining why farming is easy, and why farmers and industrial workers had it easy, because they did not require as much gray matter as tech workers.

And how is this different from you, True Blues? You think you’re smarter than the average Trump supporter, but you too believe what your emotions prefer. This Moneybag Monster you have persuaded yourselves to call “Democratic,” “moderate” and “electable” will be obliterated in the field.

Note: A growing collection of links to reports and clips backing up all of the above is available on this fb page.

To respond to this piece, offer millions in legal bribes in exchange for an endorsement, or remind Nicholas Levis that he should be working on his history dissertation, write to N24CP2020@gmail.com.

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