Is it ‘divisive’ to talk about income inequality?


He hasn’t yet been certified as the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City, but Bill de Blasio is already getting attacked by his likely opponent, Republican nominee, Joe Lhota. On Thursday Lhota accused de Blasio as running a divisive campaign.

“I think it’s divisive to not talk about the problems we’re facing,” de Blasio said. “We just had the worst economy since the Great Depression.”

De Blasio, who has made the difference between what he calls the “two New Yorks” a central part of his campaign so far, pointed to a recent report showing that 46% of New Yorkers were at or near the poverty line in 2011.

“It’s divisive not to bring that out in the open and talk about the inequalities that this city is facing right now,” he said. “And it starts with income inequality. But let’s talk about health care disparities and hospital closures, let’s talk about disparities in the education system, in policing. If we don’t talk about these things we can’t make our city better.”

But as Rev. Sharpton suggested, by talking about these disparities, de Blasio may be baiting his opponents to make “ugly” attacks.

“We’re talking about the truth here, we’re talking about the fact that folks are hurting in this city, that the city government is not doing all it can do to address these inequalities,” de Blasio said.

“Yes, the attacks will come. The way to answer – I think progressives need to learn this lesson over and over – The way to answer those attacks is to stare them down and to stay to what we believe.”

De Blasio also directly responded to a recent interview in which current Mayor Michael Bloomberg accused him of running a “racist” campaign.

“That was a very interesting choice of words and a very inappropriate choice of words,” he said. “My campaign represents my family. I’m extraordinarily proud of my family.”

“I think the mayor’s comments, partly the part about my family, but even more so when he said ‘class warfare’ suggest a certain denial about what’s happening on the ground and a lack of understanding that these issues have to be discussed,” he added.

He defended his program to increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for early childhood education. “Those who are wealthy are doing quite well, I’m asking them to help us out a little more,” he said.

While Lhota and Bloomberg may not be his biggest fans, at least some prominent New Yorkers are enchanted with de Blasio and his family, including Comedy Central host Jon Stewart who gushed about the family on his Wednesday program and even asked to be adopted by them.

“We’d be honored to have Jon join the family,” de Blasio said.