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Bloomberg Once Said Taking From the Rich Was a Bigger Problem Than Income Inequality

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Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said in 2018 that raising taxes on poor people was a “good thing,” and that taking money from the rich was a bigger problem than income inequality. 

The billionaire former New York City mayor has emphasized the need to tackle economic inequality as part of his election platform, listing tax policy and “economic justice for black America” as two key pillars of his election platform. He has also vowed to raise high income tax rates, impose a new tax on billionaires like himself, create jobs and “generational wealth for Black Americans,” and close tax loopholes used by the rich. Just last week, he wrote a New York Times opinion piece headlined “Fixing Inequality is My Priority.”

But comments he made at a high-powered Washington summit in 2018 run counter to those goals and could end up complicating Bloomberg’s efforts to sell himself to Democratic voters.

“I think income inequality is a very big problem. But the bigger problem is, you can take money from the rich and move it over to the poor. If you do it too much then the rich stop producing and everybody loses,” he told International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde during a Q&A at the IMF’s Spring Meeting.

The comments were part of a lengthy response to a question about where future jobs will come from in the age of artificial intelligence. Bloomberg said policies like minimum wages hikes and taxes on the wealthy were impediments to job creation. 

“The problem is the poor want more than a handout, they want the dignity of a job, they want to be able to go home and say, ‘I am contributing to my family’ and so you’ve got to create jobs and jobs that they think—and probably are—meaningful,” Bloomberg said. “The first thing to do is to get rid of some of these impediments to job creation.”

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg’s campaign, didn’t clarify the comments but pointed to Bloomberg’s record as mayor, which included raising taxes on the wealthy and keeping poverty rates stable.

“Everyone in this race says they want to fight income inequality, but Mike Bloomberg is the candidate who has actually done it,” she said.

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