Please bring back the old (pragmatic, centrist) Mike Bloomberg

Please bring back the old (pragmatic, centrist) Mike Bloomberg
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It’s the invasion of the body snatchers! Mike Bloomberg – the pragmatic, smart, centrist former New York City mayor – has been replaced by just another union-loving, anti-business, tax-and-spend liberal, who sounds a lot like every other Democrat in the race. No wonder he’s not wowing voters.

On March 3, 40 percent of Americans in 16 states and territories will vote for their preferred candidates. Bloomberg, who has so far made more of an impact on the cost of advertising than on voters, is hoping to score big and derail Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor's effort to delay election The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Trump discuss coronavirus response; Wisconsin postpones elections Wisconsin governor postpones Tuesday's election over coronavirus MORE’s (I-Vt.) march to the nomination.

But in trying to chase primary votes, Bloomberg has abandoned nearly every policy that might have distinguished him from the pack and attracted moderate Democrats. The capable administrator who made New York City safer and more prosperous is gone, done in by pollsters telling the billionaire what he has to do to win votes.

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Giddy Manhattanites proudly wearing their Mike 2020 buttons are in for a shock. They remember a mayor who effectively and intelligently shut down Occupy Wall Street before those troublemakers could actually occupy Wall Street. They remember a mayor who resisted raising taxes on the wealthy, knowing that rich people would flee to Florida, taking their millions with them. (As has happened under his successor, Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNYC considering using parks as temporary burial sites: city councilman US attorney opposes release of inmates in DC Britain releases 4,000 inmates to curb spread of coronavirus  MORE.) They remember a mayor intent on reining in public employee unions and attracting businesses to New York, certain that diversifying away from Wall Street was in the city’s best interests.

And, of course, a mayor who recognized that nothing good could happen in a city that was not safe.

Wait until they find out that Mike has reneged on all those policies, and has, in addition, promised to hike taxes on the wealthy and on businesses by $5 trillion — that’s trillion with a “t.”

Moreover, wait until they hear that he wants to eliminate the use of “legacy” preferences in admissions decisions for private, elite colleges. The sort of colleges, for the record, that Upper East Side alums support with enthusiasm, hoping it will help little Johnny follow in their footsteps.

Let’s consider the u-turns made so far by Bloomberg.

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Right out of the gate, he apologized for his administration’s use of stop-and-frisk, which most New Yorkers applauded for ridding the streets of thousands of guns. Perhaps he had to disavow the tried and tested policy to win over African-Americans, who make up 20 percent or more of Democratic primary voters. But his apology tour disappointed many. Mike knows the tactic worked; he knows, moreover, that minority communities were precisely those that became safer under stop-and-frisk.  

Next up is his head-spinning turnaround on labor laws. As mayor, Bloomberg resisted the implementation of a “living wage” requirement, knowing it would squash business investment. The new Michael BloombergMichael BloombergDNC books million in fall YouTube ads Former Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign MORE has joined Bernie Sanders in calling for a $15 nation-wide minimum wage, notwithstanding studies that show it would stifle job growth for low-income Americans. Mike knows better

In addition, he has joined the left-wing chorus calling to ban right-to-work laws. Those laws today give Americans in 27 states the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. In another hand-out to Big Labor, Bloomberg will work to undermine the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which granted public employees the right not to pay union dues; he also would ensure that undocumented workers can join unions.

Hopping aboard the kill-Uber express train rolling through California, Mike would ensure “gig economy” workers receive full employee benefits. Too bad, Millennials; if Mike has his way and companies like Uber and Lyft are put out of business, you’ll have to learn how to drive after all.

One of Bloomberg’s policies that New Yorkers loved best was his backing of charter schools — a real no-no for Democrats thanks to the outsized influence of the teachers’ unions. The two main unions boast over three million members, who are key to get-out-the vote efforts for Democratic candidates. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers also donate generously to Democrats, who, according to Open Secrets, have received 94 percent of union campaign spending since 1990. In the current cycle, teachers’ unions have already spent nearly $12 million, of which 98 percent has gone to Democrats. In the 2018 congressional races, those unions gave more than $30 million, 96 percent to Democrats.

Mike doesn’t need the teachers’ unions’ money, but he will want their support should he become the nominee. He will hope for not only their on-the-ground effort, but also their endorsement, which carries much weight with other unions.

Interestingly, on Mike’s campaign website, there is no “education” section. Nonetheless, he does his best to curry favor with the unions by promising to provide “grants to states who close the salary and benefits gap between pre-K and kindergarten teachers in low-income areas.” Also, he promises to create “a refundable tax credit for early childhood teachers to boost earnings for the lowest-paid teachers.” In addition, he vows “access to full-day preschool for all three- and four-year-olds, so that every child is ready to succeed in Kindergarten.” In other words, he hasn’t yet called to abolish school choice, but he’s doing his best to hand out more federal dollars to teachers and their unions.

Should Mike Bloomberg come out in opposition to school choice, it would be the end of the Mike Bloomberg that many New Yorkers admired; it would be the final cave. He knows that for many families in his home city, getting their kid into a charter school can literally have life-and-death consequences. That’s why there are tens of thousands of families on wait-lists for charters every year in New York.

Currently, Bernie Sanders is leading in most of the Super Tuesday states, including California and Texas. In those states, Bloomberg is running third or fourth. Unless he gives voters a real alternative to Sanders, that’s where he’ll stay.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.