$500 Million for Bloomberg Equals… What for You or Me?

Today, Peter O’Dowd and the folks at NPR’s Here & Now graciously invited me on to help answer a question. They noted that Michael Bloomberg has a net worth of around $60 billion, and just spent $500 million on his presidential campaign – more than all of his rivals put together, and by far the most that anyone has ever spent on a primary.

The question: What’s this equivalent to, for a typical person like you or me?

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As inevitably happens during brief radio interviews, I got a bit fumbly and mumbly, so to do greater justice to their excellent question, here are three different answers:

1. As a percentage of wealth:

Bloomberg spent a little under 1% of his wealth on the campaign. For a typical U.S. household, that amounts to perhaps $800. In this sense, Bloomberg’s campaign was the equivalent of, as Peter put it, buying a new laptop.

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2. As a sustainable daily expenditure:

Bloomberg spent about $5 million per day on ads. If he cashed out his wealth, he could continue to do this, day after day, for another 35 years.

The proportional daily expenditure, for a typical U.S. household, would be $8 per day. In this sense, Bloomberg’s campaign was the equivalent of a daily sandwich.

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3. As an amount of labor:

If I spend $800, I need to go earn $800 more, sooner or later, in order to keep financially afloat. That’s what $800 means to me, really: it’s the work I’ll need to do to earn it back.

The same isn’t true of Michael Bloomberg. On an ordinary day, he gains a passive income greater than my lifetime earnings will likely be. (Indeed, he ended his presidential campaign several billion dollars richer than he began it.)

Thus, Bloomberg does not need to go earn $500 million. The $500 million come to him. In this sense, the most closely analogous price in your or my experience is “free.”

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You can hear the interview at Here & Now. Thanks again to Peter and the team for having me on!

7 thoughts on “$500 Million for Bloomberg Equals… What for You or Me?

  1. I was in the car today and happened to catch part of that interview. I just beamed with pride, because it’s was if Peter O’Dowd was interviewing a personal friend. You sounded just fine to me.

  2. Does anyone happen to recall a couple years back when this exact same type problem came up in another context and went more-or-less viral in the math cybersphere, but I can’t find it now? Disappointing, but not surprising, to see it come up again in a professional news context, despite the implausibility of the numbers at first glance.

  3. Interesting take. I think that success leads clue and that the affluent are generally good at tossing out 1 dollar to gain 2. Maybe it’s about time we learn something from Michael Bloomberg regardless of the political spectrum we’re in.

  4. ALL of the candidates are so rich, it makes the rest of us seem to be stuck at zero. None of them have any real idea of what our lives are like.

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