Watch: Bernie Sanders Turns into Stammering Mess When Pushed on His Own Taxes


Another day, another televised town hall with a 2020 Democratic presidential contender — this time Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Fox News.

I suppose you have to give Sanders credit for appearing on Fox, the Democrats having demarcated it as enemy territory. (The network won’t host a single debate during the 2020 Democratic primary season at the behest of Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.)

However, the main news of Sanders’ appearance Monday night might have been the stammering mess he became when asked about his taxes.

As town hall host Brett Baier noted, the senator and his wife, Jane, paid an effective federal tax rate of 26 percent on over $561,000 in income in 2018 and earned over a million dollars in 2016 and 2017. This information came from 10 years of tax returns released just minutes before the town hall began.

Baier pointed out that Sanders would be paying more under his own proposed 52 percent wealth tax and asked why he didn’t lead by example and pay more. (After all, the Treasury Department isn’t going to send it back to you if you want to part with it.)

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Sanders looked as if he hadn’t anticipated the question.

“Pfft — come on,” Sanders said, stuttering.

“I am — I paid the taxes that I owe. And by the way, why don’t you get Donald Trump up here and ask him how much he pays in taxes?”

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Both anchors agreed they’d be more than happy to ask Trump about that, but that didn’t stop Sanders from pivoting to badgering the president, via Fox News, to release his returns.

The Vermont democratic socialist also claimed he didn’t vilify the wealthy, just pointed out that they weren’t paying enough (or, rather, “their fair share”) in taxes.

Baier then noted that Sanders only gave 3.4 percent of his income to charity, a rather small number for someone who — let’s face facts here — is among the 1 percent.

Again haltingly, Sanders responded, “My wife and I do give money to charity. All right? And we’re proud to do what we did. There are those — you’re quite right — there are people, (Bill and Melinda) Gates Foundation, do a phenomenal job. We do what we do.”

Which isn’t a lot, which is the point.

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And then there was the hilarious moment in which, when asked why he doesn’t pay his own proposed wealth tax, he pressed Fox News’ Martha MacCallum why she hadn’t done so, either.

“So would you be willing to pay 52% on the money that you made?” she said. “You can volunteer, you can send it back.”

“You can volunteer too,” Sanders said. “Why don’t you give? You make more money than I do.”

“I didn’t suggest a wealth tax,” MacCallum responded.

Baier also noted that, after all, she wasn’t running for the presidency.

Sanders also defended how he’d made all that money, too.

“This year, we had $560,000 in income,” the senator told the Fox News audience. “In my and my wife’s case, I wrote a pretty good book. It was a bestseller, sold all over the world, and we made money. If anyone thinks I should apologize for writing a bestselling book, I’m sorry, I’m not gonna do it.”

Baier, however, had an excellent question about that tome: “When you wrote the book and made the money, isn’t that the definition of capitalism and the American dream?”

“No,” Sanders answered. “What we want is a country in which everyone has an opportunity. … A lot of people don’t have a college degree. A lot of people are not United States senators.”

This is true, but one wouldn’t deny that Sanders has put a decent amount of work into getting elected, not to mention his 2016 run for president. Now, granted, public officials enriching themselves isn’t necessarily a good thing for America, but if Sanders wants to defend his book and the fact that he and his wife own three houses, well, hey, cool.

But that’s the problem with Sanders’ 2020 run: There’s a dichotomy between what Sanders proposes and how he lives.

This isn’t an ascetic, nor is it a man who uses his wealth the way he proposes others should.

As was quite rightly pointed out, if Sanders wants to pay the marginal tax rates he’s proposing, nobody’s stopping him.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture