Sanders: What his tax returns reveal
Rarely is becoming a millionaire “better news for your enemies than you,” said Elizabeth Bruenig in The Washington Post. But Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the exception. His “critics are thrilled.” The self-avowed socialist, class warrior, and Democratic presidential contender released 10 years of tax returns, and they reveal he’s joined the “millionaires and billionaires” he’s long vilified. He and his wife, Jane, earned $1.07 million in 2016 and $1.15 million in 2017 on the strength of book royalties received on top of his $174,000 Senate salary—a leap from the $240,622 they made in 2015, before his presidential run turned him into a populist hero. The Sanderses also own three houses. Bernie still wants to raise taxes on the rich, but predictably, his critics are now asking: How can a wealthy man still speak for America’s working class?
Bernie’s wealth does not “make him a fraud,” said Sarah Jones in NYMag.com. Bernie’s brand of social democracy is not incompatible with capitalism. What Sanders does oppose is the accumulation of enormous wealth in the hands of the few, who use it buy influence in Washington and statehouses, lower their taxes, and deny benefits and a fair share of the wealth to working people. If he now advocated lower taxes for people like himself, Sanders would be a hypocrite, but he’s remained true to his message. True enough, said Sam Stein and Adam Rawnsley in TheDailyBeast.com., but how do you explain his giving only an average of 2.26 percent annually to charity over a decade—including less than 1 percent the first year he made a million bucks? That “presents its own set of political vulnerabilities.”
When Bernie was asked about his newfound wealth, said Michael Graham in the Boston Herald, he replied defensively. “If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too,” he said. In other words, “I created something of value that lots of other people wanted to buy.” That’s Capitalism 101—and a negation of his claim that getting rich is “a class warfare crime.” Is writing and selling books a nobler path to wealth than that of a farmer, small-business owner, entrepreneur, or dentist? asked Bloomberg.com in an editorial. Sanders has spent his career drawing simplistic, black-and-white distinctions between America’s oppressed workers and the evil rich. Now that his story “has become a bit more nuanced,” here’s hoping his rhetoric and policies change in the same way.