Michael Bloomberg’s Jobs Plan Is Focused on Place Over Class

WASHINGTON — The Democratic presidential candidate Michael R. Bloomberg released a job creation plan on Wednesday that frames America’s economic divide primarily in regional terms — and not along the rich-versus-everyone-else class lines favored by his more populist rivals.

Aides said Mr. Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, saw an effort to close the gap between so-called superstar regions like Silicon Valley and slower-growing areas like Akron, Ohio, as the best way to ensure that the economy delivered prosperity to Americans up and down the income distribution chain.

The focus also allows Mr. Bloomberg, who is a billionaire, to take a view of inequality that largely skirts the criticism that the very rich wield outsize power and influence in an era of extreme income and wealth concentration in America.

Other Democratic candidates, led by Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have centered their campaigns on stripping economic wealth and power from rich individuals and corporations and redistributing it more evenly. They have accused Mr. Bloomberg of trying to buy his way into contention by spending millions of dollars from his personal fortune — the type of wealth they are targeting — on advertising.

Mr. Bloomberg directly addressed income and wealth inequality while unveiling his plan in Chicago on Wednesday, saying the economy “is working just fine for people like me, it really is.”

“But it is badly broken for the vast majority of Americans,” he added.

Mr. Bloomberg went on to lament “an economic inequality that is distributed unfairly across this country” and said he was introducing a “concrete strategy for spreading good jobs and good pay to places where they don’t exist now.”

A shrinking share of America’s counties have generated the bulk of economic growth as the United States recovered from the Great Recession. The activity has been concentrated in metropolitan areas, like Boston, Seattle and San Jose, Calif., that are home to large numbers of college-educated workers.

Mr. Bloomberg’s plan to reverse those trends would lean heavily on efforts to improve education and skills training for Americans across the country, along with “billions of dollars” in federal spending on research and development, and on infrastructure projects like rural broadband development. It would create “business resource centers” to help entrepreneurs gain access to capital to start businesses, and it would steer more money to community colleges and apprenticeship programs.

Mr. Bloomberg also said he would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25 and expand the earned-income tax credit, which raises the take-home pay of low-income workers. He said he would give all workers, including those in the gig economy, the right to organize labor unions and bargain collectively, and he said he would end noncompete agreements for low- and middle-income workers. Such agreements, which restrict worker movement, have been criticized as preventing employees from obtaining raises.

He would also create a “place-based” earned-income credit to encourage investment in distressed communities.

Campaign officials declined to estimate the full cost of the initiatives but said Mr. Bloomberg would release an accounting of all his economic proposals — and how he would pay for them — when he was done unveiling his plans. Mr. Bloomberg has said that he opposes a wealth tax along the lines of what Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders have proposed, but that he believes wealthy Americans like himself should pay higher taxes.

In a year when Democratic candidates are proposing more aggressive and expensive plans to address inequality than in any previous presidential campaign, many of Mr. Bloomberg’s proposals are throwbacks of sorts to the center-left policy thinking of the Obama administration. A fact sheet on his plans said the top job for Mr. Bloomberg’s vice president would be “working with states, employers, community and technical colleges and others to equip millions with valuable skills for good jobs and careers, and creating an engine for economic growth in our communities that need it most.”

President Barack Obama gave a similar charge to his vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., who led the Middle Class Task Force that Mr. Obama created shortly after taking office. Mr. Biden is also running in the 2020 field, and he and Mr. Bloomberg are widely seen as competing for the same moderate voters.