Congratulations, Bernie, on being rich

Kudos to Bernie Sanders for saying that he will celebrate tax day by releasing his tax returns for the last 10 years. Quite right. And congratulations to the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate for acknowledging that he has become a millionaire.

The next step might be for Sanders, who routinely vilifies “millionaires and billionaires” on the campaign trail, to say something constructive about work and wealth, and how to use public policy to promote them.

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When asked about his happy financial status, Sanders offered this bit of wisdom: “I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.”

Oh.

But what if you’re the owner of a small business, or an entrepreneur, or a dentist? Are those equally acceptable routes to becoming a millionaire? What if you’re a farmer, or an engineer, or an investor? Do those count?

There are millions of millionaires spread across the United States — 17.3 million of them in fact, the most in the world by a long way.

Not all of them reached that status by writing books like “Our Revolution” and the “Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution.”

This is not to demean Sanders’s achievement. Hard-earned wealth should be celebrated. It’s to say that demonizing the creation of that wealth, scoring points off class warfare, and elevating one person’s paycheck over another’s is ultimately unproductive. It may sound nice — and it may win votes — but it misses the point.

Bernie Sanders has spent his career offering simple slogans to address complex problems: free college, break up the banks, Medicare for All, and more. He has promoted impractical, unaffordable and ineffective projects at the expense of achievable policies that would benefit millions of Americans. And he has done all this while pointing his finger at the easiest of targets: millionaires and billionaires.

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Now that he has become one himself, Sanders’s story has become a bit more nuanced. American politics would benefit if his rhetoric and policies became a bit more nuanced, too.

— Bloomberg News

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