New York's Mayor Bloomberg is More Liberal Than Romney and Obama


On May 1, the New York Times reported on the efforts being made by the Romney and Obama presidential campaigns to acquire the endorsement of New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The article laid out the calculus behind Romney's appeal (Wall Street tribalism) and Obama's appeal (social issues), but the New York Times, along with most commentators who write about Bloomberg, seem to have missed the incongruity between Bloomberg's self-fashioned "independence" and his actual issue positions, which put him well to the left of President Obama.

Bloomberg favors a liberal version of immigration reform, that Obama supports but did not prioritize during his busy first two years. Bloomberg frequently speaks out in favor of it and refuses to demagogue.

On social issues, Bloomberg is as liberal or to the left of Obama. He has donated $250,000 (at least) to Planned Parenthood and — like Obama — is a strong supporter of abortion rights. Bloomberg openly support gay marriage while Obama's position is "evolving."

On issues related to crime, Bloomberg favors prison reform and a greater focus on rehabilitation (in fairness, many on the religious right share this view). He opposes the death penalty, while Obama supports it with reservations. While Bloomberg's NYPD is still somewhat tough on pot and publicly waffles on the issue, his comments last year seemed to open the door to the idea of drug legalization.

Bloomberg takes a neo-liberal or reformist position on many issues, like public education, that put him to the right of the median Democratic politician, but these views mirror Obama's views. Bloomberg supports free trade, but so does Obama.

Mayor Bloomberg supported healthcare reform, but wanted a system with more government control. He was one of the first mayors to ban smoking.

With regard to fiscal and budgetary issues, Bloomberg has publicly opposed Obama's Buffett Rule rhetoric as "theatrics", but when you actually look at Bloomberg's stated positions on these issues, he seems to favor higher taxes for the rich. He criticized Obama for favoring an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, calling it "fiscally irresponsible." Bloomberg's problem with Obama's tax proposals seems to be that they don't do enough. He endorsed the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, which is well to the left of any plan that Obama has publicly supporterd. Bloomberg also supported the stimulus. 

The only area where Bloomberg might prefer Romney seems to be Bloomberg's distaste for Obama's (tepid and reluctant) populist anti-Wall Street rhetoric. But that is a question of style, not subtance. 

Bloomberg's self-styled moderate image does not hold up to scrutiny. He's a good mayor, and a competent reformer, and technocrat who is well to the left of Barack Obama. It would be illogical for Bloomberg to endorse Mitt Romney, a man who has shed his technocrat past and shifted toward positions that Bloomberg almost universally opposes.