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Billionaire Mayor Wins Genesis Prize
Billionaire Mayor Wins Genesis Prize
by Stephen Lendman
Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ranks 13th among Forbes magazine's global billionaires. He's America's 10th richest.
He's worth an estimated $31 billion. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Charles and David Koch, as well as four Walton family members alone best him.
On October 21, he was awarded the first Genesis Prize. The Israeli government, Jewish Agency for Israel, and Genesis Philanthropy Group launched it.
It's awarded "to individuals who have achieved international recognition in their professional field, the worlds of science and the arts."
It's for "exceptional people whose values and achievements will inspire the next generations of Jews."
"The objective of the Genesis Prize is to emphasize across the Jewish community and the world at large the importance of Jewish values to the fulfillment of human potential and to the betterment of the world."
A Monday New York news conference announced the award.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present it to Bloomberg in Jerusalem next May. Organizers call it the Jewish Nobel Prize. Recipients receive $1 million.
For Bloomberg it's pocket change. He issued a statement saying:
"Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life, and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy."
Most New York residents feel otherwise. Throughout nearly 12 years in office, he spurned them. He served wealth and power interests.
He won't be missed. Nor will New York Times editors' endorsements. Ahead of his 2009 reelection, they headlined "For Mayor of New York City," saying:
He "ma(de) the unpredictable city of New York work astonishingly well." Hitler and Mussolini once earned praise for keeping trains running on time.
Times editors ignore public need. They're beholden to the same wealth and power interests as Bloomberg.
He "has has been a first-rate steady hand during unsteady times," they said. His "foresight easily earned another four years."
"His plans suit the times." He favors "helping working-class and middle-class residents."
"Public education is better over all…Crime is down...We enthusiastically endorse (him) for re-election."
Times editors earlier called him "one of the greatest mayors in New York City history."
Bloomberg's tenure was polar opposite. He won election the old-fashioned way.
He bought it. He spent millions. He outspent challengers multiples over. He flooded the airwaves with campaign ads.
He drowned out opposition voices. He used the power of deep pockets to win. He's Wall Street's man. It's where his working career began.
He worked for Salomon Brothers. In 1973, he became a general partner. He headed equity trading. He earned millions.
In 1981, he used them to launch Innovative Market Systems. In 1987, he renamed it Bloomberg LP. Thereafter, he established Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Message, and Bloomberg Tradebook.
He has his own radio network. WBBR AM New York is its flagship station.
Since January 2002, he's been New York mayor. He's stepping down. He's ineligible for another term.
His record in office has been deplorable. Among America's 25 largest cities, New York unemployment is among the highest.
Most city workers lack pensions. Many earn sub-subsistence wages. Poverty is extremely high. It's risen annually under his tenure.
Census figures rank New York sixth poorest among America's 20 largest cities. Over two-thirds of New Yorkers can't afford a home.
City homelessness is at record levels. It more than doubled since Bloomberg took office. It includes numbers sleeping in public shelters.
It excludes countless thousands on city streets. Many more rely on overcrowded substandard apartments. Others live with family or friends.
New York has a housing crisis. Rental prices are extremely high. Low cost alternatives are in short supply. Demand way exceeds what's available.
What's ongoing reflects New York's unprecedented social polarization. It worsened steadily under Bloomberg.
New York's top 20% most well off earn 40 times more than the bottom one-fifth. It's top 1% earns infinitely more.
Last winter Bloomberg lied saying "nobody's sleeping on (New York City) streets." Anyone on them late at night or using public transportation knows better.
Homelessness plagues New York. It's at epidemic levels. It worsens annually. Little is done to address it.
Since crisis conditions erupted in 2008, Coalition for the Homeless figures show well over 100,000 men, women and children used city shelters.
Perhaps that many or more slept on streets, relied on family, or made due best they could. Record numbers are expected this winter. Main Street economic conditions are worse than ever.
City budget balancing harmed ordinary New Yorkers. Onerous tax burdens were imposed. Over $1 billion in public worker concessions were demanded.
Massive layoffs affected thousand of teachers, hundreds of firefighters and many other city workers. Dozens of senior centers and day care ones were closed.
Public wages were frozen or minimally increased. Benefits were cut. At the same time, Wall Street got generous ones on top of trillions of dollars of federal bailout largesse.
Bloomberg strongly opposed extending a so-called "millionaires tax." Eliminating it cost the state and city billions of dollars.
Rich residents got cuts. Other New Yorkers got increases. Bloomberg implemented numerous financial sector tax giveaways.
Crisis conditions affected ordinary New Yorkers. They still do. Rich ones never had things better. Since 2009, their wealth increased exponentially.
Bloomberg added billions to his own. High-net worth individuals across America benefitted hugely. New York represents their epicenter.
It wreaks of wealth and privilege. It stands in stark contrast to millions of ordinary city residents struggling daily to get by. They're increasingly on their own out of luck.
Bloomberg largely ignored them. He bragged about breaking a city school bus worker strike. For the first time in decades, he privatized its operations.
He excluded an Employee Protection Provisions (EPP) clause. For over half a century, it protected worker jobs and wages. Profiteers are free to ignore it.
He waged war on public education. He wants it made another profit center. He wants city children cheated. He wants them denied opportunities he had growing up.
He endorsed Bush's No Child Left Behind and Obama's Race to the Top. Both prioritize privatization. They feature drastic cost-cutting.
Dozens of New York schools were closed. Low-income neighborhoods were targeted.
Student testing is mandated. It requires teaching to tests at the expense of learning. Teacher evaluations depend on scores. Job retention's contingent on raising them.
In September 2011, Occupy Wall Street was launched. It emerged in New York's Zucotti Park. It's located in Wall Street's financial district.
Bloomberg waged war to destroy it. City police were ruthless. Peaceful protesters were attacked. Beatings and arrests followed.
Bloomberg accused protesters of "tak(ing) jobs away from people working in this city. They're trying to take away the tax base we have."
"(I)f you focus for example on driving the banks out of New York City, you know those are our jobs."
"You can't have it both ways. If you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people."
Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly intensified longstanding NYPD stop and frisk practices. Doing so is flagrantly racist. Blacks and Latinos are targeted.
Hundreds of thousands of law abiding residents are persecuted. According to New York's ACLU, mostly minority "New Yorkers (were) subjected to police stops and interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002."
On August 12, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the practice unconstitutional. Equal protection under the law is fundamental, she said. It's mandated for everyone.
Bloomberg responded angrily. He denounced Scheindlin's ruling. He accused her of deliberately not giving New York "a fair trial."
He wrongfully claims stop and frisk works. He lied saying it enhances public safety. He arrogantly said "(y)ou're not going to see any change in tactics overnight."
He appealed. He wants unconstitutional practices continued. He reflects the worst of rogue leadership. Next May he'll be honored for "exceptional values and achievements."
Apparently they include making money the old-fashioned way, waging class warfare, targeting First Amendment rights, and enforcing racist harshness. Millions of ordinary New Yorkers understand best.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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