Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the target of heavy criticism from fellow candidates during the Democratic presidential debate on Feb. 19 in Las Vegas.
In addition to comments regarding the number of non-disclosure agreements he and his company have been involved with related to sexual harassment lawsuits, candidates took aim at his billionaire status, particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
“We have a grotesque and immoral distribution of wealth in income,” Sanders said during the debate. “Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans. That’s wrong. That’s immoral.”
When asked about Sanders’ comments, and whether or not he should have earned the amount of money that he has, Bloomberg responded with a resounding, “yes.”
“I worked very hard for it,” he said. “And I’m giving it away.”
Bloomberg defended his wealth, noting that he is “self-made” and his philanthropy over the years. In 2018, he spent at least $2.3 billion across 103 U.S. cities, according to an analysis from The New York Times, which noted that this was a fraction of his giving based on what it could glean from public disclosures.
The New York Times reported that his philanthropic spending has outweighed the money he has spent on his 2020 presidential campaign ($401 million), at least so far. Most of his giving has gone toward public health foundations ($1.4 billion), along with education ($239.3 million), environmental ($278.2 million), and culture and arts programs ($281.5 million).
“I can’t speak for all billionaires,” Bloomberg responded. “All I know is I’ve been very lucky, made a lot of money, and I’m giving it all away to make this country better. And a good chunk of it goes to the Democratic Party as well.”
According to Forbes, Bloomberg’s net worth currently stands at $64.2 billion. His fortune was made via his financial information and media company, Bloomberg LP, founded in 1981.
Sanders has previously stated that “billionaires should not exist.” Back in September 2019, he released his “Tax on Extreme Wealth” proposal which would place a 1% tax on the top 0.1% of American households.
The tax rate would increase to 2% on households with new worth between $50 million and $250 million, 3% on net worth up to $500 million, 4% on new worth up to $1 billion, and so on up to a 8% tax on wealth over $10 billion.
Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.