Former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the latest entry in the Democratic presidential race, has argued in favor of taxing the poor.
As recently as last year, the billionaire media mogul made the case that higher taxes on the poor can force them to make better and healthier life choices.
“The question is do you want to pander to those people or do you want them to live longer,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a speech in April 2018 to the International Monetary Fund in Washington.
A video of his remarks has been circulating on social media since Mr. Bloomberg announced in White House run Sunday.
He made the remarks in defense of regressive taxes, those taxes that are applied uniformly and hit the poor harder, such as taxes on cigarettes or soft drinks.
“Yes they are [regressive],” said Mr. Bloomberg, who famously attempted to ban Big Gulp soft drinks in New York City to protect the poor for getting fat. “That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people who don’t have a lot of money. And so higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior and how they deal with themselves.”
People viewing the video on Twitter labeled Mr. Bloomberg a “wannabe-dictator” and “pretty elitist.”
The stance earned him the nickname “Nanny State Mayor” when he unsuccessfully pushed the Big Gulp ban beginning in 2012. But his tax-the-poor rhetoric now flies in the face of the Democratic presidential rivals’ mantra of tax the rich.
Mr. Bloomberg explained how the higher taxes are good for the poor.
“I listen to people saying, ‘Oh, we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so they can get an education and enjoy life. That’s why you do want to do exactly what a lot of people say you don’t want to do,” he said.
He later added, “There is just no question. If you raise taxes on full sugary drinks, for example, they will drink less and there is just no question that full sugary drinks are one of the major contributors to obesity and obesity is one of the major contributors to heart disease and cancer and a variety of other things.”
He said not raising taxes on behavior that is unhealthy would be the same as continuing to use coal to ensure coal miners have jobs or going to war to give U.S. Army members “something to do.”
“The comparison is a life or a job, or taxes or life, which do you want to do? Take your poison,” said Mr. Bloomberg.