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.