Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate who has defended his new millionaire status despite building his political career on railing against the 1%, said it was “immoral” for millionaires to be senators during his failed Senate bid in 1971.
Mr. Sanders, who was running at the time as a member of the Liberty Union Party, a democratic socialist political party, told a local Vermont newspaper in December 1971 that it seemed “immoral” to him that millionaires represent the people of their states. They actually represent “the interests of corporations and big business — their fellow millionaires,” Mr. Sanders told the Bennington Banner.
At the time, the now-senator of Vermont proposed doing away with the annual salary of Congress members and replacing it with the average income of their respective home states.
“I think the result would be that this country would immediately stop wasting billions on weapons which never get off the drawing boards, and on the support of military dictatorships throughout the world,” Mr. Sanders told the paper. “I also have a feeling that a lot of tax loopholes that the corporations and millionaires receive would soon disappear.”
Mr. Sanders, who is polling second behind former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race, recently revealed that he is now a millionaire thanks in part to his book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In,” which he published after his Democratic primary loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Mr. Sanders has balked at suggestions that his newfound wealth contradicts his democratic socialist platform.
“I wrote a best-selling book,” the senator told The New York Times earlier this month. “If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.”
In a statement Wednesday to CNN, Sanders campaign spokesman Josh Orton said, “Yes, it is true: Senator Sanders said in the 1970s that it is immoral that the government too often represents the interests of the super-wealthy and large corporations — and yes, it is also true that Senator Sanders has continued to demand a change from that for his entire life.
“As the son of an immigrant who grew up living paycheck to paycheck, Senator Sanders believes elected officials should represent the interests of working people, not corporations, special interests or the ultra-wealthy,” the statement continued, CNN reported. “This view has guided his work in politics, not the pursuit of personal wealth. Senator Sanders’ family has been fortunate, and he is grateful for that because he knows the stress of economic insecurity. That is why he works every day to ensure every American has the basic necessities of life, including a livable wage, decent housing, health care and retirement security.”