Politico to Bernie: Curious, How You Also Participate in Society

Photo: Donna Light (AP)

Bernie Sanders is a rich man. This is not a secret! But today’s Politico cover story proposes... perhaps... it is a secret.

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A good question... how did this self-declared “democratic socialist” amass “three houses and a net worth of more than $1 million?” From the story by Michael Kruse

This development, seen mostly as the result of big bucks brought in by the slate of books he’s put out in the last few years, predictably has elicited snarky pokes, partisan jabs and charges of hypocrisy.

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Sanders’ current financial portrait is not only some stroke-of-luck windfall. It’s also the product (with the help of his wife) of decades of planning. The upward trajectory from that jalopy of his to his relative riches now—as off-brand as it is for a man who once said he had “no great desire to be rich”—is the product of years of middle-class striving, replete with credit card debt, real estate upgrades and an array of investment funds and retirement accounts.

Wow. It sounds like he... wrote a book and also... managed his finances? Shocking. A betrayal of all that socialism holds dear.

This is just surreal:

Looking back, the last two years of the ‘80s can be seen as the start of the rest of Sanders’ life—because that was the moment when he really started using traditional tools of the country’s capitalist financial system to put himself on firmer footing.

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This is literally just Matt Bors’ “Mister Gotcha” comic but for 5300 words in a major national magazine. Bernie is not saying that everyone should be an anarcho-socialist who gives up all personal wealth and tries to camp out on public lands until they get in an armed standoff with a park ranger. He’s not promising to take office and outlaw the capitalist practice of “writing books and selling them.” What he and many other candidates including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are saying is that people who write bestselling books and make a lot of money off of them should have to pay more taxes. Also, people who own the companies that sell the books and make billions off of them should have to pay a lot more taxes. These are not difficult positions to square with one another, and it’s shocking that any credulous editor would let a piece predicated on a thesis this sloppy go to print.

Kruse makes a big deal about presenting this information in a slightly different tone that the typical Fox News attack against Sanders for being rich, despite the fact that they’re doing almost exactly the same thing. Here’s a Fox story from earlier in the 2020 cycle:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., entered the 2020 presidential race this week promising to transform America with a left-wing vision of economic and environmental justice. But the self-described democratic socialist’s high-end income, multiple houses and fondness for air travel have already opened him up to criticism that his lifestyle doesn’t always match the rhetoric.

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Here’s Kruse’s thesis statement, after an anecdotal lead about Bernie getting a parking ticket:

Today, he might still be cheap, but he’s sure not poor. In the wake of his 2016 presidential run, the most lucrative thing he’s ever done, the 77-year-old democratic socialist is a three-home-owning millionaire himself—with a net worth approaching at least $2 million, taking into account his publicly outlined assets and liabilities along with the real estate he owns outright. In a strict, bottom-line sense, Sanders has become one of those rich people against which he has so unrelentingly railed. The champion of the underclass and castigator of “the 1 percent” has found himself in the socio-economic penthouse of his rhetorical bogeymen.

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Same story! Kruse’s piece, of course, is exhaustively reported. He talked to friends of the family, people who worked with Bernie in Burlington, “veteran Democratic strategist” Bob Shrum (who offered insightful gems like “He almost at times sounds like he thinks it’s inherently evil to be well-off”), and, fortunately, Sanders’ adviser Jeff Weaver, who gave the magazine the only quote it actually deserved:

“I think it’s [Bernie’s wealth] only awkward if someone has sort of a facile understanding of what Bernie is trying to accomplish,” senior Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver told me, “which is to give lots of people opportunities to have a modicum of security.”

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This is all so incredibly stupid.

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About the author

Jack Crosbie

Contributing Writer, Splinter