Michael Bloomberg and the Giant Chicken

What's the best thing to do with $5 billion? Also, 7 other things worth reading.

A Georgia town is spending $150,000 to build an enormous topiary of a chicken.

Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg is talking about running for president.

I saw an immediate connection. (What does this say about me?)

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The chicken comes first

Cameron McWhirter of the Wall Street Journal reports the mayor of Fitzgerald, Georgia (pop. 8,700), is spending “unused special tax funds” to build a 62-foot-tall topiary chicken in the center of town.

“I was thinking about it … ‘Why don’t we just build a big-ass chicken?’” Mayor Jim Puckett told the paper.

It’s controversial. The goal is to break a couple of world records, and hopefully create a tourist attraction. The town also plans to fit an apartment inside the chicken, and rent it to visitors.

(The WSJ has a schematic drawing of what it will look like here. Even if you’re not a subscriber, you can see it above the paywall box.)

Mayor Mike

You know Bloomberg: co-founder and CEO of Bloomberg L.P., three-term mayor of New York City, 9th richest person in America.

It would seem he has nothing left to prove. Yet he’s toying with celebrating his 78th birthday in February with a run for the Democratic nomination for president.

He hasn’t said yes for sure, but he filed for the Alabama primary last week (the state with the earliest deadline), and a source told Axios:

"Mike will spend whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump.”

If I were advising Bloomberg, I’d say, steel yourself for the idea that “whatever it takes” will be $5 billion.

The 2016 presidential election cost $2.4 billion (both sides combined). This time is going to be WAY more expensive.

But, Bloomberg is worth about $58 billion (and he’s already signed the Giving Pledge, anyway). So I envision him saying, “Right, got it, let’s do it.”

The Bloomberg monument(s)?

Twitter is awash with people who are not thrilled about this. Some wish he’d support other candidates.

Some want him to buy Fox News. Others say no, buy the New York Knicks and turn them around. (They’re horrible.)

I have another idea. There is probably zero chance he’d do this, but it’s instructive.

It starts with the premise that Bloomberg is weighing running in order to leave his final mark on America.

He doesn’t just want to be president. He wants to be the kind of world-historical figure whose name adorns monuments, and who is remembered long after he’s gone.

But — crazy, but hear me out — what if Bloomberg instead decided to just give that $5 billion directly to America?

Otherwise, he’d be giving it to consultants, pollsters, organizers, and advertisers (including Google and Facebook) in a quixotic campaign. And, there’s a really good chance it won’t work anyway.

Enough for the chicken

A friend and I had a nice thought exercise about how “giving $5 billion America” would work.

Dividing the money among 327.2 million Americans works out to about $15.20 per person. That would seem like inconsequential performance art (at best).

But what about donating $5 billion to every city and town in America, and doing it proportionally, based on population? So:

  • New York City (pop. 8.62 million) would get $131 million.

  • Washington, DC (pop. 633,427) would get $9.6 million.

  • Flint, Michigan (pop. 96,448) would get about $1.47 million.

  • Fairhope, Alabama (pop. 20,935) would get $318,212.

Fitzgerald, Georgia would get about $131,805 — which, to bring this back around, is almost enough to pay for the chicken.

Every municipality would be engrossed—debating what to do with their “Bloomberg Money.”

Discussions would rage. People would come together, they’d fight, they’d argue. I can just imagine what the little Facebook group that every adult in my town seems to belong to would look like.

Some cities and towns might waste the money, but others might find smart ways to use it. It might do real good in some places. It would mean a legacy.

People across the U.S. would remember the name “Michael Bloomberg” long after they’ve forgotten most everyone else.

He wouldn’t even have to run president. And honestly, that doesn’t seem like it’s very much fun.

But I know there’s no chance it will happen. See you in Alabama.


7 other things worth reading

  1. Amazon is challenging a $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract that was awarded to Microsoft, citing "unmistakable bias" and "political influence” from President Trump. (Washington Post, via Stars & Stripes)

  2. Meanwhile, Trump is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent him having to release his tax returns to New York prosecutors. (Politico)

  3. Hackers are demanding $5 million from the Mexican state oil company Pemex Petroleos Mexicanos after crippling its computers with ransomware. (Bloomberg)

  4. Matt Damon says he’s the “dumbest actor ever” for turning down the chance to star in Avatar and take 10 percent of the profits. (Geek.com)

  5. Taylor Swift issued a plea for help via Twitter—after she realized she’s not allowed to play her old music on TV until 2020. (Variety)

  6. Qantas completed a “research flight” from London to Sydney. Time: 19 and a half hours. (Simple Flying)

  7. This is as much about the NPR tweet as the story: “Three Indiana judges have been suspended for ‘behaving in an injudicious manner’ after a failed attempt to visit a strip club led to a drunken brawl outside an Indianapolis White Castle that ended with two of the judges being shot.” (NPR, via Twitter)

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