New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has been against the Occupy Wall Street movement from the beginning.
On his weekly radio broadcast, Bloomberg has made numerous misleading remarks about the sentiment and ideas behind Occupy Wall Street.
“The protesters are protesting against people who make $40- to 50,000 a year and are struggling to make ends meet,” he said on September 30th. The following week he claimed that the occupiers were trying to push the banks out of New York City.
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When asked if he would allow the protestors camping out in Zuccotti Park to stay, Bloomberg ominously stated, “We’ll see.”
Posed with the same question the following week, his response had evolved: “We're trying to let this… not 'play out,' that isn't quite the right word, but let them express themselves.”
Then, before Monday’s Columbus Day Parade, Mayor Bloomberg finally proclaimed that the protestors were allowed to continue occupying Zuccotti Park Liberty Plaza for as long as they’d like, so long as they did not break the law.
New York loved it. The media gushed. “Mayor Affirms ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protesters' Freedom Of Expression,” read the title of one NY1 article.
But Bloomberg, along with much of New York, missed two very important points:
The occupiers do not need his permission, and
- Michael Bloomberg is, in many ways, the personification of everything that the Occupy Wall Street movement is fighting
That the occupiers do not need Bloomberg’s approval to stay camped in Liberty Plaza should come as no surprise. This is an act of defiance. A protest. An assertion that the American middle and working classes are still here and have a say in how things work. Even if they were to be arrested nightly, these men and women would return – fortified, unyielding — each morning. They would again set up camp.
They would continue to receive packages of food, sleeping bags and newly-knitted mittens from their fellow Americans. They would continue to occupy, undaunted. This has already taken place with sister occupations around the United States – the most recent example being Occupy Boston, whose first post-raid General Assembly was astoundingly packed.
On to the second point: What makes Mayor Bloomberg’s disdain, dismissal and eventual begrudging acceptance of the occupation so ironic is the fact that he is Mayor Bloomberg. Consider:
Occupy Wall Street is fighting against the glaring inequalities in today’s distribution of wealth in the United States. We now live in a nation where the wealthiest 1 percent are in possession of over 1/3 of the pie.
While the 99 percent struggle to feed and clothe their children, while they’re kicked out of their homes by the same banks that they bailed out, while so many find themselves buried in seemingly insurmountable debt, the most affluent among us seem to inexplicably grow more affluent.
Michael Bloomberg? Last March, Forbes listed his fortune at $18.1 billion. By September it was listed at $19.5 billion. He has made $1.4 billion dollars in just the past six months. This figures out to about $7.7 million dollars per day. Weekends included.
Even among the top 1 percent of Americans, we know that the wealth is again heavily distributed in the upper .1 percent. Mayor Bloomberg is listed as the 13th wealthiest billionaire in the United States. Does this make him a member of the 1 percent? The .1 percent? No.
Mike Bloomberg is in the .000004 percentile.
Occupy Wall Street is fighting the reality that Wall Street and the government are no longer separate entities. That politicians no longer act in the interest of their constituents, but in the interests of the most powerful banks and corporations. That Wall Street lobbyists have poisoned the political waters. That well over 90 percent of House and Senate elections are won by the candidate who spends the most money.
In 2001, Michael Bloomberg bought himself the title of mayor of New York City.
He didn’t just break campaign spending records. He annihilated them. In his initial run for mayor, Bloomberg went around state campaign finance laws by throwing his own money into the race. How much did he spend? $73 million – five times as much as his opponent.
Bloomberg’s ties with Wall Street are deep-rooted and longstanding. He pulled together the beginnings of his fortune at Salomon Brothers, where he headed equity trading in the 1970’s before being demoted into systems development, and eventually being fired in 1981.
Salomon awarded him a severance package of $10 million.
Now, Mayor Bloomberg is an immensely popular New Yorker. He’s a brilliant businessman and, in many ways, a refreshingly progressive politician. Hell, he’s probably a great friend. But that doesn’t make him any less of an example of our festering plutocratic system. And his initial dismissive, derisive treatment of the Occupy Wall Street movement is far too ridiculous to go unnoted.
Maybe there is no need to rearticulate Bloomberg’s current ties with Wall Street. Or to mention his massive media empire (Bloomberg News boasts a staff of some 2,300). Or to note that his live-in girlfriend, Diana Taylor, the former State Superintendent of Banks, sits on the board of directors of the company that owns Liberty Plaza Zuccotti Park. New York knows all of this. America won’t be surprised to hear it. And members of Occupy Wall Street see it all too clearly.
So clearly, in fact, that Michael Bloomberg’s history and status and monolithic apparatus of power are all perfect examples of why — no matter what the man does or does not allow — the occupiers will continue to camp in that park. Come hell or high water, come white shirts wielding batons, come searing fountains of pepper spray. They do not need Mr. Bloomberg’s approval. They do not hear him.