By MARSHA MERCER
At the ripe age of 77, Bernie Sanders finds himself in an enviable predicament.
He lost the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 but became a bestselling author.
His book, “Our Revolution,” was published just after the 2016 election, and “Where We Go from Here” came out last November.
Mostly because of book advances and royalties, Sanders and his wife reported income above $1 million in 2016 and 2017 when they released 10 years of tax returns April 15.
In 2018, the couple had substantially less, but still hefty, adjusted gross income of $561,293, about $393,000 from book income. The Sanderses reported $19,000 in charitable giving last year.
And yet, all is not clover for the independent senator and leading Democratic presidential contender – at least until Joe Biden enters the race.
A headline in The New York Times said of Sanders: “He’s part of the 1%.”
Trevor Noah joked on “The Daily Show” that Sanders’s being a millionaire is like finding out Trump is secretly a Mexican.
Good one. But wait.
Yes, Sanders has railed for years against income inequality, a corrupt political system and “millionaires and billionaires” not paying their fair share. But he did pay his taxes.
The Sanderses paid $372,368 in taxes in 2016, $343,882 in 2017, and $145,840 last year.
“These tax returns show that our family has been fortunate,” he said in a statement. “I am very grateful for that, as I grew up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck and I know the stress of economic insecurity.”
He said he won’t apologize for his best seller -- nor should he. In a Fox News town hall interview Monday night, Sanders also called on President Donald Trump to release his taxes, which Trump will never do willingly.
Congressional Democrats hope to force Trump to release his taxes, but the longer Trump delays, the more people wonder what he’s hiding.
Unlike Sanders who seems embarrassed by his own wealth, Trump’s returns might embarrass him by showing he’s not as rich or as charitable as he says, or that he’s found legal loopholes to avoid paying taxes.
Everyone knows a turn in the White House can unlock a treasure chest. Forbes magazine estimated Hillary Clinton’s worth at $45 million in 2016, almost all amassed after she and President Bill Clinton left the White House.
Michelle Obama wrote the bestselling nonfiction book of 2018. “Becoming” sold 2 million copies in its first 15 days and still occupies the Times bestseller list 21 weeks later.
Sanders, though, is proof that running – and losing the nomination -- can also boost one’s bottom line. In 2015, the Sanderses had adjusted gross income of about $205,000 – mostly from his $174,000 Senate salary and Social Security benefits for both.
His 2016 campaign captured imaginations with populist, “us versus them” rhetoric.
Some 13 million Americans voted for Sanders in the primaries and caucuses, and he won 22 states. People wanted to read what he had to say -- and not just in the United States. “Our Revolution” has been translated into five languages, the Sanders campaign says.
Sanders needs to accept his good luck and stop sounding peevish. The self-styled democratic socialist denied on Fox his success is proof capitalism works. So much for winning disaffected Donald Trump voters.
And to The New York Times, Sanders said, “If you write a bestselling book, you can be a millionaire, too.”
It’s doubtful, of course, he’d have had best sellers or that Jane Sanders would have received an advance of more than $106,000 in 2017 to write a book about the couple’s public service, had he not run for president.
Even if he’s uncomfortable, Sanders did the right thing in releasing his returns, as have six other Democratic presidential hopefuls. Kamala Harris is a millionaire, and Elizabeth Warren is close. The other contenders need to release their tax returns, too,
so voters know who they are voting for.
Populism isn’t defined by how much – or how little – money someone has in the bank. It’s defined by the commitment to creating jobs, improving education and other policies that ensure opportunity for all.
©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.