April 17, 2019

Bernie’s Millionaire Status and Town Hall

“U.S. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders released 10 years of tax returns on Monday, providing details of his growing status as a millionaire fueled by a sharp jump in income from book royalties since his losing 2016 White House run.” Reuters

Sanders “sat down with Fox News' Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum on Monday night at a town hall in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania” and penned an op-ed arguing for “an economy and government that works for all, not just the 1 percent.” Fox News

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Bernie’s millionaire status does not change the potency of his ideas and policy proposals, and considers the town hall a success.

“There is no socialist in America who will ever escape charges of hypocrisy… [but] Sanders’s complaint isn’t that millionaires exist per se. After all, if America’s household wealth were distributed evenly across the population, then every family of four would have a net worth of $1.2 million. Sanders’s critique is that the United States’ super-rich are symptomatic of a system that churns out a small class of extremely wealthy people who rule over the vast remainder…  

“Key to Sanders’s argument against the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a small elite is that their largesse allows them to wield disproportionate, anti-democratic political power by funding campaigns and lobbying politicians; seeing as Sanders’s campaign is funded strictly by small donors and he is not a lobbyist himself, it would seem that his having made more than 1 million dollars in a year doesn’t exactly run afoul of that critique.”
Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post

What matters here is the method by which politicians and ex-politicians capitalize on [their] fame. For instance, the usual buckraking speech tour of big Wall Street banks that ex-politicians routinely carry out is objectionable because of corruption. Do bankers really care about hearing some probably platitudinous 40-minute speech? No, they are paying for access to potential future senators and presidents… There is something peculiar in the notion that only personally impoverished people can hold leftist views… The effect is to foreclose any realistic leftist politics, since poor people have zero political power — and as we have seen, anyone who becomes a national figure becomes rich almost automatically.”
Ryan Cooper, The Week

Minority view: “I think he’s probably not a hypocrite, because I think he is probably quite genuinely one of those socialists who doesn’t really believe in ‘charity.’ This tendency in socialist thinking goes back a long way, including Oscar Wilde’s famous criticism of charity on the grounds that it is ‘immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property.’ I don’t buy this though, for a very simple reason: When you have millions of dollars, you could immediately better the condition of a great number of people, and are choosing not to

“We know that Bernie Sanders thinks he has too much money. We know this because he thinks it should be taxed away from him. But if it should be taken away from him by taxation, meaning that he shouldn’t have it in the first place, why would he keep it at the moment?... Why should our behavior be guided by what the law happens to be rather than by what we think is right?”
Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs

Regarding the Fox News town hall, “it was a resounding success, and a reminder that Bernie, not Trump, can actually rally together a majority of Americans… Though he often attacked Trump, he did more than that, offering dreams, ambitions, and real policy for a working class that has seen its wages and living standards stagnant for decades to aspire to. He didn’t mention Russia once; he focused on the issues that he could discuss with the most clarity. This is the type of formula that can win an election, that can counter Trump’s dangerous right-populism, that can unite those struggling for a better life across the country.”
Bhaskar Sunkara, The Guardian

From the Right

The right argues that it is hypocritical for Bernie to attack the rich given his wealth, and applauds his decision to appear on Fox.

The right argues that it is hypocritical for Bernie to attack the rich given his wealth, and applauds his decision to appear on Fox.

Bernie “leads a movement that believes rich people shouldn’t hoard money that could be given to the state to help the poor. He knew reconciling his personal net worth with the principles of that movement would be an issue if he ran for president again. There are things he could have done to defuse the issue — given the money to charity or to the Treasury, invested it in ‘progressive’ causes or companies, plowed it into his own campaign… His preferred justification instead, essentially, is ‘Sorry for being successful.’”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Other millionaires and billionaires can explain their riches like Bernie does. ‘I started a website that sold books, and now we sell everything.’ ‘I invented a way to search the internet with ease and accuracy.’ ‘I invested in companies and helped them grow.’ ‘I run a pharmaceutical company that cures diseases and produces medication so sick people can live better lives.’ Bernie’s book-writing, in other words, isn’t any nobler than the paths taken by other millionaires… [Rich liberals’] opinions shouldn’t be discounted just ­because they are rich, to be sure, but the fact that they don’t walk the walk should give their fans pause. Capitalism is a powerful engine for social mobility, and prosperous capitalists like Bernie Sanders should have the courage to say so.”
Karol Markowicz, New York Post

“A 2015 study by sociologists at Cornell and Washington University in St. Louis of 44 years of income data found that about 12% of the U.S. population will rank in the top 1% for at least one year; 39% in the top 5% for at least a year; 56% in the top 10%; and 73% in the top 20%. At the same time only about 0.6% of people will stay in the top 1% for 10 consecutive years…Judging by their tax returns, most Democrats running for President have done well for themselves. Good for them. So why do they want to make it harder for others to achieve the same level of prosperity and take away more of their wealth if these Americans succeed?”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Regarding the Fox News town hall, “Sanders is smart to cross the media aisle… his appearance on Fox distinguishes him from other Democrats and particularly from Hillary Clinton. Many Republicans who watch Fox News and consume populist media can get the distinct impression that Democrats are just waiting for them to die. That was what was so damaging about Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ comment and her implication that Trump supporters will have no place in defining American life going forward. Sanders believes in his message so much, he wants to pitch it to you just before you settle in forTucker Carlson Tonight. That’s to his credit.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

Yet many point out that “it doesn’t really tell us much that a room half full of Democratic voters and Bernie supporters prefer some imaginary, aspirational future where the government pays for health care and there are minimal problems, as opposed to the warts-and-all reality of what we have now… [but] in the end, Sanders doesn’t have a health care plan, so much as a branding strategy for one. Medicare, despite its fiscal unsustainability, is very popular. So calling government-run health care ‘Medicare for all’ is a stroke of genius, insofar as it makes the American public more receptive to socialist ideas.”
Mark Hemingway, The Federalist

A libertarian's take

“[Bernie] stepped into one of the more significant filter bubbles that divide red from blue America. He was decent in his manner, pleading for comity, embracing universalist rather than identitarian language, decrying racial injustice and anti-Muslim demagoguery, and mincing no words in correctly labeling Trump a pathological liar. His strengths outshone his flaws in front of a TV audience that many Democrats have a hard time reaching, having written it off as deplorable, if not irredeemable. He showed other Democratic candidates the way forward and warmed up the Fox audience to left-wing ideas. For having a constructive discussion despite their significant differences, Sanders and Fox deserve congratulations and that highest form of flattery: imitation.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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