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

“Beijing is [also] looking to a seemingly unlikely place for support: Europe. In recent days, Chinese ambassadors across the continent have gone on the offensive to rally Europe behind Hong Kong’s government and against the protestors. As part of their campaign to promote Beijing’s line, China’s ambassadors are publishing op-eds in local papers and publicly criticizing European leaders for failing to denounce what they are trying to frame as violent protests…

“While Washington has been antagonistic, Beijing has been careful to strike all the right chords… [But] to uphold their shared values, both the United States and Europe need to collectively push back against China’s unfair trade and investment practices, its blatant human rights abuses, and the anti-democratic norms and practices it seeks to spread… Europe must realize where its long-term interests lie, and not let [the Trump] administration or the allure of economic gains prevent the right choice. The health of liberal democracy will depend on it.”
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Rachel Rizzo, Politico

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

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.

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.

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

“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

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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