Democratic presidential candidate and Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio says that he is running for president because he wants to “rebalance” the country.
“I had this fundamental belief that what’s happened over the last 40 years since the election of Ronald Reagan is, the country is less and less serving working Americans, more and more serving the very few, the wealthy and the big corporations,” de Blasio told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff. He said as president, he would focus on working class and middle class Americans, and push for a significant tax increase on the wealthy.
De Blasio touted his record as Mayor of New York City as one of his key qualifications, despite the fact that only 29 percent of New York state registered voters view him favorably, according to a recent poll by Siena College. He listed wage increases, universal pre-K and criminal justice reforms among his accomplishments.
Confronting critics, de Blasio explained why he did not immediately act against New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who put Eric Garner in a choke hold during an arrest in July 2014. A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death, shortly after the incident at a local hospital, a homicide. Garner’s death sparked protests around the country over police use of force, heightened further when a local grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo later that year. De Blasio said he held off on action against Pantaleo at the advice of the Department of Justice, which undertook its own investigation. Last month, it announced that officers involved in Garner’s death would not face federal charges, though a New York Police Department judge has recommended Pantaleo be terminated. That decision now goes to the city’s police commissioner.
“In retrospect, I thought I was dealing with an honest broker in the Justice Department. That proved not to be true,” he told Woodruff. “Five years passed. I have said we would never make that mistake again.”
On the future of the Democratic Party: De Blasio said he is running for president primarily because he wants to see a government that puts working people first.” De Blasio said he “thinks very highly” of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two progressive presidential candidates, but that his record leading New York City brings something different to the table. “I’m someone who is running one of the biggest, most complex places on Earth and has been able to make real change for everyday people,” he said.
On a $15 minimum wage: As mayor, de Blasio raised the minimum wage for city workers to $15 an hour, which he says was a precursor to New York State’s state-wide $15 minimum wage.
“We did it on a very big scale. And when the 15 dollar minimum wage idea first came out and got currency, I supported it from the beginning.” He listed the wage hike among the ways he says he has made fundamental changes in New York City. “I’ve [put working people first] in New York. I want to do it for the whole country.”
On taxing the rich: In the July presidential debates, de Blasio had one of the most memorable lines, saying he wants to “tax the hell out of the wealthy.” He has since released a plan to raise taxes, starting with a 1 percent tax on assets over $10 million that gradually increases to a 3 percent tax on assets over $100 million. “We’re in a dramatic problem where the rich have gotten richer,” de Blasio said. “You talk to folks all over America. They’re feeling this society is not fair to them. That’s a dangerous reality we have to solve.”