This election year is too dramatic, even for the plot of a daytime soap. The candidates are so out of left field that we’re forced to appreciate all over again exactly how preposterous Sen. John McCain’s claim to being a “maverick” was in 2008. This election is absurd; the same year an avowed socialist is shaking the foundations of the Democratic Party by railing against the excessive power of the overly wealthy, a prominent billionaire is doing the same thing to the Republican Party by exercising his power to say whatever he wants.
But now Michael Bloomberg—the billionaire former mayor of New York City—has allowed his aides to leak his plans to join the race if there’s an opening. According to Forbes, Bloomberg is worth over $38 billion. By comparison, Forbes estimates Donald Trump’s net worth at around $4 billion. But as many moderate New Yorkers tell it, Bloomberg in the mix is exactly what this zany presidential race needs.
A Bloomberg presidency would be vastly preferable to the fascist absurdities of Trump’s plans for this country, but potential supporters should be sure to take a close look—Bloomberg’s career demonstrates exactly what Sen. Bernie Sanders says is wrong with this country.
In 2013, Bloomberg told The New York Times, “If we can find a bunch of billionaires around the world to move here, that would be a godsend, because that’s where the revenue comes to take care of everybody else.”
That statement is pretty misleading. In New York City, billionaires pay around 1 percent of the average property tax rate. The reasons for this are varied; for one thing, their condos are assessed at prices far below what they were sold for. To say that the ultra-rich are doing more of a service to New York by living there than the city is doing for them is an extremely shaky proposition.
One contributor to this problem is the 421-a tax exemption. First passed in 1971, this controversial exemption gives developers a 10-year tax break for developing on vacant land. Its continuation has recently been justified by proposing that these breaks can help incentivize the development of more affordable housing units, but in reality many ultra-rich condominium developments like One57 are claiming the exemption as well.
While he was mayor, Bloomberg did hike property taxes overall but did nothing to combat the 421-a tax exemption or other loopholes in the tax code that prevent the ultra-wealthy from contributing to the public good at an equal rate. He has not disclosed his tax returns since leaving office—though we do know that he started buying more and more real estate as the end of his term in office approached—and he keeps his investments private, so it is unknown how much he has invested in real estate.
While expensive condominium developments like One57 claim tax breaks, the waiting list for Section 8 housing vouchers in New York numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, construction of new affordable housing complexes lacks the funding to keep up with demand.
Bloomberg had indicated that he will be more likely to enter the race if Sanders is nominated than Hillary Clinton. If he does, he might find something else coming to him. As the Iowa caucuses illustrated, the American people are catching on to the problem of inequality and they are not happy about it.