If my Twitter feed offers a reliable picture, like many people watching the 2020 Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night, I was both perplexed and disappointed by Mayor Bloomberg’s defense of his personal fortune against an attack by a millionaire socialist with three houses. After Bernie Sanders suggested that Michael Bloomberg’s wealth was “grotesque” and “immoral,” Bloomberg responded that he had gotten “very lucky” and had “worked hard” to build his wealth. Now, there are many obvious problems with the exchange: Sanders’ preening self-righteousness, the implied notion that government can rightfully seize wealth and effectively redistribute it, and the not-quite-right, “I built that” defensiveness of Bloomberg’s response to name a few.
Bloomberg would have been much better served by shifting the focus from his personal wealth to some questions for Bernie: “Do you have any idea how much work by how many people has gone into generating that net worth? Do you understand how many salaries are paid and families supported through a business that has yielded, over decades, a personal fortune of $64 billion? When you attack business owners as ‘greedy’ you’re basically arguing that everyone, not just the wealthy, should be poorer, have fewer opportunities, and be less secure than they are right now. And maybe that’s what democratic socialism actually aims for.”