If you have the displeasure of looking at the list of congressional net-worths, it’s pretty difficult to forget inequality has reached 1929 pre Great Depression levels. Former Republican House Rep. Darrell Issa used to top the list with a net worth of $283.3 million dollars, replaced by Greg “body slams reporters” Gianforte $135.7 million. Behind him are Republican Michael McCaul at $113 million and no-name Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney at $92.6 million. This group is followed by two fairly well known Democratic senators, Mark Warner of Russia investigation fame at $90.2 million and Connecticut senator, Richard Blumenthal, at $70 million. And this is just the list from the top.
Mitch McConnell has a net worth of just over $26 million. Which is basically the exact same as that of former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill. Nancy Pelosi is at just over $70 million to $100 million depending on the estimate. The list could go on and on.
Basically every single elected leader in the United States is a multi-millionaire. To make it worse, almost all of them have tended to a society that systematically bankrupts and in-debts millions, while 30 million plus people can’t afford healthcare and a housing crisis ravages most major cities. There is something incredibly sinister about a system which is thoroughly inhabited with multi-millionaires who are wealthy on a scale most normal people can’t fathom and operate in social circles so detached from reality hoping for legislation that actually solves peoples problems is probably a hopeless endeavor from the jump.
Bernie Sanders is Barely a Millionaire in a Land of Multi-Multis
Which is why it’s so hard to take criticisms of Bernie Sanders millionaire status seriously. For one, even if he was a billionaire that would likely just aid his ability to speak to the gross injustices of the American economy and the various mechanisms that keep billionaires on top at the expense of everyone else. Especially considering he’s one of the only voices articulating anything close to a left vision in the United States, so again, even if he was a billionaire, he’d still be worth listening to. And I think we should abolish billionaires through a maximum income or 100% top marginal rate or like mechanism.
That said, Bernie Sanders is nowhere near getting abolished or triggering my hypothetical 100% top marginal rate. In fact, he’s barely a millionaire and considering he’s a 25+ year congressman and New York Times bestseller, working in an institution full of some of the wealthiest and most connected people in the country, that’s a feat in and of itself. It’s probably worth noting that senators make $174,000 a year and was only slightly lower at $165,300 when Bernie joined the senate in 2006. So in that 12 years he’s earned close to $2 million in his senate salary alone. That’s not to mention the 15+ years he spent in the House pulling in a similar salary.
Bernie Sanders is wealthy, because of course he is. Almost everyone in the senate is, and most of them with magnitudes more wealth than Bernie Sanders. More importantly though, almost all of those incredibly wealthy politicians continually fight to maintain the status quo and oppose any social program that might increase tax revenue. Maybe Dianne Feinstein really just has a hard nosed realism that comes from decades of experience on the front lines crafting legislation that says you simply can’t raise taxes, not to fund the Green New Deal, not to fund anything, it simply cannot be done in the Untied States.
The 1950’s would beg to differ, and the top marginal rate of 90% under Eisenhower says otherwise. She wants you to think she simply doesn’t know about this era or the level of spending the government is genuinely capable of sustaining, Maybe that’s the case, or maybe her almost $100 million dollar net worth has convinced her we can make something work without raising taxes. The entire edifice that is the Republican Party, especially in its most Paul Ryanesque form, is an institution dedicated solely to this shameless pursuit of material gain. For people like Dianne Feinstein there’s a balancing act to be played, for the wealthy Republicans we’ve listed, in many cases they likely believe their wealth is in and of itself a virtue.
So these are the people we have to compare Bernie Sanders to amongst his senate colleagues. Multi-millionaires who have made a career pushing centrist (read plutocratic with a hug) legislation and telling Americans they can’t have a better life. And multi-millionaires who have made a career pushing plutocratic legislation and telling Americans they can’t have a better life. All the while laughing to the bank as they bask in the fruits of the system they’ve helped rig. A hobby that doesn’t have to end with their tenure as industry capture and a robust lobbying industry mean that meager $174,000 a year is just the beginning.
This is the world Bernie Sanders inhabits. The fact he’s only got $1 million and not $25 million says something right there. That he’s one of the few voices calling to fundamentally reshape and dismantle this system that enables such gross displays of the material benefits of unchecked power to begin with, is exactly why you should ignore anyone who tries to trot out his net worth as an attack line.
So yeah, he wrote a book, made a million dollars, and has a retirement home. But his co-workers have anywhere from 25x to 75x as much, and Bernie Sanders is one of the only voices telling them they’re morally complicit in the entire thing to begin with. So let him have his Bernie-Book-Bucks, and let him have his lake house, because as far as I’m concerned, anyone who has stood in the face of the institutional onslaught of personal enrichment the senate offers, and comes away with just $1 million dollars and an inherited home to show for it deserves at least that.