New York’s ardour for Michael Bloomberg cools

From The Guardian UK:

Mayor has turned police on Occupy protesters, opposes a $10 an hour minimum wage and says bankers are patriotic

in New YorkThe Observer, Saturday 26 November 2011

The rally last week at Manhattan’s Riverside church was packed. Several thousand people crammed into the famous hall where Martin Luther King once gave a 1967 speech against the Vietnam war and for a fight against poverty.

The gathering was part of the Living Wage New York campaign, which aims to force companies who receive large grants of public money for private projects to pay workers in the jobs they create a minimum wage of around $10 (£6.47) an hour. It does not sound a controversial plan or one to create major unrest.

But the mood beneath the church’s soaring vault was angry. Most of it was directed at one man, New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who wants to veto the proposal.

Council member Jumaane Williams could not contain his fury. “This is about greed,” he fumed to the crowd before turning his ire on Bloomberg and his vast fortune. “Ten dollars is not a lot of money! If Mayor Bloomberg woke up making 10 dollars an hour, he would faint!” he thundered, adding that the mayor ran New York like a “coward dictator”.

Bloomberg, 69, who is now one of the most recognised names in American politics, is not usually the target of such strong emotion. He is often spoken of as a potential third party presidential candidate and ideal person to thread the needle of America’s two-party set-up. He is hailed as a socially liberal moderate who is friendly to big business. He has, after all, been a member of both the Republicans and the Democrats.

But these are no ordinary times for Bloomberg. In the middle of economic hardship and financial crisis, sparked by a reckless banking industry, he has emerged as a staunch defender of Wall Street. While the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread from Manhattan around America, his administration has used the police to brutally crack down on demonstrators in New York – and the media covering them. He has defended the banking industry as patriotic and vital for New York’s finances, despite polls showing deep anger with big finance. And he sees the Living Wage bid for a $10-an-hour pay packet as a reckless “job killer”.

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