By now, youve surely heard Bernie Sanders rail in his thick Brooklyn accent against millionayehs and billionayehs. But as the release of ten years of his tax returns has shown, Sanders is himself one of those very millionaires he frequently reviles for rigging the system, pulling the strings behind the scenes, and needlessly multiplying the number of deodorants available to American consumers.
Sanders, a longtime evangelist for a socialist ideology that has caused more human misery than any other idea in history, has never created a job. He was even kicked off a hippy commune for refusing to work.
Still, give the man credit. He works hard as a politician and there is real demand for him. Unlike many of the politicians who have grown wealthy while in office, Sanders appears to have done it the honest way. His best-selling book, Our Revolution, pushed his income above $1 million in both 2016 and 2017. And assuming he followed Senate ethics rules and took no book advances, every penny of that had to be from actual sales.
Thats just one of the interesting pieces of information available in Sanders tax returns. Another is that in 2016, his first million-dollar earning year, he donated less than 1% of his income to charity.
Its only fair to point out also that Sanders increased his giving to above 3% in 2017 and 2018 perhaps because by then he had some inkling of a presidential contender.
But it would be wrong to label Bernie a hypocrite for giving so little to charity. Why? Because he is a socialist.
Sanders really meant what he said in 1981 when he told attendees at a local United Way fundraiser in Vermont, I don't believe in charities. Sanders, then serving as mayor of Burlington, "went on to question the fundamental concepts on which charities are based and contended that government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for social programs, according to a contemporaneous report from the New York Times.
So no, Sanders is not a hypocrite. Rather, he is a consistent believer in an ideology that is avowedly anti-charity. Sanders, like other socialists, isnt opposed to helping people. Rather, he wants the state to do something he's unwilling to do himself on a personal basis: help the needy with his own wealth and the wealth of millionaires.
Americans are historically averse to socialism, and this helps explain their historical culture of giving generously to charity. The U.S. leads the world in private giving, donating twice as much as the runner-up (New Zealand) as a percentage of GDP.
Socialism is the enemy of charity because it outsources all compassion and altruism to the state. In an age when most Americans worry about and mourn the erosion of civil society institutions, socialism wants to supplant them all to leave people atomized, dependent upon government from cradle to grave for material, intellectual, social, and (although it does not recognize them) spiritual needs.
But government does not and cannot truly love anyone. It is especially bad at lifting the poor out of their poverty. It has such a poor track record in dealing with true hard cases the homeless, for example that in the U.S. today, local governments almost universally outsource the job of caring to private charities.
Socialists believe that all meaningful human interactions are political. Theirs is a dehumanizing ideology that separates people from their neighbors. It strips human beings of moral agency. As the experience in Venezuela and in post-communist countries has demonstrated, a successful socialist system ultimately creates a contest of every man for himself that makes the most ruthless capitalist blush.
Bernie Sanders may dispute this characterization. He would be wrong, but he is no hypocrite for failing to give away his money. Its just that he is earnestly trying to create a perfect system where the government will come and take it away from him, for him.