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Without hint of hypocrisy, a presidential candidate can declare allegiance to government solutions and advocate higher taxes for the top 1 percent while book royalties push him into that bracket.

That is to say that a person can be genuinely populist and seriously rich at the same time.

The person needs only to be defined by values of the heart and mind rather than net worth on paper.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is being criticized both by the right wing and the Democratic establishment--a signal that he's doing something right.

It's because newly released tax returns show that he made more than a million dollars year before last, mostly from a best-selling book, yet he advocates a single-payer and government-run health care system while railing against the wealthy elite benefiting from a rigged economy.

The right wing says Sanders is a socialist who, by his supposed principles, should eschew capitalist excess such as book royalties.

But Sanders' advocacies are less than socialist. He doesn't propose to make the entire American medical-care industry a government function. He proposes only to have private bills paid to private providers out of a public fund.

Sanders' advocacy of higher taxes tracks with a campaign theme in 1992 from a centrist Democrat named Bill Clinton.

Anyway, a typical democratic socialist doesn't object to individual achievement. A typical democratic socialist simply advocates for relatively high taxation to provide government-centered public services.

Meanwhile, a group called the Center for American Progress founded and run by close associates of the Clintons has an affiliated online site called ThinkProgress that recently charged that Sanders belies his professed populism by his new wealth.

In a video, ThinkProgress accuses Sanders of hypocrisy for now bellowing in speeches against "multi-millionaires and billionaires" rather than, as before, "millionaires and billionaires," now that he is a millionaire himself.

What's really at play here is:

• The right wing's lazily expedient reliance on a demonizing label like socialism without understanding it or applying it fairly.

• The Clintonian Democratic establishment's continuing fear and resentment of Sanders as a threat to become a Democratic nominee who would surely lose to the same Donald Trump to whom Hillary lost.

• That Sanders has made a simple rhetorical slide so that he won't be lambasting himself. You might say that whether Sanders is in the top 1 percent depends on what the meaning of is is. You also could say that a million dollars is not what it used to be.

Through all that, there are two legitimate critiques of Sanders.

One is that he becomes less the outsider and more a politician as usual by essentially cashing in on his political emergence by writing a book certain to make him rich if but a fraction of the mobs coming to his rallies purchase copies.

Getting rich after gaining political prominence--usually by a book deal ... that's utterly politics as usual.

The other is that Sanders has behaved in a cavalier and ham-fisted fashion in dealing with the book-income fallout. He has said both that he didn't know that writing a good book was a crime and that anyone else could become a millionaire, too, by writing a best-seller.

No one said anything was a crime. And not everyone has a best-selling book essentially guaranteed by a high public profile achieved by the supposed noble and altruistic endeavor of seeking high public service.

Sanders is fully entitled to preach populism while cashing royalty checks.

But he is not entitled to the Democratic presidential nomination, much less the presidency, if he can't handle the issue better than he's handled it so far.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Web only on 04/17/2019

Print Headline: BRUMMETT ONLINE: Breaking down Bernie


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  • mozarky2
    April 17, 2019 at 6:17 a.m.

    Thanks, Brummett! (used with permission from the author, P.J. O'Rourke)
    From PJMedia:
    "Do not be alarmed, comrades, that I, V. I. Lenin, here again so soon from mausoleum after first time to address you. Once you back from what people's author Raymond Chandler call "Big Sleep," it become difficult to stop self-commenting affair of day.

    And we have extreme serious counter-revolutionary problem, tovariches -- almost as bad Stalin rescind my New Economic Policy for idiot Five-Year Plan, doomed to failure before start. He was dumb as AOC.

    But never mind. Real danger today come from skillionaire -- almost as rich Elton John -- libertarian (although he hide from public) graduate of London School Economic (feh!) Sir Mick Jagger! He have heart valve problem and go to New York for replacement with private doctor instead of waiting turn British National Health like good people's artist. It would only have been few month. Or years. What betrayal of working class!

    Worse yet -- operation success... Okay, don't tell capitalist friend. Everyone supposed to wish well sick person. So just say, I wish well. But what do you expect Jagger? His lyric always hidden capitalist message -- like "Jumpin' Jack Flash is a gas gas gas" secret propaganda to use Americansky natural gas instead Russian pipeline to our dear East German comrade Angela. May she be buried with other revolutionary hero by Kremlin Wall"!

  • Waitjustaminute
    April 17, 2019 at 6:32 a.m.

    Pretty good column. But compare JB's statement: "Sanders' advocacy of higher taxes tracks with a campaign theme in 1992 from a centrist Democrat named Bill Clinton" with this quote from a NY Times article from September, 1992:
    "On the central issues of taxing and spending, Mr. Clinton -- who has, in fact, proposed government programs that would entail increases in both spending and taxes -- took pains to distance himself from that aspect of his party's reputation. "I know the Democratic Party in Washington has been in the past too identified with tax and spend, big government," he said. "But I have worked hard to be a different kind of Democrat and to give the people a different kind of Democratic Party."
    The tax and spend, big government Democratic party is back - this time, on steroids. The Republican party isn't much better. One of these days, that 22 trillion and climbing debt is going to bite us. And that's before we start adding the cost of "free" stuff on top of it.

  • RBear
    April 17, 2019 at 7:14 a.m.

    Frank once again, you quote the same stupid parody column at PJMedia and, based on reading the comments, you DIDN'T ask permission (just another lie from the Rogers town fool). Regardless, because of the way you copy/pasted it, it has absolutely no relationship to Brummett's column on Sanders.
    To Brummett's column, I do agree with this statement. "The right wing's lazily expedient reliance on a demonizing label like socialism without understanding it or applying it fairly." Folks like WJAM are some that like to use that line constantly as if it really means anything. He adds to it with the tax-and-spend Democrats are back. ROTFL. Last time I checked, the Republicans and Trump drove the debt up to $1 trillion IN A TIME OF ECONOMIC PROSPERITY. That's when you're supposed to drive the debt DOWN.
    But let's be clear. Trump has wasted his one shot at keeping the economy going when he a) pushed a tax cut before its time and b) bloated the federal government with extreme defense spending when we don't really have a foreign policy. When Congress voted to pull funding in Yemen, he vetoed it which is weird because he has always said foreign governments should do their fair share. Isn't Saudi Arabia one of the richest foreign governments?
    Regardless, Sanders is just a loud mouthed politician in my opinion. Some of his proposals are interseting, but some have no place in today's society. It'll be good to get the slate on the stage to see what all have But there's one thing we can bank on. A Republican Party who'll criticize all the proposals without any sort of counterproposal of their own. Does healthcare come to mind?

  • LRCrookAtty
    April 17, 2019 at 7:41 a.m.

    Always on the floor. That floor is dirty. People are walking on it every day, all day. Please, learn to stand and your ideas may start coming from up on top, instead of from the floor.

  • RBear
    April 17, 2019 at 7:44 a.m.

    I see Miss Petty is back.

  • Waitjustaminute
    April 17, 2019 at 7:51 a.m.

    And RBear just can't resist taking his shot, can he? (quoting Brummett) "The right wing's lazily expedient reliance on a demonizing label like socialism without understanding it or applying it fairly." RBear: "Folks like WJAM are some that like to use that line constantly as if it really means anything. He adds to it with the tax-and-spend Democrats are back. ROTFL."
    I'm referring to all the Democratic presidential candidates who are running to the left on medicare for all, free college tuition, etc. "Understanding" it and "applying (the term socialist) fairly?" I understand 'socialism,' in our current political environment, to refer to those politicians who think the government should take care of all our needs from the cradle to the grave: healthcare, college education, $15 minimum wage, and according to AOC, a 'living wage' whether you feel like working or not. I think that label fairly applies to those who advocate all or most of those positions.
    I wasn't going to get into that socialism argument, but you just had to start it, didn't you?

  • Waitjustaminute
    April 17, 2019 at 7:55 a.m.

    LRCrook, RBear spends a lot of time rolling on the floor. Either maniacal laughter or temper tantrum. It's his substitute for showing mutual respect and having an intelligent discussion.

  • RBear
    April 17, 2019 at 7:56 a.m.

    We'll see, WJAM. I love how right wingers and Trump shills like yourself have already branded them as socialists without even hearing them present their ideas on the stage. Some ideas presented already make sense, but of course you who branded the ENTIRE GND as bad based on a few concepts will do the same with the candidates. Look, I've come out a few times and said Trump and his administration have made some good moves. Not often, but at times. You completely blasted the GND without even looking through for the many good points that included those that stimulate the economy. So, want red meat discussion? Try that one.

  • Waitjustaminute
    April 17, 2019 at 7:58 a.m.

    RBear: "But let's be clear." Yes, RBear, it's clear you hate Trump and will never give him credit for anything. A "tax cut before it's time?" The time to pass a tax cut was when he had a majority in both houses to pass it. If he had waited for Democrats to regain a majority in either house, any tax cut proposal would have been DOA.
    And for what it's worth, I agree with you that we should be doing a better job tackling the debt now. But it's hard to spend any time noting such agreements when you spend all yours stirring s**t.

  • LRCrookAtty
    April 17, 2019 at 8:14 a.m.

    Rbear..."You completely blasted the GND without even looking through for the many good points that included those that stimulate the economy."
    This is where the libertarian in me comes out. I do not believe that the government stimulates anything. They start with a "good" idea and bloat it into a huge government program with wasted money and increase the debt/deficit. We have to reduce government and the expenses or the 22 trillion. The GND is a non-starter as it just adds more to the deficit. If there is a good program within the GND, then some other government program needs to sacrifice to push the GND program forward. We cannot and should not keep adding to the size and expense of the government.