Bloomberg's Super PAC Promotes Sensible Centrism—i.e., Whatever Bloomberg Happens to Believe

According to The New York Times, Michael Bloomberg finds "the national political debate" to be "frustratingly superficial." Furthermore, New York City's billionaire mayor wants to "play a bigger role in combating more extreme forces in American politics." He therefore has formed a super PAC through which he will spend $10 million to $15 million on ads supporting "candidates from both parties who he believes will focus on problem solving," candidates "he regards as centrist and who are willing to compromise." His main priorities in deciding how to spend his money are "legalizing same-sex marriage, enacting tougher gun laws and overhauling schools." In other words, thoughtful, moderate, problem-solving politicians are the ones who share Michael Bloomberg's views about gay marriage, gun control, and education reform. I more or less agree with Bloomberg on two out of those three issues, and I certainly do not begrudge him his right to use his money to advance his political causes. But Bloomberg's equation of his own opinions with sensible centrism reflects the amazing egotism of a wealthy man accustomed to power and genuflection who is not quite as deep or smart as he thinks he is.

Consider two policies that embody Bloomberg's vision of nonideological, pragmatic problem solving: the federal "assault weapon" ban, which he wants to revive, and his 16-ounce limit on servings of sugar-sweetened drinks, which is scheduled to take effect in March. Both offend libertarian sensibilities, but they have something else in common: They are purely symbolic measures that accomplish nothing of practical importance. There is no evidence that the "assault weapon" ban, which arbitrarily targeted guns based on their scary, military-style appearance, had any impact on violence, and there is no reason to believe that Bloomberg's pint-sized pop prescription, which is riddled with exceptions, will have any measurable impact on New Yorkers' waistlines. In both cases the basic problem, from a prohibitionist perspective, is the same: The bans leave plenty of alternatives that are just as bad. These measures might make people who are repelled by guns and obesity feel better, but letting those attitudes drive policy is not simply, as Bloomberg seems to think, a matter of common sense. To the extent that they go beyond visceral reactions, those attitudes reflect beliefs (about the government's alleged duty to protect us from our own risky decisions, for example) that are not self-evidently true.

The Times claims "Mr. Bloomberg has built a brand of politics that eschews partisanship for blunt-spoken pragmatism, often taking unpopular positions, like restricting guns and soda sizes and supporting the construction of a mosque near ground zero." Where the Times sees "blunt-spoken pragmatism," I see incoherence. What on earth do these positions have to do with each other, except that they are all espoused by Bloomberg? They are not even all unpopular. Polls consistently find majority support for bringing back the federal "assault weapon" ban, probably because people mistakenly think it dealt with machine guns. And why is taking an unpopular stand a sign that you are pragmatic, let alone right? While Bloomberg deserves credit for bucking public opinion by defending freedom of religion in the controversy over the "Ground Zero mosque," that does not mean he should be praised for pushing his preposterous (and even more unpopular) ban on big beverages. There is a difference, after all, between defending someone's right to use his own property for religious purposes and insisting on your right to stop him from ordering a big soda.

Bloomberg's greatest consistency is his embrace of "public health" paternalism, including efforts to discourage smoking, overeating, and salt consumption. It makes sense that Bloomberg would be attracted to the rhetoric of public health, which allows him to pursue a moral agenda in the guise of neutral science. But one can also discern a broader hostility to freedom and civil liberties (with occasional exceptions), as reflected in his crackdown on pot smokers and his adamant defense of the NYPD's "stop and frisk" program, which dismisses constitutional objections as the quibbling of ideologues who do not understand the reality of crime on the streets. If this is what pragmatic centrism looks like, I'll take extremism any day.

Matt Welch, who analyzed "the banal authoritarianism of do-something punditry" in the December 2011 issue of Reason, considered Bloomberg's reputation as post-ideological problem solver in a 2010 essay.

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  • Spoonman.||

    Shoulder Thing That Goes Up

  • ||

    "Sensible Centrism"

    Is this anything like "Compassionate Conservatism"?

    This fuckstick really is the worst of both worlds.

  • Lord Humungus||

    and by 'sensible', they mean ban everything they don't like.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Considered Communism?

  • Jordan||

    "Willing to compromise" == "agrees with me". People who complain about partisanship are assholes.

  • sarcasmic||

    "In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit"
    -Ayn Rand

  • Robert||

    She was wrong. If evil's not getting all evil wants, that profits good to some extent.

  • Jordan||

    Well, except for the TEAM brand of partisanship.

  • ||

    Jewish Nazis...I hate Jewish Nazis.

  • ||

    Kinda makes you wonder if Ole Bloomie would have been one of those enforcers in The Ghettos, sacrificing the few for the many and rationalizing his accessory as "sensible."

  • ||

    Are you kidding? He would have posed as an Aryan so he could join the SS.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Much like George Soros.

  • ||

    Bloomberg really seemed like a reasonable, sensible candidate when he was running for mayor the first time. Especially compared to Mark Green, who probably would have actually been less of a complete asshole, amazingly.

  • Robert||

    That's because Mark Green would've been less of...anything.

    Anyway, Jacob is focusing on Bloomberg's awful side, but compared to the avg. politician around here, he's not as rough on business. He is indeed an asshole, but at least some of the policies he promotes are sensible. I can't believe I'm writing these things about a guy I so loathe, but Giuliani must've worn me down a bit, and it's easy to take pity on the target when the fine writers at Reason lace into somebody good y hard.

  • Robert||

    If you want to find his good side, listen to his weekly bit on WOR where he'll rebut phoners-in proposing seriously worse policies.

  • BarryD||

    The savior who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets.

    Eric Hoffer

  • R C Dean||

    I more or less agree with Bloomberg on two out of those three issues,

    OK, gay marriage, whatevs.

    Exactly what are the Plutocratic Poobah's proposals for "overhauling schools"?

  • SugarFree||

    Nightly money fires.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    No Fatties!

  • ||

    Not that part; he meant that he also wants to outlaw all guns, up to and including potato.

  • ||

    Well, the potato is a two-fer, Jimbo. According to the Food Police, The Spud is a WMD.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Take the sexual predator teachers out of the "rubber rooms" and put them back in the class room. Because SMALLER CLASS SIZES.

  • Enough About Palin||

    "Exactly what are the Plutocratic Poobah's proposals for "overhauling schools"?"

    More rubber rooms for pedophile teachers.

  • Enough About Palin||

    And Reason - enough with the auto-loading flashplayer shit. It freezez up my Chrome browser. Using IE right now, which doen't filter out Dunphy and doesn't do spellcheck.

    Just. Stop. It.

  • Pro Libertate||

    If paternal authoritarianism is centrist, we're fucked beyond all measure.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But Bloomberg's equation of his own opinions with sensible centrism reflects the amazing egotism of a wealthy man accustomed to power and genuflection who is not quite as deep or smart as he thinks he is.

    Oh, please. We all think our opinions are sensible and between the extremes. Bloomberg is just in a position to unabashedly tell the world that he takes the worst from both sides and makes it even worser.

  • ||

    I don't. My opinions are extreme and I like it that way. For instance, I think the best Star Trek movie is the first one. EXTREME!!! MOUNTAIN DEW!!!

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Star Trek movies just jumped on to the free list on Amazon Prime. I started watching Wrath of Khan last night, which I haven't seen in years.

  • ||

    Maybe you should watch the first one again. Hater.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm actually thinking about doing that. Haven't seen it since the 80s.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You haven't changed a bit. You're just as warm and sociable as ever.

  • ||

    Thanks, FoE. That means a lot coming from you. WAIT A SECOND

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Oh. My. GAWD. You didn't give the correct response! YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THE MOTION PICTURE, HAVE YOU?

  • ||

    Busted! -)))

  • ||

    I saw it in the theater, but I guess I just don't know it as well as you. It's your secret favorite, ISN'T IT!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I liked the original version with Nomad better. ERROR. . .STER-I-LIZE.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Yeah, I especially like when it wiped Uhura's mind and they had to re-educate her. I guess pretty much anyone can be a Communications officer and make lieutenant in Starfleet since she was up to speed the next week.

    Completely (and by that I mean nearly) ruined an otherwise stellar episode.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It was just a weird angle they played with a little too much. Probably would've worked if they'd just said that it would all come back after a little remedial education.

    You know, I'd like to see the next Star Trek series be one set in that time period, but instead of the usual drama, it's a sitcom around Nomad.

  • R C Dean||

    I'm quite aware that my views are outside the mainstream. I managed to appall and intrigue a number of my colleagues at dinner recently with them, in fact.

    In retrospect, not, perhaps, a career-enhancing move. On the other hand, fuck it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm right of Attila the Hun. That's what I was called the last time I flat-out said I was a libertarian at work, years ago.

    Now I just say how much I hate the political parties and distrust the government. Few argue with that.

  • ||

    Same here. It's truly amazing to me how some of my soon-to-be colleagues who practice free market medicine, grew up in the Soviet system of state-controlled medicine and will defend it to some degree, even though public hospitals and clinics in both UKR and Russia are widely regarded as "death traps" (direct quote).

    I pointed out the fallacy, and then wisely backed off.

    In discussing this subject with my Russian friends, one in particular who would pass every libertarian litmus test otherwise, still has a hard time giving up on the state being in control of medical care, even though he has seen and lived through the horrors of it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    By defining such things from day one as the province of the government, it makes them all the harder to redefine later.

    Government is about the collective use of our right to use force to defend ourselves and our property. That's it. Everything else is not necessary, and, of course, there are those here who would say even that first part is unnecessary.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You see your colleagues' statist views as unreasonable. Yours are the sensible ones.

  • The Hammer||

    He always has that same stupid "evil or constipated?" look on his face. He has the same look in the picture where he is posing with the cups and sugar cubes. I thought it was just a really poorly-timed photo, until now.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yes, a douchey pursed grin that deserves to be smacked off his face.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Michael Bloomberg finds "the national political debate" to be "frustratingly superficial." Furthermore, New York City's billionaire mayor wants to "play a bigger role in combating more extreme forces in American politics."

    "Listen, Pal- extremism in the pursuit of superficiality is no vice."

  • Bardas Phocas||

    "extremism in the pursuit of superficiality is no vice"

    I'm stealing that - classic.

    Binders!
    Dogs!

  • Raven Nation||

    So, regulating drink sizes is NOT frustratingly superficial?

  • Average Dude||

    This from a guy who doubtless hated the Citizens United decision. Next up on his agenda: recording his own version of "You're So Vain."

  • Anomalous||

    In a just world, Bloomberg's body would be hung upside down in front of a gas station.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Polls consistently find majority support for bringing back the federal "assault weapon" ban, probably because people mistakenly think it dealt with machine guns.

    It's a well-known fact that every day thousands of children are buying machine guns via the internet! How could you oppose common sense regulation of this horrible market failure?

  • R C Dean||

    Sounds like I need to find some kid to front for me to pick up a nice HK.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I like to point out to Blue Teamers that the Assualt Weapon ban was completely ineffective in keeping me from buying all kinds of murderous weaponery but super-effective in getting George Bush elected.

    Mission Accomplished baby.

  • Brett L||

    I thought I remembered this. Apparently No Labels wasn't successful enough.

    No Labels describes itself as an alliance of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. The group says it started a grassroots centrist movement made up citizens from across the political spectrum and plans to address attacks on liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats stemming from within their own parties.[4] Additionally, No Labels promises to reward people for bipartisan behavior.[5][6] The Washington Post said, "Although No Labels bills itself as a citizens' movement, its leaders are veterans of campaign politics."[7]
    ...
    The event featured a lineup of speakers and panelists consisting of elected officials, journalists, and business leaders, including Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Antonio Villaraigosa; Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh, and Joe Manchin; Reps. Bob Inglis and Mike Castle; former Rep. Tom Davis; Gov. Charlie Crist; Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado; David Brooks; Joe Scarborough; Mika Brzezinski; and David Gergen.[4][18][19][20]

    I guess he's trying to dump losers like Crist, Lieberman, and Brooks.

  • Pro Libertate||

    If Crist is in your club, there's something seriously wrong with it.

  • Brett L||

    At the time it reminded me of a bunch of HS seniors, who, failing to make varsity football, went out and founded a flag football team, then played it up like they were just as good football players as the varsity team, only they didn't like all the violence.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Kinda makes you wonder if Ole Bloomie would have been one of those enforcers in The Ghettos, sacrificing the few for the many and rationalizing his accessory as "sensible."

    "Listen, I don't like it either, but if the Gestapo find out those guys are hiding the girl and her family in their attic, it's gonna be bad for all of us. Now, one of you is going to have to turn them in. For all our sakes."

  • AuH2O||

    So, what does Bloomberg do when is term is up? Is he allowed to run again? Or does he just try to become God-Emperor of New York?

  • Pro Libertate||

    He wasn't allowed to run this time, but he got the rules changed. When he's done, he'll move to Arrakis with that other God-Mayor, Richie Daley.

  • ||

    Only after he deploys the Stone Burners. Unlike Leto II, Bloomie has no interest in restarting the Sandtrout cycle, therefore spice must be forbidden, because something like that might actually improve the human condition.

    Not unlike, say, MMJ.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I didn't mean to imply that they were actually genetically superior or anything. They just get treated like God-Mayors. Richie couldn't pass the gom jabbar. Neither could Mikey.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Hey Reason,

    Stop running FlashPlayer shit on the HyR main page. It freezes my Chrome browser. I believe others have mentioned this too.

  • sloopyinca||

    OT: CNN just showed Bruce Springsteen singing at a Clinton "Get out the vote" rally in Ohio. He looked like he was straining out a really severe dump and sounded like he was in pain.

    Question: is Bruce Springsteen the worst musician in the history of music-making? In my opinion, he may be worse than Garth Brooks when he was Chris Gaines. Hell, he may be worse than Nelson (both of them!).

  • Pro Libertate||

    I never liked him.

  • sloopyinca||

    I need a more visceral hate than that, Pro Lib. Where's Epi? He's got the hate I need.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, he sucks.

  • ||

    Bruce Spingsteen rates about level with Nelson in my book.

  • sloopyinca||

    Thank you. My faith in humanity has once again been redeemed by your hatred of things that suck.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I need a more visceral hate than that, Pro Lib.

    If you ever need anyone to hate on Hootie and the Blowjobs, let me know. Bunch of worthless no-talent pablum peddling douchebags pretending their easy listening garbage was rock.

  • ||

    He ranks right up there. I never saw in the appeal in The Boss, myself. Though I do admit to liking the song "Brilliant Disguise."

  • sloopyinca||

    My favorite song by him is "I'm On Fire." Because it's the shortest one, and he doesn't sing too much. He fucking sucks.

    Doesn't Welch or Gillespie absolutely love him? I know one of the Reason heavyweights does but I can't remember which one.

  • Brett L||

    Nebraska was a good album. I happen to like Greetings from Asbury Park, although it is probably not objectively great. Along the way he has dropped some gigantic turds.

  • John||

    Those are his only two really good records. Darkness on the Edge of Town, Human Touch and the River are okay. Born to Run is bloody awful.

  • SugarFree||

    I don't think Springsteen is objectively bad, just wildly over-rated for work he did decades ago. Like U2.

    In music, you either die young or descend into a parody of yourself.

  • John||

    Not necessarily. In music you either die young, descend into parody or figure out ways to reinvent yourself like people like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Or you can just find a niche music like blues or jazz and just continue to do that really well like B.B. King.

  • ||

    Or, you can do the Madonna route and continually reinvent yourself whilst descending into the Lake of Parody.

  • SugarFree||

    I think she started off as a parody.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, my thinking as well.

  • John||

    Yes. I listen to the old Madonna stuff from the 80s and it is just awful bubble gum pop. It is Debbie Gibson with some raunchy lyrics thrown in. She has always been a joke. And I think some 80s pop, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Simple Minds, Squeeze and such has aged pretty well. She was never any good.

  • Christina||

    Here's where I get to prove I'm not a sockpuppet. I love 80s Madonna. The Immaculate Collection may be the best greatest hits album I own. I used to make up dance routines to her songs with my friends during lunch period.

  • John||

    Christina,

    That is the result of some kind of damaged DNA that a large number of women who grew up in the 1980s.

  • Christina||

    Maybe so, but as you said, it's a female affliction. I dare you to find a man who can sing "Dear Jessie" from memory. Not even gay dudes go that far.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "...just wildly over-rated for the already over-rated work he did decades ago."

    He had a few decent songs - Blinded By the Light, Because the Night, 57 Channels and Nothing On, I'm On Fire - but his working class hero lefty schtick is why rock critics like the insufferable douche Christgau fawned all over him.

  • SugarFree||

    I think people just let New Jersey have Springsteen so they will shut up about the pain of everyone knowing they aren't New York.

  • Enough About Palin||

    I like the song Johnny 99. The lyrics are pretty good and it's up-tempo and easy to play on the guitar.

    Later...

    I was going to post a YouTube version, but they all suck. The version on Nebraska is flat and boring. I guess when you learn a song and play it off and on over the course of thirty years it evolves some. Because the way I perform it is very up-tempo with an intricate rhythm guitar part.

  • SugarFree||

    I don't think his music is terrible, but it doesn't speak to me whatsoever--to the extent that I cannot see the fascination of the hardcore fans.

    The closet I come to seeing what they say they are finding is The Hold Steady: anthemic, personal, evocative of a certain experience of youth.

  • Brett L||

    **hangs head**

    I kinda liked the Chris Gaines stuff.

    **hands in monocle**

  • LTC(ret) John||

    And your top hat too!

  • Brett L||

    I was far more saddened to find myself agreeing with CNN that James McMurtry is probably the best "Americana" song writer currently. Not that I don't love him, because I do. Just that agreeing with CNN on cultural issues makes me sad.

  • John||

    If you like whinny douchebags. He fucking sucks.

  • Brett L||

    I'll fight over that. This is as good as anything Dylan ever wrote.

  • John||

    I am blocked so I can't tell you. And I call bullshit. Dylan was never a whinny douchebag liberal. That alone makes him better than McMurtry.

  • Ted S.||

    Worst since Dylan.

  • John||

    http://nakeddc.com/2012/10/18/.....other-guy/

    Obama has a Cayman Islands account for his Chinese investments. Heh.

  • Pro Libertate||

    J'accuse! J'accuse!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I was far more saddened to find myself agreeing with CNN thatJames McMurtry is probably the best "Americana" song writer currently.

    Oh, for fuck's sake.

    That whining commie douchebag suck donkey balls. Go home and drown yourself.

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