Bernie Sanders is the most popular political figure in the United States. His approval ratings have long been through the roof and it’s left many other political figures, including former president and first man hopeful Bill Clinton, wondering what is so infectious about his appeal. Bernie Sanders is honest and consistent, he says what he thinks, people genuinely appreciate that about him. Even conservatives view him as an honest straight shooter even though they disagree. Bernie’s long record and popularity make him a prime target, but the same things that put him in the cross hairs make him difficult to discredit. Which is why the talking points trying to take him down a peg are incredibly laughable.
Whether it’s a comment about “Bernie tweeting from his third house by the lake” or “driving his Audi” or even the most recent about “paying less taxes than Trump” they are all blatant lies from people grasping at straws while trying to attack one of the most consistent political records in American political history.
First, it’s true, Bernie Sanders has three houses. Which on its face might seem fairly hypocritical of a politician railing against the excesses of the wealthy, except Bernie Sanders has perfectly legitimate reasons for each of his residences. Residences because Bernie doesn’t actually own three houses, he owns two and an apartment in Washington DC. And an apartment in DC doesn’t seem all that unreasonable for a guy who has worked in the city for decades and still finds time to fly back to Vermont most weekends. Where he can now split his time between two separate homes, one of which is the aforementioned lake house Bernie Sanders bought to retire in and may very well tweet from.
Unfortunately for Bernie’s detractors that second home is not a symbol of excessive hypocrisy, but instead a well deserved place to retire, purchased after years of tireless work and selling a family home on his wife’s Jane side of the family. It’s a modest lake home, to accompany Bernie’s modest normal home in Burlington. Both Sanders homes are incredibly middle class and placed in the context of a congressman with decades in Washington they are stunning shows of frugality.
Another show of frugality is Bernie Sanders’ car, a red Chevy Volt.
For over a year rumors have bounced across the internet about Bernie Sanders and his Audi R8 sports car. Bernie’s opponents pointed to his imaginary sports car as a sure sign of hypocritsm. “Bernie challenged the rich, but laughed his way to the bank in a candy red sports car” Facebook comments echoed repeatedly with little regard for simple fact checking. If those commenters were to simply google before they speak it would soon become abundantly clear that Bernie Sanders car is in fact not $200,000, but instead closer to $20,000. The candy red paint was pretty spot on, but Sanders certainly looks a lot less luxurious rolling around in his Volt, a car adored by frugal drivers concerned with both trunk space and fuel economy everywhere.
fact that there is still some portion of the population that believes Bernie Sanders drives a candy red Audi sports car is troubling. Not because what people think Bernie Sanders drives matters too much, but because it shows an insane willingness to air on the side of confirmation bias at all costs. Bernie Sanders is viewed favorably by a significant portion of Republicans, but for some a socialist being an honest and trustworthy politician is simply a bridge too far. To some people there is no way someone like Bernie Sanders can call himself a socialist and be an honest man of the people. Which is probably why talking points about three houses and sports cars stick so well, because it fits their narrative of socialism being a system to take their tax dollars and funnel it to big shot bureaucrats. It’s too perfect to be true, but that doesn’t stop anti-Sanders folks from spouting these talking points or creating new ones whenever possible.
The newest anti-Sanders line of attack that fits a little too neatly into the conservative narrative is the idea that Bernie Sanders pays less income tax than Donald Trump. Which if we are looking at Trump’s recently released 2005 tax return and the tax documents released by Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign is actually true. Unlike the other two there is a nugget of truth to the idea Trump pays more in taxes than Sanders. It’s a fact, but it’s a fact that intentionally misinterprets the United States tax code to make Trump look good.
When Rachel Maddow leaked Trump’s 2005 tax sheet it was largely viewed as an overhyped flop because it was billed as controversial, but it was far from scandalous. In fact it might have even helped Trump. Instead of showing ties to Russian financiers, or an out of touch billionaire paying no tax at all, it showed Donald Trump paid “25%” in taxes, which is indeed the tax bracket every dollar he makes over $91,000. Every dollar Trump made over $415,051was taxed at 39.6% so to pay 25% in taxes Trump was still being fairly generous to himself.
Bernie Sanders on the other hand doesn’t make nearly as much as Donald Trump does so none of his income even reaches the upper brackets. Bernie’s net worth is only around $750,000, 100x less than Donald Trump’s profits in 2005. In 2014 he only made $140,994. So from the beginning the numbers are significantly smaller. Bernie Sanders then had numerous tax deductions which significantly lowered the effective tax rate he paid. On Bernie’s 2014 tax return he deducted $22,946 on home mortgage interest, $14,843 on real estate taxes, $9666 in state and local taxes, $8,000 in monetized gifts to charity, $350 in gifts to charity other than cash or check, $572 for work expenses, and $6,932 of social security income was not taxable.
Bernie Sanders has a significant mortgage which significantly impacts the amount of taxable income he has. All of these deductions bring his original 25% tax rate down to 13% which is only a 12% shirking of tax responsibility based largely on a large mortgage and charity. Trump’s taxes dropped even more, largely on the back of crafty accounting and real estate.
The idea that Bernie Sanders paid less taxes than Donald Trump is true, but it totally banks on a fundamental misunderstanding of the American tax code to be used as an anti-Bernie talking point. Which is an understandable leap for people desperate to fit the world into a neat, socialism is bad, sort of box, to make. Which is true of all three talking points, they fit a narrative pretty well, but they aren’t based in fact and to be honest they’re laughably stupid.
All three of these comments can be found all over the internet and they’re all equally stupid. They all rely on a blind hatred of American leftism, or Bernie personally which seems less likely, and a sheer lack of fact checking. A quick google search and a tiny bit of critical thinking can go a long way, but unfortunately judging by how pervasive these three lines of reasoning are it seems that is expecting too much from far too many people.
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