Don't be like Mikes
diagnoses New York City's mysterious case of Michael Bloombergs.
LAST MONTH, the famous philanthropist Michael Bloomberg donated $350 million to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University and urged more charitable donations to our schools. "In our society," the grand benefactor sadly told the New York Times, "we are defunding education."
Danny Katch is a New York City based writer, activist and wiseass. He is the author of America's Got Democracy! The Making of the World's Longest Running Reality Show and has contributed to other long-titled books such as Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed America and 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History.
Also last month, the similarly named New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to defund education--by cutting hundreds of teachers and child-care slots from the public school system. This news came amid a strike by school bus drivers trying to stop the penny-pinching mayor from slashing spending on special needs students by, among other things, putting these vulnerable children on general population buses staffed with inexperienced workers.
These cuts are meant to keep the city from having to increase taxes on wealthy New Yorkers--like billionaire Michael Bloomberg, founder of the financial information company Bloomberg L.P. The business mogul's personal fortune has shot up to $25 billion, a fivefold increase from the mere $5 billion he was worth in 2001, when the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, first took office.
If you're confused about all these different Michael Bloombergs, imagine how hard it must be for Michael Bloomberg.
Sure, he's the 10th richest person in the United States, but rich people have problems, too--especially the ones who try so hard to save the masses from their own bad habits, like smoking cigarettes, drinking soda and making a living wage.
I think the guy might be cracking under the pressure of maintaining his separate personas. If you don't believe me, check out his website MikeBloomberg.com. The home page is divided into three sections--Entrepreneur, Mayor and Philanthropist, each with its own fake Internet suffix: Mike.com, Mike.gov and Mike.org.
Could Michael Bloomberg be suffering from multiple personality disorder? That would explain why Mayor always claims to be short of funds, even though Entrepreneur is rolling in dough and Philanthropist says rich folks should donate more of their wealth.
It's actually kind of sad. Mike.org works so hard trying to help the people that Mike.gov works even harder to screw over. They're like Jekyll and Hyde.
Last year, for instance, the city announced that in order to address the needs of Latinos and African Americans, Philanthropist was funding the Young Men's Initiative to help those with criminal records find employment. After one year, the Initiative reported that it had placed over 1,000 young men into jobs.
Good work, Dr. Jekyll! But, uh oh, Mr. Hyde and his police force have been giving that many people criminal records each and every week, just for possessing marijuana. Despite his best efforts, Michael Bloomberg is 51,000 people behind after just one year, thanks to Michael Bloomberg.
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ANOTHER ONE of Philanthropist's pet projects is something called "financial empowerment." As Mike.org explains, Financial Empowerment Centers are meant to "refine new approaches to alleviating poverty" by providing financial counselors to help people deal with credit agencies, find unclaimed tax breaks and plan their budgets.
It's a nice idea, but wouldn't most of us feel truly financially empowered if our jobs paid better? Or at least if we knew that our jobs were secure. Like the job security that school bus workers used to have through the Employee Protection Provision negotiated by their union--until Mayor helped to abolish it. Now these members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 are on strike against Mike.gov because they're fighting for the financial empowerment championed by Mike.org.
As for the Financial Empowerment Centers, Bloomberg announced they were a success because they had "helped more than 8,500 New Yorkers reduce more than $3 million in debt and accumulate over $300,000 in savings." Which works out to a net gain of $388 per person in a city where the average consumer has almost $6,000 in credit card debt alone--and by the way, only 0.103 percent of the New York City population got help from the Financial Empowerment Centers.
And even this modest good work was erased in just the past three weeks by the school bus drivers' strike, in which 8,800 drivers and attendants have gone without a paycheck.
Bloomberg claims that all his policies are "data driven," but when half the city is on the payroll of either Entrepreneur, Mayor or Philanthropist, he can drive his data anywhere he pleases.
And just in case your forgot, here's another piece of data that I already mentioned. Since he's been mayor, Michael Bloomberg's net worth has quintupled from $5 billion to $25 billion. As I've explained before, the profits of Bloomberg L.P. are directly related to keeping taxes low on the city's biggest industry--finance.
Of course, Bloomberg doesn't have multiple personalities. Philanthropist, Mayor and Entrepreneur are all part of one big game of Three Mike Monte, a long con he's been playing for 12 years. His website ought to add a Mike.edu section for the way he's been schooling us. Or maybe something more pornographic would better capture the relationship.
You've heard the old saying about charity: If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he'll eat forever. Michael Bloomberg's approach might go something like this: Buy the whole damn sea, make everyone pay you for the right to fish, then use some of the profits to give out some scrawny minnows and a pamphlet on healthy eating habits.