Billionaire businessman, philanthropist and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg brings his late-developing presidential campaign to Chicago and Illinois for the first time Wednesday morning as part of a three-stop swing through the Midwest to unveil a jobs plan aimed at regions of the country he contends have been “left behind.”
Bloomberg is a late entrant in the crowded Democratic primary field, announcing his candidacy in late November, a little more than two months before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses that kick off the nominating contest. As a result, Bloomberg has decided to skip the four early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina where voters will cast ballots next month and instead focus on states that vote in the Super Tuesday primaries of March 3 and beyond.
Illinois, with its March 17 primary, falls squarely into that strategy as a state with a large population that awards a high number of delegates where Bloomberg hopes to make up ground by relying in large part on his vast fortune to flood local airwaves with campaign ads.
In a brief call with reporters on Tuesday to preview his trip, Bloomberg said his plan would ”create millions of jobs with good salaries, and we’re going to do that in places that need them most.”
To illustrate his point, Bloomberg will visit the city’s South Side, home to large swaths of neighborhoods that have eroded for decades under a lack of public investment, little economic development, high unemployment, frequent bouts with high crime and, most recently, an ever-growing population loss. Many of those struggles stem from the city’s history of segregation and redlining on the predominantly African American South Side, but Bloomberg’s plan doesn’t address removing racial barriers that stand in the way of creating jobs and businesses. His campaign says that separate effort will be announced at a later date.
Instead, the philanthropic politician will highlight his plan to create an “All-In Economy,“ a proposal that lists a series of goals and initiatives aimed at better preparing an American workforce for an economy of the future, but does not ascribe a cost to any of the initiatives or identify how they would be funded.
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“The reason I’m releasing this plan is one of the reasons I’m in the race: I know that our economy is working fine for people like me and people like Donald Trump, but it is badly broken for the vast majority of Americans,” Bloomberg said. “Too much wealth is in too few hands, and it’s concentrated in too few places. There are a handful of cities that have boomed, but a lot of the country is stagnating. Our middle class is getting smaller and smaller."
A major focus of Bloomberg’s plan is on job training and retraining, an initiative he considers so important that his campaign says the former mayor would place his vice president in charge of the initiative on his first day in office. Bloomberg will focus on that plank of his plan in Chicago at Olive-Harvey community college in Pullman on the Far South Side.
As part of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s overhaul of the City Colleges, each of the city’s seven campuses were designated with a specific focus, and the curriculum developed in partnership with businesses in the respective fields with the goal of training a workforce better equipped for the jobs of the future. Under that plan, Olive-Harvey became a college focused on transportation and logistics, with an expanded campus located along the Bishop Ford Expressway preparing students for careers in automotive technology, applied engineering, supply chain management, and the repair and maintenance of heavy equipment.
Under Bloomberg’s jobs proposal, states would receive “substantial grants” from the federal government to upgrade job training, including “major new investments in community and technical colleges while partnering with employers,” according to the campaign. Bloomberg has not identified how much he would spend on the grants, some of which would be competitive, or how he would pay for them.
It’s not surprising Bloomberg would select an initiative of Emanuel, his fellow former mayor who also is a business-friendly moderate Democrat, to highlight his plan. In Illinois, Bloomberg also has hired campaign staff who worked for the former Chicago mayor, including political operative Tom Bowen and state spokeswoman Julie Kaviar.
Other provisions of Bloomberg’s jobs plan include:
-- A goal of having 1 million students per year earn apprenticeship degrees by 2030, with federal funding provided to state and local organizations.
-- Modernize job training for adults to transition into new jobs by offering expanded monthly Earned Income Tax Credits and unemployment insurance to those enrolled in a job training program, which Bloomberg’s campaign says would give workers “additional income for childcare costs, rent and other living expenses that often dissuade people from investing in their own training and education."
-- Expanded availability of Pell grants for short-term job training for low-income Americans and individuals in prison.
-- Give all workers, including gig, contract and franchise employees, the right to organize and collectively bargain while outlawing “no-poaching” agreements among franchisees not to hire one another’s workers and eliminating non-compete clauses for low- and middle-income workers.
-- Pass a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation while instituting a federal paid family leave standard and expanding access to child care.
-- Launch a “major public research and development initiative” to create jobs in industries such as agriculture, manufacturing and medicine, and to “reward cities with the best plans for inclusive growth.”
-- Institute anti-monopoly protections against large employers in rural areas while expanding broadband access in those areas.
-- Encourage businesses to locate and hire in distressed communities through a “place-based” earned income tax credit that would lower costs for employers.
Bloomberg’s campaign did not provide cost estimates or funding sources for the proposals in his plan.
The former mayor’s visit to Chicago will be followed by a stop at a soybean farm in Wells, Minnesota, where Bloomberg will highlight aspects of his plan aimed at rural communities, and a visit to an innovation hub in Akron, Ohio, where he will emphasize plans to increase spending on research and development for new jobs.
“I’ll be visiting three of the communities our plans are designed to help, the South Side of Chicago, for example, a neighborhood that has long suffered from very high poverty rates in one of the world’s wealthiest cities," Bloomberg said in his brief remarks to reporters on Tuesday.
Like Bloomberg, the New York-based campaign’s news releases also referred to the South Side as a “neighborhood of Chicago," the equivalent of referring to Brooklyn as a village or town instead of a borough.
Chicago, of course, is known as the city of neighborhoods, with a couple dozen or so of its 77 official neighborhoods spanning the South Side alone.
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