Bernie Sanders is not a millionaire?

13925041_621169351398978_3231773894843699484_nTL; DR Summary

  • A shared social media poster asserts that Bernie Sanders would have been the first president who wasn’t  a millionaire, since 1945.
  • On the surface, this statement sounds plausible. His Senate disclosure forms list less than $1 million in assets.
  • But it leaves out the value of his retirement savings and his government provided pension. A private sector worker would need at least $1 million in assets to have a pension payout similar to what Sanders will receive at age 74 – and that does not include his own retirement savings. Update: Sanders just bought his 3rd home, with 500 feet of lake front.

Time magazine says the total value of Sanders and his wife’s assets and retirement benefits are well over $1 million and probably over $2 million. See “Sanders is a de facto millionaire“.

In my state, state employees may retire at age 58 or 30 years of service and receive full pension benefits, guaranteed by taxpayers. The Salem Statesman-Journal newspaper found that in Washington, Oregon and California, the average career employee pension at day of retirement has a net present value from $1.5 to $1.7 million dollars.

Pensions have tremendous value.

This post is not arguing whether the pensions are appropriate or not. The point is that a pension, regardless of source, is a bona fide asset. If you did not have the pension, it would take large assets to generate a similar monthly benefit. A pension’s future cash flows are part of your assets!

The above poster is a high quality propaganda poster that furthers Sanders’ public image as being just a regular guy not connected to the powerful. The poster works because of its simple design, the simple portrait, and the simple phrase that is easily processed. Since the claim fits the pre-existing memes about Sanders, it will be quickly processed by System 1 thinking and few will continue on to System 2 and realize that the claim is a stretch.

Note – Sanders did not create the above poster – someone else did. Further, there is nothing wrong with his acquiring assets to prepare for retirement. The problem is that this social media meme is not true yet is passed along, unquestioned, on social media because, as they say, “it fits the narrative”.

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