Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders released his tax returns three months after joining the 2020 presidential race as a Democrat. The self-labeled Democratic Socialist has built his platform by advocating for a smaller wealth gap, and fighting against tax cuts for the rich.
With a gross adjusted income of $561,293 in 2018, Sanders and his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, are now squarely in America's top wealth bracket. And for this, some are calling him hypocritical. He is now part of the group that he so heavily criticizes. While Sanders' books have generated a good deal of wealth for himself, he isn't the part of the 1% that are contributing to the income gap problems of today.
Sanders didn't inherit his money. In fact, he has spoken about the fact that he grew up in a family that "lived paycheck to paycheck." Unlike most wealthy people of today, Sanders had to make his wealth through hard work, despite the adversity of growing up in economic insecurity.
In 2014, Sanders and his wife's income was just $205,271, less than half of what they make today. It was the 2016 presidential bid that so intensely raised his income. Since then, Sanders has published three books, "Our Revolution," "Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution," and "Where We Go From Here." Sanders has stated that he made an average of about $848,000 in both 2016 and 2017 as a result of book sales. O'Meara Sanders took in around $106,000 in 2017 from a book that she wrote.
Due to his family's financial struggles while growing up, Sanders has said that he "know[s] the stress of economic insecurity." He recognizes that in his adult life he has "been fortunate" and he has said that he is "very grateful for that."
It's not morally wrong to be rich and self-made. It is wrong to be rich and use your wealth to continue to gain more wealth. But, Sanders is helping the less fortunate. First, he has been one of the most influential forces to advocate for the lower class in the modern era. Second, Sanders and O'Meara Sanders gave $18,950 to charity in 2018 (which is certainly more than can be said for most of the 1% status Americans).
Here is the thing, Sanders came from a low-income household, has worked as an activist all his life, ran for president, published three books, and is now running for president again. He is the epitome of the American Dream. He is what Americans should strive to be. Now, Sanders is fighting so that others can have the resources and abilities to do the same.
Bernie Sanders is not a hypocrite. If anything, the news that Sanders is a member of the 1% should increase America's trust in him. The fact that Sanders has not strayed from his platform and promises, even after joining the millionaire ranks, proves that he is prepared to practice exactly what he preaches. If he raises taxes on the wealthy, he will lose money. His wealth has not corrupted him, he is fighting against himself. He is proving that the wealthy are able to, can, and should use their wealth for good, and fight for the less fortunate.
He proves that the Socialist party doesn't consist of just a bunch of poor, lazy millennials. He proves that the Socialist party is for everyone who wants a more income equitable America. He proves that even members of the 1% can be Socialists.