This kind of wealth is not just mass, matter, divisible, and redistributable. It is gravity, an attractive force that affects everything around it. Money draws money to it, as any rich person knows. Billionaires get richer by being billionaires in the first place, their net worth accreting like stars pulling in space dust. Bloomberg owns Bloomberg L.P.; Bloomberg L.P. has estimated annual revenues of $9 billion and a profit margin of 40 percent; Bloomberg the man gets billions to put into real estate, stocks, bonds, and other investments.
And to spend however he sees fit. In recent years, Bloomberg has passed out billions of dollars, buying goodwill, silencing criticism, and shaping policy in Democratic circles, creating an empire of moneyed influence. His presidential campaign has poured more than $400 million into advertisements already, ignoring the early states and flooding cash into the Super Tuesday contest. No other candidate has the ability to run that strategy, including the lesser billionaires Trump and still-running Tom Steyer; and nobody but a self-financing multibillionaire could run that strategy. As he soaks up aides and consultants, he has changed how everybody is running for president, as with Elizabeth Warren’s decision to step closer to Big Money.
This kind of campaign spending has no limits because Bloomberg is lavishing money on himself: Were he throwing his weight behind Bernie Sanders or Trump or Warren, he would likely do so through a political-action committee barred from coordinating with the campaign. “It underscores how much Supreme Court doctrine in this area is dependent on the idea of the corruption of the candidate, rather than any notion of equality or the idea that the electorate could be corrupted,” says Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School and an expert on campaign finance. “The dominant position is that spending is not a problem, even high levels of spending or unequal levels of spending.”
Yet such spending does affect and corrupt the system, common sense insists and social science demonstrates. Already, Democratic and Republican presidents fill their Cabinet with the moneyed; average members of Congress are far wealthier than average Americans; and policy makers show extreme sensitivity to the interests of the rich. Business lobbies and the wealthy “have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence,” a study by the political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page showed. We want the system to be pluralistic and democratic, with people mattering more than money. We have a system that is plutocratic and elitist. If Bloomberg follows Trump, what would we be but an oligarchy?
John McWhorter: Bloomberg flunks the wokeness test