NYC Mayor Blames God for Homeless Girl’s Plight Instead of His Policies

His tone-deaf remarks are another example of why the city’s residents are ready for a change.

Posted:
 
178000885
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be in his last few weeks as New York City's mayor, but he sure is finishing his tenure with a bang. Today it was reported that when asked for his reaction to the harrowing New York Times series on a little homeless girl named Dasani, he replied, "This kid was dealt a bad hand. I don't know quite why. That's just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky, and some of us are not."

The comment is yet another in the mayor’s long list of tone-deaf remarks about class.

This fall he stepped in to support the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s efforts to begin charging mandatory admission fees of $25. Despite protests from critics, apparently it was lost on the mayor that for plenty of families of four, spending $100 for a day at the museum would make the activity out of reach for them. Consider this: A poor student already attending a school that cannot afford an arts program will now not be able to afford what used to be one of the great, free artistic institutions in the world.

In October the mayor said that the housing shortage in New York, which has hit low- and middle-income New Yorkers hardest, is a “good sign.” In September he posited, “If we could get every billionaire around the world to move here, it would be a godsend that would create a much bigger income gap.”

Of course, New Yorkers who are not billionaires and are having trouble finding affordable housing might disagree.

Bloomberg is notorious for having a seemingly never-ending case of foot-in-mouth disease throughout his 12-year tenure as mayor. The billionaire mayor’s inability to relate to the problems of average New Yorkers recalls comparisons to Gov. Mitt Romney, whose class gaffes were so numerous during the 2012 presidential campaign that people stopped keeping count.

There was the time Romney advised students to borrow money from their parents to start their own businesses. (Apparently he missed the part about plenty of parents of young people struggling financially, too.) There was the time he bet another candidate $10,000. (Because again, doesn’t everybody have $10,000 lying around?) Then, of course, there was the 47 percent remark heard round the world.

Bloomberg and Romney disagree on countless issues, from gun control to abortion and same-sex marriage. But one thing they definitely have in common is their seeming inability to relate to what life is like for the average American. Both men are smart and incredibly astute businessman, which raises a question. If someone is smart and talented but doesn’t know how the other half—or more likely the other 99 percent—live, then can that person make an effective leader on behalf of the 99 percent?

Historically, some wealthy elected officials have been great champions of the poor. For instance, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies became blueprints for how to help Americans who are struggling, despite FDR's patrician upbringing. Similarly, President John F. Kennedy, who was from an extremely wealthy and privileged family, pushed legislation to expand unemployment aid, school-lunch programs and other forms of aid for low-income Americans.

So what is it that seems to be the deciding factor between leaders of privilege who can lead everybody and leaders of privilege who can’t?

Well, for one, they have to be willing to acknowledge their privilege. Roosevelt and Kennedy both displayed care and concern for the civil rights of African Americans, in addition to care and concern for the poor. In doing so, they acknowledged that there was a measure of privilege into which they were born that gave them a head start in life over others, and that realization seemed to inspire much of their policy work.

Bloomberg and Romney, however, seem convinced that they achieved their success through talent, hard work and smarts alone. Gov. Romney was notorious for repeating that he didn’t inherit his wealth. He was apparently oblivious to the reality that the fact that his parents paid for his Ivy League education and his first home were benefits not open to all young people starting out in life. He was also equally oblivious to the fact that sharing a last name with one of the most powerful men in the country (his father was a governor) opened doors of which most of us can only dream.

By saying little Dasani was dealt a bad hand, Mayor Bloomberg can absolve himself of responsibility for the fact that after 12 years of his leadership, the prospects for the Dasanis of the world look just as bleak as they did 12 years ago.

And that’s not just because she was dealt a bad hand. It’s because the adults in her life, from her parents to policy leaders, have failed her. One of those leaders is Mayor Bloomberg, who seems to believe that simply by virtue of Dasani not being “lucky” enough to be born to the right family, she should also not be lucky enough to enter a museum with kids whose parents can afford to spend $25.

With his staggering wealth, the mayor could easily make a donation to the museum to make it possible for Dasani and kids like her to attend for free for years to come. But that would require the ability for him to empathize with those who live outside of his class bubble, and over the course of 12 years he has made it clear he is not particularly interested in doing that. That, more than anything, likely explains why New Yorkers elected Bloomberg’s polar opposite as mayor, Bill de Blasio, a man from a middle-class background, with a black wife and biracial children. Just before de Blasio’s election, a poll found seven out of 10 New Yorkers were ready to move in a new direction away from Bloomberg’s policies. Maybe what they really want is to move to a mayor who gets what life is like for the average New Yorker and average American, and will create policy accordingly.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.