A meme about Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders caught my eye. It said: “Never Owned a Business, Never Invented Anything, Never had a 9-5 job, Never proposed a single bill that passed (25 years), Lived off welfare before he was elected to office, 74 years old – net worth is $300,000, Says he can fix health care and the economy, Wants to be President?” Is this all true?
1. Never Owned a Business/He Never Invented Anything/Never had a 9-5 Job: Seems correct, but Bernie’s past is murky. As a Michael Kruse July 2015 article in “Politico” stated: “With Sanders, what you see is what you get…. But if his positions are well known, the person, it turns out, is less known.” Bernie graduated the University of Chicago in 1964, and from that time, until his first successful run for office in 1981 becoming the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, worked a number of odd jobs that included things like freelance writer and filmmaker, while making a number of unsuccessful runs for office as a member of Liberty Union Party. In fact according to the same Politico article, Bernie “didn’t collect his first steady paycheck until he was an elected official pushing 40 years old.” From the time he was mayor, Bernie has been a career politician.
2. Lived off welfare before he was elected to office/Bernie’s net worth today is $300,000: Information on this welfare matter, like much about Bernie, is hard to find. There are various accounts from people who knew Bernie in his early days, saying he was “always poor” and alluded to him being on government assistance. While I can’t verify that he received welfare before becoming a career politician, it’s not a stretch to think that such might have been the case. His net worth has been reported at approximately $300,000 today which is on the lower end compared to other legislators. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
3. Never proposed a single bill that passed (25 years): This is incorrect but not far from the truth. Bernie’s legislative record is pretty poor. According to an October 2015 Washington Times article by S.A. Miller and Stephen Dinan, “During his quarter-century in Congress, Mr. Sanders has been the chief sponsor of just three bills that were signed into law: two renaming U.S. Postal Service offices in his home state of Vermont and one that increased the annual cost-of-living raise for veterans’ benefits. …All told, Mr. Sanders introduced 353 bills during 16 years in the House and nine years in the Senate, giving him a success rate of just less than 1 percent.”
So the meme is mostly true if slightly off the mark. Add it all up and ask yourself: At such a crucial time in America’s history, is this the resume of the leader we want? And does it add up to the image that Bernie is selling to the public?
Since I don’t have to fit this essay onto a meme, here is some more info on Bernie.
Bernie is not really a Democrat: While he caucused with the Dems, he was a “Liberty Union” party member (i.e., a socialist) the first decade of his career, then an Independent. Only now running for President is he a Democrat.
Bernie is backed mainly by Unions: Bernie has touted how he doesn’t have a SuperPac, how he’s being funded by all these small individual donations and how’s he’s not beholden to special interests. Really? Bernie and his followers would have you believe that it’s just your hard working average Joe donating to his campaign out of his wallet. It only takes a quick look at Bernie’s record of donors to see that is not the case. Let me highlight some of his Top 20 Donors in recent years according to the website opensecrets.org : Service Employees International Union (SEUI), Teamsters, Communications Workers of America, Operating Engineers Union, and American Postal Workers Union. In fact, according to the website publicintegrity.org, Sanders’ Top 5 donors in 2009 were all unions, and in 2010 according to Open Secrets, 15 of the top 20 were unions. No matter what you think about unions, whether they are positive or not, it’s hard to argue that they themselves are not a “special interest”, lobbying issues and helping get candidates elected and their agenda accomplished. They hold power over the heads of those they help get elected, just like any private business or industry. So tell me again how Bernie is not beholden to “special interests?”
Bernie opposes military force: Being President means you are “Commander in Chief” of our nation’s military. Bernie applied for “conscientious objector” status during the Vietnam War because he is a pacifist. Let that sink in for a minute. A possible Commander-in-Chief of the United States military finds war unjustifiable. His application was eventually denied but by that time Bernie was too old to serve. Given the increasingly unstable state of the world, how would this person be able to make the tough choices necessary as President, which sometimes requires authorizing the use of force?
And yes, Bernie is a socialist: Bernie does not hide is his socialist beliefs. Some try to play down Bernie’s socialist beliefs, equating his beliefs to an admiration of the kind of social policies found in countries like Sweden or Norway. But when you look a little deeper into who Bernie is and what he believes, you will see a different picture. Bernie is such a good socialist that he went on a trip with his wife right after they were married to of all places – Moscow – and that was when it was still the communist USSR. He’s also taken questionable trips through the decades of his career to socialist countries, Cuba being one, and has praised many aspects of these countries and their governments. People don’t realize that socialism doesn’t mean that everyone is equally rich and equally free, it means you are equally poor and equally controlled.
Is this the Bernie Sanders many Democrats are flocking to? Unfortunately the answer is yes.
Felicia Tweedy is a political activist who has worked on both sides of the aisle, and an entertainment industry professional.