LAS VEGAS — The flare-ups between former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont extended late into Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Nevada – as the multi-billionaire and the populist senator battled over income inequality.
Sanders – calling for redistribution of wealth – emphasized that he would “deal with this grotesque level of income and wealth inequality.” And he said he wanted to allow “workers to sit on corporate boards as well so they can have some say over what happens to their lives.”
Taking direct aim at Bloomberg, Sanders highlighted “you know Mr. Bloomberg it wasn’t you who made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that as well. It is important that those workers are able to share the benefits also.”
Asked by the debate moderators if he agreed with Sanders, Bloomberg shot back “absolutely not. I can’t think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation. It’s ridiculous. We’re not going to throw out capitalism.
“We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn’t work,” Bloomberg stressed.
Minutes later, Sanders emphasized that “I believe in Democratic socialism for working people, not billionaires.”
Bloomberg – taking aim at his Democratic nomination rival – quickly noted “what a wonderful country we have. The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here.”
Sanders responded, saying “What you missed is that I work in Washington, house one.”
“That’s the first problem,” Bloomberg interjected.
Sanders continued, saying “[I] live in Burlington, house two. And like thousands of other Vermonters I do have a summer cabin. Forgive me for that.”
Sanders has skyrocketed in the polls this month, after essentially tying former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses and winning last week’s New Hampshire primary.
Bloomberg – thanks in part to spending some $400 million to run ads on TV, Facebook and Google since launching his candidacy nearly three months ago – has seen his poll numbers surge in recent weeks as former Vice President Joe Biden’s poll numbers have slipped after disappointing fourth- and fifth-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.