Michael Bloomberg Wants to Micromanage American Life

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the Bloomberg Global Business forum in New York, September 26, 2018. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
A look at his interminable agenda

After skipping Iowa and New Hampshire, former Republican Michael Bloomberg has become a serious contender for the Democratic nomination almost overnight. Drawing on his immense fortune, he’s been blanketing the airwaves with commercials even as he underperforms on the debate stage; in response, his critics have been drowning social media in clips of offensive comments he made in the past.

And while he’s something of a known quantity from his years as mayor of New York (crime control, gun control, cigarette control, french-fry control), he’s selectively tweaked his approach to policy for this race, for example by apologizing for his administration’s overuse of stop-and-frisk policing — and by putting out a steady stream of policy proposals meant to appeal to the Democratic base. Indeed, while Elizabeth Warren may be known as the candidate with a “plan for that,” Bloomberg’s website has a 32-item alphabetical grid of the damn things, from “All-In Economy” to “Wildfire Resilience” (not joking).

I read them so you don’t have to. Here’s an unavoidably surface-level look at some of the highlights of his interminable agenda, which he began debuting late last year and continues to expand. In total, these ideas would drastically expand the role of the federal government in countless areas — if Congress indeed passed and funded them under a President Bloomberg.

Cut incarceration in half by 2030: Most prisoners are held in state, not federal, facilities, so this is not something the federal government even has the power to do. As a result, Bloomberg’s plan relies on a “Department of Justice reform hub to evaluate and fund state-level criminal justice reform efforts.” For good measure, he vows that we can reduce incarceration this much and cut crime.

Expand Obamacare and have the government offer a “public option”: He’d boost the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies and provide a government-run plan that could pave the way for something like Medicare for All in the future.

Lots n’ lotsa gun control: This is no surprise, but he’d require universal background checks and ban “assault weapons”; anyone who already owned a banned gun could keep it but would have to register it with the federal government. He’d also expose the gun industry to frivolous lawsuits that blame companies for the misuse of their products.

A fancifully aggressive approach to climate change: He’d rejoin the Paris agreement that Trump abandoned and ensure that “100% of new vehicles are pollution-free by 2035.” And why stop at cars? Another goal will be for all new homes and buildings to be pollution-free by 2025. One wonders how much these cars and buildings will cost, but that information is not on this part of his website.

Abortion forever: He wants to “codify Roe v. Wade” in federal law and reverse existing state-level abortion restrictions.

A Warren-lite approach to higher-education funding: Warren famously wants to cancel most student debt and make public colleges free going forward. Bloomberg meets her about halfway with a proposal that would still drastically increase federal spending on higher ed: Two-year colleges would be tuition-free, with extra help for low-income students who struggle with other costs, while four-year colleges would be free to lower-income students. He would also cap student-loan payments at 5 percent of discretionary income, as opposed to 10 percent under current income-based repayment plans — though he’d newly impose a $57,500 cap on the total amount of forgiveness. It’s all a great idea, if you think the biggest problem with American colleges is that there isn’t enough taxpayer money headed their way.

“Open America’s doors”: He’d give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship while increasing legal immigration, especially employment-based immigration.

A national war on e-cigarettes and tobacco in general: He’d like to ban e-cigarette flavors, speed up the FDA’s efforts to hamstring the vaping industry, “lower the amount of nicotine in tobacco products below addictive levels,” and hike taxes on tobacco.

A huge minimum-wage hike and some gifts to Big Labor: He endorses the famous lefty goal of a $15 minimum wage — which in some places is over the median wage — and would have it automatically rise with earnings over time. He’d also give collective-bargaining rights to “gig” workers, which would make these contracting arrangements far less attractive, both to businesses and to workers who don’t want to be forced to support a union financially. Speaking of which, he’d kill right-to-work laws.

Simultaneously pay child-care workers more and make child care more affordable: He points out that his $15 an hour minimum wage would drastically hike the pay of child-care workers, who make more like $11. This might seem concerning for people who rely on cheaper child-care options, but don’t worry: He’ll also expand Head Start and “guarantee access” to full-day preschool for all kids three and up.

Reparations: Part of his “Greenwood Initiative” on race is to “support the creation of a commission to study reparations for Black Americans, with the aim of developing actionable policies.”

Tax hikes: He’d reverse the 2017 tax cuts, but only for high earners, while closing some loopholes, hiking the corporate tax from 21 to 28 percent, and adding a new 5 percent tax on income above $5 million. Big as that is, I’m rather curious how close it could come to paying for all of the above items.

There’s more where that came from, including his financial regulations and his surprisingly vague pronouncements on foreign policy. If you don’t particularly value your time, feel free to dig in yourself. But the main theme is that this man has a lot of confidence in his own ability to micromanage just about everything in American life.

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