A bit ago (Jan 8, 2020), the New York Times described Michael Bloomberg’s plan1 for addressing the income and wealth inequality in the United States that has been a constant topic of discussion by Democratic candidates. Briefly, as with the robber barons of Teddy Roosevelt’s age, the wealth of the global commerce titans and particularly the private equity fund buyers and sellers of companies (and layers off of employees) has exploded over the last four decades in the US, beginning in earnest with Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Most of the benefits of productivity gains have gone to a very few people at the top, and the bottom 50% of the wealth distribution actually owns a smaller share of the nation’s wealth than 40 years ago. The top 1% have gained enormously, and the top 0.5% have been even more enriched. We have ultra multibillionaires like Jeff Bezos who can pay $9 billion to his wife in a divorce settlement and still be the wealthiest man in the world with more than $130 billion in net worth. He earns about $78.5 billion a year (counting value of his Amazon shares) or more than $6.5 billion a month2 and thus exemplifies this new “gilded age” of ultrawealthy tycoons. This exists at the same time that the Trump administration proposes work requirements that will eliminate food stamp aid for 700,000 of hungry Americans and, with other initiatives, will take food stamps from 3.7 million beneficiaries who simply cannot get work that pays well enough to fund a sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their families.3 This will “save” the U.S. about $5.5 billion over five years–less than Bezos ‘earns’ in a month. This disparity–$5.5 billion to feed 3.5 million hungry Americans versus provide a month’s additional wealth for a person already wallowing in wealth like Jeff Bezos–is why it is clear that the US needs to figure out how to respond to the inequality crisis in order to protect American democracy and ensure Americans have a decent standard of living.
Bloomberg’s plan seems to be a moderate stance like Obama and Biden that attempts to focus on factors other than the wealth gap and the accompanying power gap that wealth provides. As the NY Times reports, he “frames the economic divide primarily in regional terms–and not along … rich-versus-everyone-else class lines.”1 The Times article notes that his plan is not unlike the charge Obama gave to Joe Biden for the Middle Class Task Force.1\