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Analysis

Bernie Sanders is a millionaire

The one-percenter hopes no one notices that he's moved up in the world.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) host a campaign rally at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on April 06, 2019 in Fairfield, Iowa. CREDIT: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) host a campaign rally at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on April 06, 2019 in Fairfield, Iowa. CREDIT: Scott Olson/Getty Images

It’s all very off-brand and embarrassing, but Sen. Bernie Sanders is a millionaire.

Turns out railing against “millionaires and billionaires” can be quite the lucrative enterprise. Though he’d “consistently ranked among the least wealthy members of the Senate,” as The New York Times reported, “since his 2016 run for the presidency, Mr. Sanders’ financial fortunes have improved. His 2017 Senate financial disclosure forms show he earned roughly $1.06 million that year, more than $885,000 from book royalties. His most recent book, Where We Go From Here, was published last year.” The book he published shortly after the election, Our Revolution, also sold very well.

$1.06 million. That’s it! He’s barely a millionaire. He assured readers of the Times that they, too, could be millionaires, if they only wrote bestselling books. Clearly Sanders, who has spent the better part of his career saying “millionaires” like it’s a slur, finds the whole situation a bit awkward and would prefer no one notice his wealth. One might think if Sanders were so concerned about how his new status would be perceived, he could have found a way to lop off that last .06, perhaps by donating it to some worthy cause, and then he could’ve bought a cup of coffee and then — poof! He wouldn’t be a millionaire anymore.

But he didn’t do that, and he also didn’t release his tax returns, though he has been haranguing President Donald Trump to release his. Sanders’ refusal to share his receipts has become a bit of a hang-up as he campaigns, though not such an issue that it stopped him from raising $18 million in six weeks.

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Explaining his delay, Sanders said that what he wanted to do was “release 10 years of tax returns. “April 15, 2019, will be the tenth year, so I think you will see them.” He then clarified that he would be releasing these returns “certainly” before the 15th, and he hopes “that Donald Trump will do exactly the same.”

Democrats are working on a bill that would make it a requirement for presidential candidates to disclose a decade of tax returns after becoming the nominee. Would-be vice presidents would need to do the same. But the 10 year metric is a new one: At the end of 2018, the bar was only three. 

Anyway, it is ridiculous to think that it will be this particular I’ll-show-you-mine decree that will get Trump to release his tax returns. This is the same Trump who famously demanded then-President Barack Obama produce everything from a long-form birth certificate to his college transcripts. This is the Trump who had lackeys go around threatening every institution he’d ever attended to make sure they buried his academic records and SAT scores, which are probably so amazing he is just keeping them a secret because he doesn’t want anyone else to feel bad.

Sanders is Trump’s opposite: The Vermont senator obscures his wealth to relate to the 99%, while Trump exaggerates his worth to feign a station above his own. Trump, as Fran Lebowitz put it in a line too on-point to paraphrase, is “a poor person’s idea of a rich person.” And now, Sanders is altering his language to edit himself out of the line of fire. In recent weeks, his chorus of “millionaires and billionaires” has been amended to take aim only at “billionaires.”

Trump is never going to release his tax returns, possibly because they would reveal to all the world that the self-proclaimed “billionaire” is just a plebeian, ordinary millionaire, a status so attainable even Bernie Sanders can claim it.

This story has been updated to remove additional references to Bernie Sanders’ physical appearance.”