None of the Democratic or Republican presidential candidates will defend Wall Street. Had Michael Bloomberg run as an independent, he would have.
“We need a strong banking system,” he said recently at the Skybridge Alternatives conference, an annual gathering of hedge-fund investors known as SALT. “If I were running for office, you can imagine just how good that would have been as a campaign platform.”
Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and founder of information firm Bloomberg L.P., flirted with a third-party run earlier this year, then bailed after concluding the two-party system left him no reasonable way to win. “I believe I could win a number of diverse states,” he wrote on Bloomberg News in March, “but not enough to win the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win the presidency.”
At the SALT conference in Las Vegas, Bloomberg riffed on many of the issues he would have addressed as a candidate, prompted on stage by interviewer David Westin (who recently signed on as a TV anchor at Bloomberg News). The former mayor highlighted two domestic issues he feels need the most urgent attention: jobs and education. “What I worry about is income inequality and lack of education for the poor,” he said.
On jobs, Bloomberg cited research estimating that 40% of all jobs could be automated within 10 years. “We need to create jobs, which the private sector is not going to do because they want to reduce employment,” he said. “We need to find ways to make people as productive as possible and give them the dignity of a job. If we don’t, some day they’re going to set up the guillotines. You really can’t have this rich-poor divide.”
To support better schools, Bloomberg donates millions of dollars from his $44 billion fortune to federal, state and local candidates who back education reform. He also donates to candidates who favor gun control, government efforts to deal with climate change and immigration reform.
As for Wall Street, Bloomberg – who spent 15 years working for the investment bank Salomon Brothers – thinks the 2010 Dodd-Frank reforms did enough to curtail risk-taking, and may even have gone overboard: “The press vilifies them, you put [J.P. Morgan Chase CEO] Jamie Dimon’s picture on the front page because somebody sold a mortgage they shouldn’t have. Come on. We have to get real here.”
Bloomberg first got elected as New York City mayor as a socially liberal Republican, then switched to Independent. He hasn’t endorsed any of the presidential candidates yet, but if he does, Hillary Clinton seems like the leading contender. “There were three [candidates] I thought have the skills to run the railroad,” Bloomberg said. “Bush, Kasich and Clinton. All had the skills and experience.” Of those three, obviously Hillary Clinton is the only one still in the race.
Aside from leaving Republican front-runner Donald Trump off that list, Bloomberg didn’t have much to say about his fellow New Yorker. But he said this about Trump’s party: “The Republican party is no longer the party of business. The Republican party is the union party. Police, fire, sanitation, construction, manufacturing, transportation, they will vote Republican this year.” Mabye they will, maybe they won’t, but what is certain is their ballot choices won’t include Mike Bloomberg.
More stories from the SALT conference:
Obama's former economic advisor calls Trump's debt idea 'borderline insane'
Boone Pickens: I support Trump and his plan to ban unvetted Muslim immigrants
A baron of finance scolds his fellow 1 percenters
Billionaire Rubenstein: These 6 characteristics will make a young person successful on Wall Street
Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.