Recently, Bernie released ten years of tax returns. From a transparency standpoint, this is admirable and stands in direct contrast to the President he’d like to run against. He’s even used it to call out Trump’s refusal to release his under the lame excuse of an audit.
His taxes don’t show much that’s embarrassing toward those who don’t believe that wealth or success is something to be ashamed of. However, it does show him to have made over a million dollars in more than one year alone, that he’s part of what he’d call “the 1%”, and that he’s likely a multimillionaire.
It’s not automatically hypocritical for Bernie Sanders to hold the policy positions he holds while being part of the 1%. I mean, you can have a lot of money while still believing in a progressive tax code, expansive social programs, or other forms of government lead redistribution. None of these things require one to live any specific way on their own, rather than believing that government should mandate certain penalties for success in order to fund equality over liberty.
In short, there isn’t a sense of personal, rather than collective responsibility attached to such a worldview.
He’s not automatically a hypocrite for not voluntarily paying to the treasury what he thinks his “fair share” should actually be. After all, he could use the money that’s rightfully his in order to advocate more than just him paying what he deems is “fair”, and he’s never seemed to have any problem with the concept of the ends justifying the means. Bret Baier recently asked him why he didn’t voluntarily do just this during his Fox town hall event, and his answer was a dismissive snort, indicating the question wasn’t serious or fair.
However, the whole schtick of demonizing and demagoguing the 1% for the crime of having money or hoarding wealth becomes problematic. It seems the main animating feature of his most passionate supporters – the belief that the consequences of poor decisions aren’t personal responsibilities, but the fault of the rich at large. That the rich aren’t just poor people with a lot of money, but some kind of “other” that’s convenient to scapegoat for every societal ill.
It’s just as effective a populist political weapon as what Trump routinely employs against immigrants. In fact, there’s a certain irony to Trump’s supporters misspelling borders as “boarders”, given how close the word is to “hoarders”. In other words, Bernie may not be a hypocrite, but it makes it significantly harder for him to demagogue simplistically, calling out “the rich” as a group rather than specifying the type of rich who gained their wealth unscrupulously or use it in a way he’d find irresponsible.
It shouldn’t be that hard for Bernie to change the portions of his speeches calling out “the millionaires and billionaires” to “the billionaires”. It shouldn’t be that hard to exclude rich individuals entirely from his pitch and highlight more prominently groups of individuals that are collectively rich and exist as corporations (as long as they’re ‘for-profit’ rather than non-profits, churches, unions or governments). But such changes may seem disingenuous.
The other problem his taxes potentially pose for him is charitable giving, which is recorded at 3.4%.
I’m not a multimillionaire, but my family gives a higher percentage than that. It’s possible that he just doesn’t report some of his charitable giving (I mean, I know I don’t). But still… at that level of income and assets, it seems hard to believe he wouldn’t keep track of and report significant giving if it existed. It harms his reputation as being this ultra-kind grandfatherly figure desperately trying to help the less fortunate if he truly doesn’t practice what he preaches.
On the specific charge that the rich “hoard” their money, it’s hard to imagine that under the standards of those making the accusation that he’s not doing exactly that. By all accounts, he’s a multimillionaire – or at least should be given what he’s made.
If all he gave to charity was 3.4%, there’s only two options: either he’s living a lavish life of luxury (which seems unlikely, given he doesn’t even seem to own a comb); or, he’s practicing what his supporters would by-and-large label “hoarding”. He certainly doesn’t seem to be investing it into a business, much less one paying workers living wages… for that would have to be reported.