April 17, 2019

Bernie’s Millionaire Status and Town Hall

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“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

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

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

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

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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