Troll Smear #19: “Bernie is a hypocrite, he has three houses, a net worth over $2 million, and only pays 13% in taxes”

Troll Smear #19: “Bernie is a hypocrite, he has three houses, a net worth over $2 million, and only pays 13% in taxes”

As with all smears directed at Bernie, this is typical in that it does not attack his policies, but rather seeks to disparage him personally, by saying that he “does not practice what he preaches”. The smear seeks to portray Bernie as someone who is cynically preaching to the working class while he himself is a member of the top 1% that he rails against.

This smear, however, is just as easily debunked as all the others.

Bernie’s Three “Houses”

Firstly, every Senator has at least 2 residences, one in their home state and one in DC. So one of Bernie’s “houses” is a small condo in DC.

As this Real Estate website noted:

The Senator from Vermont has two homes. The first is a four bedroom, 2 ½ bath Colonial in Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont. Sanders and his wife, Jane O’Meara, also own a townhouse in the District of Columbia; the Washington, DC real estate is a one bedroom, 1 ½ bath with a brick exterior, which was built in the late 1800s. Both are a considerable step up from Sander’s youth – the Senator grew up in a rent controlled apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bernie’s two residences: his 1-bedroom condo in DC (left) and his 4-bedroom colonial in Burlington.

Bernie’s third “house” is a rustic cabin on an island in Lake Champlain in Vermont. The Sanders family bought this house using an inheritance that Jane Sanders received from her parents. The inheritance was itself a house in Maine. As Jane Sanders explains:

Bernie’s vacation cabin on Lake Champlain

“My family had a lake home in Maine since 1900, but we hadn’t had the time to go there in recent years — especially since my parents passed away,” she said to Seven Days. “We finally let go of it and that enabled us to buy a place in the islands — something I’ve always hoped for. ”

Bernie’s Net Worth and his 13% Tax Rate

Throughout his entire career, Bernie Sanders was among the poorest of those serving in Congress. His net worth up until 2016 was less than $700,000. After writing 2 bestselling books, however, the advances he received caused his net worth to jump to around $2 million,

This $2 million figure however only applies to his 2017 financial disclosures. Prior to that, Bernie and Jane lived off his Senate salary and some miscellaneous additional income. The “13% tax rate” is based on that smaller income rate, and specifically from his 2014 tax returns, in which he declared a total income of only $205,000.

As documented in the National Review, Sanders was able to reduce his tax liability by taking normal deductions that similar middle-class American families take, specifically:

  • $22,946 on home-mortgage interest
  • $14,843 on real-estate taxes
  • $9,666 on state and local income taxes
  • $8,000 in gifts to charity
  • $350 in gifts to charity other than by cash or check
  • $4,473 in unreimbursed job expenses, which according to tax law can include fees such as union dues and travel

Altogether, the Sanders family in 2014 paid around $27,000 in taxes on $205,000 in income, which equates to around 13%. Bit this was from 2014, and not 2016, when his net worth increased thanks to his book deals.

From OpenSecrets.org:So the critics who seeks to smear Bernie in this way are being very misleading, if not downright lying. By taking his tax rate from 2014 and lumping it in with his wildly higher (and unusual) book-based income from 2016, they are creating a false narrative.

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