Before Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders continue their attacks on the wealthy, they should each give up their own multimillion-dollar fortunes.
Both Warren and Sanders have made class-warfare rhetoric the centerpiece of their presidential campaigns. Each has proposed new taxes on wealth, not income. They frequently state that the rich are wealthy because of what they’ve taken away from the middle and lower classes.
This line of thinking has numerous problems. But, for argument’s sake, take it at face value.
Warren and her husband raked in $906,000 in 2018. Sanders’ household income was $566,000. If that sounds like a lot of money, you’re right. Ninety-nine percent of U.S. households earn less than $434,000. That means both of the leading class-warfare candidates for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination are in the dreaded 1 Percent.
Last year wasn’t a fluke. Forbes estimates that Warren is worth $12 million and puts Sanders at $2.5 million. Both are enjoying the luxuries that come with being fabulously wealthy.
Warren’s primary residence is a Boston home worth $3 million. She also owns an $800,000 condo in Washington, D.C. Sanders and his wife own three homes, including residences in Vermont and Washington. They paid $575,000 in cash for a third pad — a Vermont vacation home with 500 feet of shorefront.
If Warren and Sanders want to reduce homelessness, they could give away their extra houses. But they want to be charitable only with other people’s money. Warren donated just 5.5 percent of her income — $50,000 — last year. Sanders gave $19,000, which was a paltry 3.3 percent of his earnings.
There was one thing they didn’t skimp on, however — ways to reduce their tax bills. Warren’s effective tax rate was 25.4 percent. Sanders’ rate was 25.7 percent. That’s a long way from the top tax bracket of 37 percent, assessed on income of more than $600,000. Warren and Sanders used lawful deductions to reduce their tax liabilities. But when corporations do the same thing, they blast them for using tax loopholes.
Warren and Sanders use the same approach to avoid making their hypocrisy too obvious. They’re vilifying a segment of rich people — those richer than they are. “I wrote a bestselling book. If you write a bestselling book, you can be a millionaire, too,” Sanders huffed to The New York Times earlier this year.
That’s a downright capitalistic position for a self-proclaimed socialist. He may as well have pointed out that if you create a billionaire company, you can be a billionaire, too.
But no one has taken more joy in provoking billionaires than Warren. Several left-leaning members of the 1 Percent, such as Bill Gates and Mark Cuban, recently criticized her wealth tax. In response, she unveiled a sarcastic “calculator for billionaires” on her website.
Enter on the calculator that you’re Bill Gates, and this message comes up: “Wow — you’ve got a lot of money! You’d pay $6.379 billion next year under Elizabeth’s wealth tax.”
It goes on to say that Gates “likely won’t even feel” the tax increase. Even with the tax hike, he’d “still be extraordinarily rich.”
If this is the standard — which it shouldn’t be — it makes no sense not to apply it to Warren’s personal fortune. If taking wealth from billionaires is good, also taking from millionaires is even better. Confiscate $11 million of her $12 million. She’d still be extraordinarily rich. Turns out, the politics of selfishness aren’t as appealing when they apply to you.
If Warren and Sanders insist on pursuing more “eat the rich” policies, they should have the intellectual honesty to put themselves on the menu.
— Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at email@example.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.