The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Millions of taxpayer dollars fueled Bernie Sanders to wealth success

Getty Images

Senator Bernie Sanders, the 2016 phantom of the Democratic Party who is now in second place in the 2020 primary, seems to go out of his way to prove himself a stereotypical socialist who is happy to spend your money while saying nothing of his own. His consistent harangues against all the “millionaires and billionaires” contrast sharply against a man that used his time in the public sector to catapult into the top 1 percent in the nation.

The independent lawmaker hailing from Vermont has a long history in government, including eight years as mayor of Burlington and a combined 28 years in the House and the Senate. Never one to hold down a private sector job, he is the only presidential candidate who was kicked out of a hippie commune for laziness. Sanders received his first regular paycheck as mayor of Burlington at the age of 39. Over the last 28 years, boy have things changed nicely for him, paid for by your own payroll deductions.

Today, Sanders rakes in $174,000 every year from serving in the upper chamber Senate. He has earned $2,248,500 in his 12 years there and had earned $2,272,500 from his 16 years in the House, so federal taxpayers have financed his life to the tune of more than $4.5 million. This income helps Sanders afford a $562,000 row house in Washington just blocks from Capitol Hill. Even better for the septuagenarian socialist, he has an annual pension from his time as mayor of Burlington. The $5,240 makes up just 1 percent of his annual household income, but it represents yet another taxpayer funded feather in his cap. Indeed, a full 20 percent of the members of Congress enjoy both a pension and a regular salary.

The rallying cry against the much maligned 1 percent seems especially hollow for Sanders given that he is a member of its ranks. He and his wife, Jane, earned nearly $561,300 last year, including $393,000 from book sales. Considering that the median household income is just $61,000, the Sanderses bring in nine times what the average couple does. In both 2016 and 2017, the Sanders earned more than $1 million. Their total net worth is approximately $2 million, and they earned an additional $60,000 last year from dividend and investment income. Not too bad if you ask me.

Meanwhile, Sanders pays an effective tax rate of just 26 percent, well below the top income tax bracket of 37 percent for income earned over $500,000 and significantly lower than the 50 percent marginal rates he pines for. Leadership includes setting the precedent, and there is little of it in the taxes Sanders has paid and the charitable donations he has made. He and wife donated under 4 percent of their income to charity last year. This was admittedly better than the under 1 percent that Sanders donated to charity the year he became a millionaire. I take pause at anyone who is just willing to care for the impoverished with money from other people.

The rising tide of left wing politics spotlights its hypocrisy. The common refrain from conservative circles was “limousine liberals” to describe the class of wealthy politicians looking to have the public do as they say but not as they do. For a politician like Sanders, the British term “champagne socialist” seems to work a little better given his policy proposals. Allowing the general public to pay for expensive and often ineffective government programs is the hallmark of virtue signaling candidates for higher office.

Joe Biden, who calls himself “Middle Class Joe,” gave less than $4,000 in charity over an entire decade. Even Beto O’Rourke, who seems to own a single shirt, has a net worth of $9 million and married into money, yet he has only donated under 1 percent of his earnings to charity since 2008. Considering he wants a wealth tax so that “some part of that wealth that has been built up and continues to be built up and receives favorable preferential treatment in the tax code must be taxed for our common benefit,” he should think about the portion of his millions he gives away.

Every American has the right to earn a decent living. There is no fault if a candidate finds his or her niche in our economy. But what is continually grating is the rhetoric that only Democratic candidates can get away with. Senator Elizabeth Warren calls student debt a “problem for all of us” but was more than happy to make nearly $350,000 for her salary as a Harvard law professor and holds $3 million in corporate stocks and investments.

Sanders found his riches in buying houses and writing books. Rather than showing some introspection, he bristled at the idea that his call against “millionaires and billionaires” might include himself. Sanders said he had no idea that “it was a crime to write a good book” when asked about his newfound wealth. Considering his invective against hard working people who earn their way to the top, perhaps Sanders should also consider that it is not a crime to make a good living through other means than his own.

Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and author of “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.

Tags Bernie Sanders Congress Democrats Economics Kristin Tate Policy Socialism

More Campaign News

See All

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video