Word broke last week that former NYC Mayor and $billionaire Mike Bloomberg is thinking of running for President as an independent.
“The unexpected rise of a self-avowed socialist and a bellicose billionaire who can’t seem to shake supporters no matter how outrageous his comments have the Republican and Democratic establishments worried. One notable moderate, business tycoon and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, is concerned enough that he is reportedly exploring the idea of jumping into the race himself.”
But unless Bloomberg were to say and do something completely unexpected, such a candidacy would be little more than a one-man ego trip. On policy, “maintain the status quo” is hardly a winning battle cry for an outsider candidate, one likely to attract little if any grass roots support and to bring few if any new people into the political process. Meanwhile those in on the game will always throw their support behind those mostly likely to win, the two major party candidates, to protect their prerogatives. As things stand Bloomberg would have a hard time matching the impact of former independent presidential candidates John Anderson (1980) and Ralph Nadar (2000), and would have no chance of matching the impact of H. Ross Perot (1992).
The Trump and Sanders campaigns are symptoms of a diminished future that has now arrived as a result of a 35-year party by Generation Greed. These men cannot explain it, don’t offer a forward-looking alternative, and do little other than identify scapegoats and promise that the party can resume if they are elected. The same may be said of the other candidates. But unless Bloomberg is willing to talk honestly about the future those age 55 and younger have woken up to, he might as well save his $billions and stay home.
“Mr. Bloomberg would need to get his name listed on as many state ballots as possible” according to The Economist. “That is no easy task. It takes not only money but time to gather the necessary signatures—900,000 in all, if he wishes to compete in all 50 states.”
Here is the big reason this would be a one-man ego trip. If you are collecting signatures to get on the ballot for President as an independent, I don’t think it would cost much more to get additional independent candidates on the ballot for Senate and House of Representatives. At least here in New York, when you sign a sheet with multiple candidates on it, you sign for them all. It is set up that way to make it easier for the machine incumbents to collect signatures. (The rules might be different for independents).
As Mayor, Bloomberg chose to be just one person rather than a leader of movement. And as a result Bloombergism, if there is such a thing, did not much outlast him. The odds of him being elected President as an independent candidate are low. The best case scenario would be to win enough states to deny the lead candidate a majority in the Electoral College. That would throw the election to the House of Representatives, which would appoint the Republican.
Meanwhile, by running alone Bloomberg would continue to nation’s drift toward elected would-be dictators, who in the end are prevented from running the country by the legislative representatives of special interests. Because so few people other than special interests pay attention to elections for Congress. Because what you have in Congress, for the most part, are one-party districts where Republicans refuse to vote for Democrats, Democrats refuse to vote for Republicans, incumbents are generally locked in, and thus no real elections take place.
The Tea Party, however, has shown just how thin actual support for those incumbent Senators and members of Congress is, and how easily they could be unseated in a real election. Like the Koch Brothers Bloomberg could, if he wanted, try to recruit candidates for Congress and get them on the ballot. In that case he might be able to say “we” rather than “I” when running for President. Were he to do so, he might get something more lasting for his $100 million. And yet most other outside candidates have failed to do so. So did Bloomberg as Mayor.
In order to recruit candidates and attract voters, however, Bloomberg would have to provide some reason to choose him and his associates rather than the two major parties, as off the rails as they are. And appeal to a group of people who are not being represented in politics as it stands.
As it happens, there is such a group of people. Everyone born after 1958.
The past 35 years-plus have been an irresponsible party, in which businesses have paid Americans less and less and yet sold them more and more, with the increasing difference between the two leading to an explosion of executive pay and year after year of U.S. imports exceeding exports. This has been paid for by soaring public and private debts, with the whole world economy organized around Americans selling off their future by spending more than they have. Until they were finally broke.
The question now for those who benefitted is this: “you won, now who are you going to sell to?” And “you won, now how can those left worse off afford all the taxes needed to pay for your early retirement?” No one has answers to those questions, other than to keep the level of debt moving up, push off the business and government collapse, and hope it all works out.
In pursuit of more for themselves those born before 1958, the richest generations in U.S. history, have left those coming after worse off across the board. In public policy,
In the economy,
Even in the family.
To the point where now the death rate is rising and life expectancy falling for those age 54 and younger.
When you steal part of the future from younger generations, and keep doing it, eventually that turns out to be almost everyone. The first people on the wrong end of the deal are starting to approach age 60, although it is worse for those born later.
In this context, the current campaign for President is nothing but misdirection, an attempt to assign the blame elsewhere. To the Mexicans, the Muslims and the Chinese, for example.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have attracted a great deal of attention because they have been willing to point out that no, President Obama and Wall Street, things are not fine. The fact is that two kinds of people have been getting richer: the top executives who sit on each other’s boards and vote each other a rising share of private sector wealth. And, in places where the public employee unions control state and local politics, retired and soon to retire public employees. Everyone else is getting poorer.
The Donald has proven to be in touch with the reality most Americans are facing, as they approach retirement with no savings, no pension, and extensive debt. Why? Because they lost their last dime at his casinos before they went broke and got foreclosed. And so did his casinos. In reality Trump is just as much a servant of the prerogatives of he executive/financial class, and Sanders of today’s seniors and the political/union class, as the rest. But the serfs and the young are attracted to them out of simple desperation.
In fact Trump and Bloomberg make interesting opposites. Trump epitomizes the “give them enough rope to hang themselves and make money on the rope” economy, manipulating people’s need for social status and excitement and desire for easy living at his glitzy developments and gambling properties. Bloomberg became a $billionaire by providing Wall Street traders with the data they probably would have preferred to ignore, and then spent twelve years as Mayor nagging people about their health. People might be better off listening to Bloomberg, but seem to prefer to listen to Trump even if he dishonestly tells them what they want to hear.
Even so, generational equity is a message that could resonate simply because no other candidate dares to talk about it. And no publication dares to write about it. All those decisions to provide more for those older, followed by higher taxes and diminished services, pay and benefits for those younger, seem to be under some kind of Omerta. Those on the losing end are now the vast majority of people and the vast majority of places. (This post, written yesterday, is one of the most read posts I’ve ever written).
The impact of what those now over 55 of so have done on the generations to follow is vastly more of a taboo than anything Donald Trump or “socialist” Bernie Sanders have said or will say. It generates more anger, opposition, contention and noise among ordinary people. Those over age 60 do not want it talked about even if, especially if, deep down they know their generation has left those following worse off.
Mayor Bloomberg is an imperfect vessel for a generational equity message. As Mayor he in many ways sought to make the city’s future, not just the needs of interest groups in the present, a priority. But he also went along with labor deals to retroactively increase the pension benefits of those cashing in and moving out, then later cutting pay and benefits for future public employees, just like the rest of them. In fact, Bloomberg’s labor deals as Mayor epitomize what has happened to younger generations throughout the U.S. economy, in the private sector as well as the public and in union and non-union situations alike. The future cost of one deal in particular will degrade the very public service Bloomberg most promised to improve. For decades.
A huge disappointment from someone who should have known better.
Then there is family life. If Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg were the three candidates for President, that would be three men raised by intact, two parent families. No marriage is perfect, and I’m sure these men’s parents had their rough points, but nonetheless in each case they made family the priority and stuck together, for the benefit of their children.
In contrast, while I would hope that each of these men care for their own children in their own way, the reality is that for each of them (or perhaps for the person they were with) at some point something else was more important. None of their children had the family life they had benefitted from themselves. This, too, is the epitome of what has happened to later-born generations of Americans, over and above their economic and governmental disadvantages, their lower pay and the debts, unfunded retirement obligations, and deteriorated infrastructure.
So Mayor Bloomberg is not someone that can claim to have bucked the social tsunami created by his generation, although he did get rich by starting a small company and building into a large one rather that getting control of a large company and pillaging it into a small one. He would have to run as a reformed sinner.
That, however, could work. Not everyone in Generation Greed is greedy. And while they would prefer the issue not be raised, or that rationalizations be provided, many deep down can see that their children and grandchildren are worse off than they were. Before 2008 this had been covered over by debts, by money spent in the past rather than saved for retirement in the future, and by more family members working. But now it can’t be covered up anymore.
Thus Mike Bloomberg, like his generation, has one last chance to be part of the solution and set things right. By participating in shared sacrifice. By helping to develop new ways of living that could provide a good life without the high cost even the richest generations in U.S. history could not afford, and thus deferred. And by creating new business and other organizations to replace those controlled by self-dealers and encumbered by future money sucked into the past. Perhaps even the major political parties. To seek renewal, rather than someone else to blame.
Mike Bloomberg may be an imperfect vessel of the generational equity message, but the job of that messenger remains open, because no one else dares to take it.
Mike Bloomberg should ask the following question with regard to running for President, not from his point of view, but from the point of view of a typical struggling young couple in their 30s living in Missouri, or someplace like it. One that, based on the statistics, is more likely to have stayed in school, less likely to have used recreational drugs, less likely to have engaged in crime or vandalism and, if college-educated, less likely to divorce than those who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. That average couple, more likely than not, actually listened to the advice to do as they were told, not as the generations that came before did back then. And yet they are ending up poorer and more burdened. From their point of view, would-be President Bloomberg, answer this question.
Why are you running?