U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is known for his distaste of extremely wealthy people, especially those who have a net worth of over a billion dollars. Bernie Sanders repeatedly asserted that billionaires do not deserve the wealth they have because this wealth was obtained, in his opinion, at the expense of the workers. When CNN host Chris Wallace asked him whether he believed the government should “confiscate all the rest” once a person makes over $999 million, the Vermont Senator’s answer was affirmative. Indeed, Bernie Sanders reportedly said that the U.S. government should confiscate 100% of any money that Americans make over $999 billion. He said the following:
“You may disagree with me but, fine, I think people can make it on $999 million. I think that they can survive just fine.”
Sanders emphasized that his view that billionaires shouldn’t exist does not constitute a personal attack on any specific billionaire. The problem is that Senator Sanders’ stance on wealth inequality and his rant against billionaires is hypocritical and disingenuous.
The Vermont Senator change his semantics several times on his “distaste” of the ultra-rich. As he, himself became wealthier, he started adjusting his language on the wealthy. Prior to becoming a millionaire, he used to promote his resentment against people who had a net worth of over $1 million. As Senator Sanders became himself a millionaire, he started preaching that multi-millionaires did not deserve the wealth they have. As he became himself a multi-millionaire, now Senator Sanders argued that no one deserves to have a net worth of $1 billion or more. Indeed, Senator Sanders has a net worth of $8 million. Why is Senator Sanders wrong about billionaires?
To answer why Senator Sanders is wrong about billionaires, it is first important to answer how most people in America become billionaires. Most billionaires in America are business owners. They start a corporation or a limited liability company. Then they try to raise capital to fund their operations by giving away a portion of their companies by selling shares of their company’s stock to investors. As investors continue to pour money into their companies, these business owners then use the money to hire labor, invest in machinery, and so on. As the value of their companies increases, their share in their companies also increases. Then once their companies are valued at over $1 billion, these business owners are then considered billionaires because they own a significant stake in their businesses. This is how Sam Walton, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergei Brin…etc. all became billionaires.
Billionaires are obviously no angels. They are flawed individuals like the rest of us. But they are billionaires because they built scalable businesses that can reach hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions of people. Moreover, these “evil billionaires” as Bernie Sanders love to portray them, create jobs for many Americans. Walmart, for example, employs more than 2 million; Amazon employs more than 1.5 million people; Facebook has over 86,000 employees…etc. These companies are enabling ordinary people to be lifted out of poverty by having a job and providing for their families.
Who has Senator Sanders lifted out of poverty? Who has Senator Sanders employed in the past? Bernie Sanders built his wealth through politics. His salary, as a U.S. Senator, is based on a direct allocation of the taxpayer’s gross income. He earns $174,000 a year, owns three homes, and earned more than $1.75 million in book royalties. In fact, Senator Sanders released a new book this year entitled It’s Ok to be Angry About Capitalism, a book written for working-class people to remain angry about capitalism while he is enriching himself from the royalties he is earning from this book sales. The worst part is that those who will be reading this book will continue to make Bernie Sanders richer while they remain in poverty and resentful. Mr. Sanders never owned a business, he never ran a business, and he never had anyone on his payroll. He never took the risk that entrepreneurs take when they build a business. He never experienced the hard condition of foregoing a salary or earnings in order to reinvest these earnings back into the business to expand it. In short, Bernie Sanders built his wealth without experiencing what it takes to build wealth in a market economy.
His rants about people not deserving to be billionaires and confiscating their wealth are plainly wrong, and very much pretentious. Who is he to determine who deserves a billion and who does not?