White Fragility: How Bernie Sanders' Tax Returns Became a Toxic Issue

Three years. 

That's how long it took Vermont independent senator Bernie Sanders to release his tax returns after first promising to do so in April of 2016. After again promising to release them "soon" in February of this year and promising host Trevor Noah of The Daily Show in early April that he would release them by April 15th, Sanders finally(!) released his taxes yesterday around 6 PM eastern time. The release came as a result of fellow Democratic women senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris all having released at least ten years of their tax returns and Sanders facing more and more public pressure to release his. As a way to preempt the release, Sanders last week announced that he had become a millionaire due to his "best-selling book" and proceeded to attack Neera Tanden and the Center for American Progress after one of their partner publications Think Progress released a scathing video on April 10th pointing out how Sanders' criticism of millionaires just so happened to cease after he himself became one. This PR battle sought to shift the focus away from Sanders' newfound wealth and instead create the insinuation that Bernie Sanders was once again being targeted by the mythical "democratic establishment." 

But even in finally releasing his tax returns, Bernie Sanders has once again shown utter disdain for the American public by refusing to be open and honest with them.  

For starters, while the female Democratic senators released their full tax returns, Bernie Sanders released ten years' worth of summaries on his official website. To compare, New York Senator Kisten Gillibrand's 2018 tax return is 34 pages while Bernie Sanders' 2018 return consists of a mere 18 pages. In addition, it should be noted that there is a footnote on the 2018 return that states that the return was revised on March 13, 2019. For those keeping score at home, that is roughly three weeks after Sanders was pushed to release ten years' worth of tax returns on the national stage. These partial returns do not include any state returns (remember that Sanders has 2 homes in Vermont) and do not include a section on capital gains, which would indicate how Sanders is investing his money. For someone who rails against large corporations, it would seem mighty convenient for Bernie Sanders to conveniently not share which companies he and his wife may have invested in and at what levels.

Of course, this is the story that Bernie Sanders now wants his sheeple to believe. That he got rich writing a successful book and nothing more. He doesn't feel the need to share the true story of his accumulated wealth, which as we now know, has netted Sanders nearly $3 million since 2016. Many of us who have been following Bernie Sanders know that he used the 2016 campaign to make a name for himself and to market his brand. Sanders did that and used his newfound profile to live the high life from buying a $575,000 third home to a $700 jacket to eating lobster sliders on a private jet to stalk the Pope. Through all this, Bernie Sanders insists that he earned his wealth and that he is just as deserving of being a millionaire as anyone else and that attacks on his economic success are petty and are done out of jealousy.

What Bernie Sanders doesn't understand is that since 2016, his views of wealth accumulation have been the height of hypocrisy. Whereas he would constantly criticize Hillary Clinton for giving paid speeches during the 2016 Democratic primary, including the now-infamous one to Goldman Sachs where she spoke about women's empowerment, Sanders himself used his platform to sell his brand and ultimately himself. Whereas Hillary Clinton and her husband gave over 700 paid speeches around the globe between 2001 and 2015, just over 5% of those speeches were to what Bernie Sanders would consider big banks. But Sanders continued to use those speeches as a way to denigrate Hillary Clinton. His argument was that she was somehow beholden to Wall Street, despite the fact that she had a strong regulatory platform while Sanders showed himself to be absolutely clueless how to break up the big banks when he gave his disastrous New York Daily News interview in April of 2016. Bernie Sanders' argument had always been that Hillary Clinton would help out her rich pals and not every day Americans and he used her paid speeches as a way to amplify that argument.

And it was an argument steeped in sexism. Like Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton did not grow up wealthy yet came into money thanks to her husband's and eventually her own political career. She acknowledged her good fortune in life and felt no shame in releasing 30 years of tax returns when running for president in 2016. While Bernie Sanders was refusing to fundraise for fellow Democrats, Hillary Clinton's Victory Fund, a joint-fundraising venture with the DNC, raised over $500 million, primarily for down-ballot races even though Sanders supporters would protest these events and throw $1 bills at Hillary's motorcade. Bernie Sanders simply refused to believe that a woman, any woman, could both outraise him and also use that money to help other progressive candidates because in his sexist mind, he was the one true savior that the country had been waiting for.

Bernie Sanders is right in one regard: he doesn't have to apologize for becoming a millionaire. We already know he won't apologize to Hillary Clinton. But what Bernie Sanders doesn't understand is that it was never about his money but rather it was about his actions. Sanders' blatant sexism toward Hillary Clinton's earned wealth and his refusal to be transparent with his own wealth is the epitome of White male privilege. Sanders sought to vilify Clinton for her success while simultaneously seeking to hide his own. He built his candidacy as well as his entire persona as being the anti-Hillary Clinton. For him to admit that he now has millions of dollars, despite campaigning as a working-class hero is a huge blow to Sanders' ego. It is such a blow in fact, that it took him a full three years to come to terms with it. In the end, despite a myriad of excuses, Bernie Sanders did not want to release his tax returns because people would finally learn the truth: despite what he has been saying for four years, Bernie Sanders has not been a man of the people but is rather part of the millionaire and billionaire class. In short, he's everything he's been pretending to hate and his campaign has, and continues to be, one ongoing ponzi scheme to build Sanders' brand and to continue to make money.

And despite claiming to be a socialist, Bernie Sanders has been completely content to keep those riches for himself.  

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