If the rich are indeed "different from you and me," as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, it would certainly not be in a good way by the standards of the Democratic Party's progressive wing. One candidate for the party's 2020 presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is hawking "Billionaires should not exist" bumper stickers. Another, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, is selling $25 coffee mugs bearing the words "Billionaire tears," in a nod to the ultrarich angst over her plan to tax wealth.
"Every billionaire is a policy failure" is the Twitter handle for Dan Riffle, policy adviser to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Blogger Tom Scocca flatly proclaimed last year that "billionaires are bad."
So what is to be made of three billionaires (count 'em) seeking the presidency? Besides Donald Trump, estimated to be worth $3.1 billion (notwithstanding his unreleased tax returns), there's Democratic activist Tom Steyer, worth $1.6 billion, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the USA's eighth richest person at $53.4 billion.
Billionaires are not all equal
The syllogistic logic against them writes itself: All billionaires are unfit. These three are billionaires; therefore, they are unfit to be president.
Is such blanket condemnation wise? We'd argue it's not.
To begin with, all billionaires aren't created equal. Some simply inherit wealth or are underwritten by a rich parent. Others bootstrap themselves to bounty by creating world-changing products or services.
Bloomberg, the son of a bookkeeper, worked his way through Johns Hopkins University parking cars. After earning a Harvard MBA, he spent more than a decade at a Wall Street brokerage firm before using his $10 million severance to build a financial information company, and later media and technology giant, worth billions.
He earned three terms as mayor, accumulating more government executive experience than most of his political rivals. And two of his most invested interests - climate change and gun control - resonate with many Democratic voters.
Bloomberg passes on debates
Warren and Sanders claim angrily that with a tiny fraction of his wealth, Bloomberg can easily outspend rivals and "buy" the election. Bloomberg "is making a bet about democracy in 2020," Warren said after his late entry into the Democratic presidential race. "He doesn't need people. He only needs bags and bags of money."
To be sure, Bloomberg has already spent or set aside $60 million for television or radio ads. But he's playing within the rules created by Congress and the Supreme Court.
Self-financing candidates have pluses and minuses. They are less beholden to special interests. But without meeting a threshold of donors, Bloomberg loses the chance to quality for primary debates.
Voters might still reject Bloomberg, 77, because they don't want another septuagenarian in the contest. Or they remain angry - despite his apology - about his stop-and-frisk policy in New York, which disproportionately impacted people of color. Or they don't like the way women were treated at his companies in the pre-#MeToo era.
But to automatically reject him because he has lots more money? That makes no sense.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2020: Rejecting Michael Bloomberg because he's rich makes no sense