Bernie Sanders, the Democratic socialist senator from Vermont, released a decade of tax returns on Monday, showing his family made $566,000 in 2018.
According to returns provided by his campaign, Sanders reported he paid $137,573 in federal taxes in 2018 and owed $8,267 in taxes for the year. Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, reported paying a 26% effective tax rate on his adjusted gross income. The couple reported donating $18,950 to charity, or 3.2%.
The returns show his decision to run for president in 2016 had benefited the Sanders’ family’s bottom line – which jumped from $240,622 in 2015 to $1,073,333 a year later. Since his first bid, Sanders and his wife – from 2016-2018 – made a total of more than $2.79m.
Sanders released his tax returns on tax day, the deadline for most Americans to file their tax returns.
Fellow Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke followed soon after, releasing 10 years worth of tax returns. O’Rourke disclosed he and his wife paid $81,000 in taxes on $366,000 of income in 2017. His 2018 filing was not yet available.
The candidates’ disclosures come as Democrats continue to demand Donald Trump’s tax returns, which the president claims he can’t make public because he is under IRS audit.
On Monday, Sanders followed up the release with a town hall meeting hosted by Fox News, stressing the discrepancy between the Democrats’ disclosures and the president’s stance.
Sanders explained that the majority of his earnings – $382,920 – came from writing and royalties, including the bestselling Where We Go From Here.
“Anyone who thinks I should apologize for writing a best selling book, I’m sorry, I’m not going to do it,” he said.
And he went on to defend his vote against Trump’s tax bill, the same legislation from which he, as a high-earner, now benefits disproportionately.
“All wealthy people and large corporations should pay their fair share of taxes,” Sanders said. “We have an absurd tax system, “ he continued. “While millions of people are paying more in taxes than they anticipated, Amazon, Netflix and dozens of major corporations as a result of Trumps tax bill pay nothing incorporate taxes, and I think that’s a disgrace.”
Pressed by Fox anchors as to why he did not volunteer to hand over a greater proportion of his income, up to the 52% tax rate he proposes, or give more to charity, Sanders said: “I pay the taxes I owe and, by the way, why don’t you get Donald Trump up here and ask him how much he pays in taxes?
“I guess the president watches your network a little bit,” Sanders said, turning to the camera. “Hey President Trump, my wife and I just released 10 years. Please do the same. Let the American people know.”
Sanders’ decision to appear on Fox News on Monday had been contentious, especially after the Democratic National Committee announced last month that it would not hold any of its presidential debates on the network, saying Fox could not could hold a fair and neutral event.
The debate, hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, was held in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in a county won by Trump in 2016 after a 9% swing from Democrats. On air, Sanders said he recognized that a Democrat presidential candidate would not win in 2020 merely by complaining about Trump.
“Not everyone thought I should come on this show,” Sanders acknowledged. “This network does not necessarily have a great deal of respect in my world but I thought it was important to be here and have a serious discussion about serious issues.”
Sanders went on to discuss the controversies surrounding the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
He allowed that Ilhan could do a better job talking to the Jewish community, “but I don’t think Ilhan is an antisemite”. He also stressed: “It is not antisemitic to be critical of rightwing government in Israel.”
Ranging through topics from abortion to defense spending, poverty to wealth taxes, Sanders returned to his definition of what it means to be a socialist.
“Democratic socialism to me means creating a government, an economy and a society that works for all, not just the top 1%. It means ending inequalities that exist today. You’re not going to hear this much on Fox or on the media in general. America has got to include that you have three families owning more wealthy than the bottom half of society,” he said, to cheers from the audience.