Slate made a list of the top philanthropists in America, and right behind Bill and Melinda Gates at number four was Mayor Bloomberg. The Mayor doled out $254 million to support the arts, make car crashes less deadly, etc.
New York magazine had reviewed Bloomberg’s prodigious giving in 2005, and it gets brought up from time to time — as when Bloomberg met with a bunch of other rich people to discuss philanthropic strategies, which some observers considered an Illuminati plot. Bloomberg received a Carnegie Medal for his giving last October.
The Mayor’s personal generosity is a quality all kinds of people admire. It helps calm suspicions that Bloomberg is a plutocrat who doesn’t care about the poor — meaning, by his standards, practically all the rest of us. Ralph Nader’s novel Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us even includes Bloomberg among the generous tycoons whose largesse rescues American democracy.
With this in mind, when the Mayor seems insensitive to the plight of the less-well-off — as when he recently suggested that the answer to the MTA’s proposed abandonment of free student farecards might be to abandon also free fares for MTA retirees — you may remember all his good works and be ashamed you momentarily thought ill of him. When he’s found to employ tax shelters in his business, you might think: Well, it’s not like he’s one of those evil billionaires, like Mr. Burns on The Simpsons. And when he says that New York should love the rich, you may consider that these rich folks must actually be lovable, if they’re his friends.