Michael Bloomberg: Tax the poor for their own good

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

Let’s ex­am­ine some of the many rea­sons why bil­lion­aire Michael Bloomberg is wast­ing his money on his bid to win the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent.

First, none of the Demo­cratic can­di­dates can win the nom­i­na­tion with­out the black vote. That means the for­mer New York City mayor needs to pry black vot­ers from for­mer vice pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, who owes his front-run­ner sta­tus to the black vot­ers who em­brace him, given his eight years as a loyal sec­ond-in-com­mand to the ex­tremely pop­u­lar for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. Bloomberg has his work cut out for him. Con­sider the re­cent New York Times op-ed by a Times black columnist, Charles M. Blow, who said, “No black per­son — or His­panic per­son or ally of peo­ple of color — should ever even con­sider vot­ing for Michael Bloomberg in the pri­mary.” Blow urged blacks, His­pan­ics and their “al­lies” to re­ject Bloomberg be­cause of his al­legedly “racist” stop-and-frisk pol­icy. Bloomberg re­cently apol­o­gized for the pol­icy, af­ter de­fend­ing it only months ago.

Sec­ond, Bloomberg, de­spite an es­ti­mated net worth of over $50 bil­lion, is still an old, white male in a gender/race/eth­nic­ity iden­tity-ob­sessed party where be­ing an old, white, male pres­i­den­tial can­di­date — Bi­den ex­cepted — is an in­creas­ingly tough sell. Bloomberg’s a de­ter­mined gun con­troller, although un­like for­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Beto O’Rourke, Bloomberg does not — at least not yet — push a “manda­tory buy-back” plan. But, like O’Rourke, Bloomberg never both­ers to ask how many Amer­i­cans de­fend them­selves ev­ery year with a firearm.

Third, then-Mayor Bloomberg, even be­yond the typ­i­cal “pro­gres­sive” Democrat, at­tempted to take the nanny state to a level that New York state’s high­est court re­jected as an over­reach. Af­ter plac­ing restrictio­ns on smok­ing in parks and bars, reg­u­lat­ing tan­ning sa­lons, ban­ning the use of trans fats in restau­rants and re­quir­ing chain restau­rants to post meal calo­ries, Bloomberg at­tempted to ban sug­ary drinks larger than 16 ounces in some restau­rants, movie the­aters and other busi­nesses. The lib­eral New York high court said, “By choos­ing among com­pet­ing pol­icy goals, with­out any leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion or guid­ance, the Board en­gaged in law-mak­ing and thus in­fringed upon the leg­isla­tive ju­ris­dic­tion of the City Coun­cil.”

Bloomberg ac­knowl­edges that his sug­ary soda tax would have fallen dis­pro­por­tion­ately on the poor, who also dis­pro­por­tion­ately drink sug­ary drinks, just as cig­a­rette taxes dis­pro­por­tion­ately fall on the poor who dis­pro­por­tion­ately smoke cig­a­rettes. But Bloomberg eas­ily jus­ti­fies it: “Some peo­ple say, well, taxes are re­gres­sive. But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them be­cause the prob­lem is in peo­ple that don’t have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a big­ger im­pact on their be­hav­ior and how they deal with them­selves. So, I lis­ten to peo­ple say­ing, ‘Oh, we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so that they can get an ed­u­ca­tion and en­joy life. And that’s why you do want to do ex­actly what a lot of peo­ple say you don’t want to do.” So the “poor,” ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, “can get an ed­u­ca­tion” be­cause they’ll “live longer”?

All of this makes Bloomberg the very def­i­ni­tion of the “moral busy­body” scorned by re­spected writer C.S. Lewis, who said: “Of all tyran­nies, a tyranny sin­cerely ex­er­cised for the good of its vic­tims may be the most op­pres­sive. It would be bet­ter to live un­der rob­ber barons than un­der om­nipo­tent moral busy­bod­ies. The rob­ber baron’s cru­elty may some­times sleep, his cu­pid­ity may at some point be sa­ti­ated; but those who tor­ment us for our own good will tor­ment us with­out end for they do so with the ap­proval of their own con­science.”

Why not levy taxes on the rich peo­ple to de­ter them from en­gag­ing in “un­healthy” be­hav­ior? Why not a wealth tax on lux­ury cars, di­a­monds, pri­vate air travel, fives­tar ho­tel suites, Mc­Man­sions and pricey restau­rants, you know, to help the spir­i­tu­ally empty rich curb their un­healthy con­sumerism? Through min­i­mum wage laws, we for­bid em­ploy­ees from earn­ing be­low a cer­tain amount. So why not a max­i­mum wage law? Af­ter all, Pres­i­dent Obama said, “I do think at a cer­tain point you’ve made enough money.”

As to Bloomberg’s ar­gu­ment that the poor need to be co­erced into mak­ing bet­ter, more health­ful decisions, Thomas Jef­fer­son wrote: “I know no safe de­pos­i­tory of the ul­ti­mate pow­ers of the so­ci­ety but the peo­ple them­selves; and if we think them not en­light­ened enough to ex­er­cise their con­trol with a whole­some dis­cre­tion, the rem­edy is not to take it from them, but to in­form their dis­cre­tion by ed­u­ca­tion.

This is the true cor­rec­tive of abuses of con­sti­tu­tional power.” Free­dom, by def­i­ni­tion, means peo­ple can and will make choices oth­ers will not like. But to en­cour­age peo­ple to make bet­ter decisions, one does not rob them of free­dom of choice. One uses per­sua­sion, not com­pul­sion.

Good luck, Mr. Bloomberg.

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