I’ve been a little surprised by the vitriol aimed at Michael Bloomberg’s wealth as he prepares for a possible presidential run. After his announcement, Bernie Sanders exclaimed, ““Our campaign is going to end the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality which exists in America today. So tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: ‘Sorry, you ain’t going to buy this election.’”
Social media posts and editorials followed attacking Bloomberg for being part of the rich, elite class who has created America’s woes, from income inequality to homelessness. Bloomberg has actually been an outspoken voice on gun control and climate change, and along with fellow billionaire and candidate for president Tom Steyer, has actually invested millions of dollars of his personal wealth to help elect Democrats. In fact, both had a lot to do with Virginia flipping to a blue state and Steyer was instrumental in turning out Democrats in Alabama to elect Senator Doug Jones.
Although was supporting Kamala Harris and donated the maximum to her and Pete Buttigieg, I find the attacks on Bloomberg and Steyer uninformed and ill advised. Issues around income inequality are important issues that we need to address and the billionaire perched in the White House has done little to bolster the image of the plutocracy.
Wealth is actually a terrible metric to use in judging whether someone would be a good President or good for working people.
George Washington was not only the father of our country, but he was the wealthiest man to ever hold the office until Trump’s election in 2016. He stressed a democratic system with tolerance to opposition voices and in his famous farewell address spoke to the nation about the importance of unity amongst us.
The two Roosevelts both descended from one of the most elite, blue blood families in New York. Teddy was an ardent conservationist, who we can thank for our vast network of national parks and open space. FDR gave us the New Deal, Social Security, the National Industry Recovery Act, the National Labor Board, the Civil Works Administration, the Home Owners Loan Act, the Securities Exchange Act, the FCC, FDIC, the minimum wage and led the allied coalition to victory in WWII.
The 1960s gave us two of the wealthiest presidents, John F. Kennedy with his family worth of $2 billion and Lyndon Johnson. JFK is revered by Democrats today for bringing a youthful vigor to the White House, along with lifting us out of a recession, establishing the Peace Corps and averting war with the Soviet Union. LBJ’s accomplishment are amongst the greatest victories ever for progressives. His mastery of the Senate, where he served as majority seader, brought us the Great Society, the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty, Medicare and Medicaid and the Voting Rights Act. Were it not for Vietnam, he might be considered our greatest president along with Lincoln.
On the flip side, some of our worst presidents have had little wealth, including Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding and Millard Fillmore.
Democrats need to focus on the issues that matter to Americans — college debt, jobs, income inequality and stopping climate change — rather than attacking people for their wealth. After all, part of the appeal of Trump to his base is that his voters desire to be rich and successful like him. Perhaps Democrats should talk more about how we actually accomplish that.
Michael Colbruno is a former to aide to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Supervisor and Assemblywoman Carole Migden, has twice been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and has been active in Democratic politics.