Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg is finding out that things you said in the years prior to the campaign can come back to haunt you.
In the past weeks the electorate has been treated to the recorded wit and wisdom of Bloomberg on a variety of topics ranging from healthcare, the ability of black and Hispanic men to comport themselves in the workplace, and the nature of crime in poor neighborhoods.
Bloomberg is a self-made billionaire, probably the richest and one of the most accomplished people ever to make a run for the presidency. He is a man of great achievement. But like many such men he fancies himself an expert in many fields.
He apparently doesn’t think much of some fields.
In 2016 he made a speech at Oxford University’s business school. He was making a point about the sophistication needed to succeed in the modern, technology-based economy. Compare that to agriculture.
“The agrarian society lasted 3,000 years and we could teach processes. I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer,” Bloomberg told the audience at the Distinguished Speakers Series at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School. “It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”
And what of those who work the factories?
“You put the piece of metal on the lathe, you turn the crank in the direction of the arrow and you can have a job.”
Compare farming and factory work to jobs in the tech-based economy that require workers to “think and analyze.”
In Bloomberg’s world, these trades are just matters of process where success can be accomplished by rote. Dig a hole, plant a seed, add some water and you get a crop. Easy peasy.
If only it were so.
In fairness to the candidate, it is possible four years on that these comments have been taken out of context. Speech writers often employ over simplification to move the narrative along, so perhaps this was a bit of hyperbole to make a point.
Nonetheless, we can’t help but contrast the text of Bloomberg’s remarks to a speech given in 1956 by then-President Dwight Eisenhower at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.
The topic of that speech was the negative impact of command-and-control farm programs conceived and executed by “synthetic farmers behind Washington desks.” To hear Eisenhower tell it, without any practical experience those guys thought they could tell anyone how to farm, too.
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field,” he acknowledged.
It sure does.