Bernie Sanders, the feisty independent U.S. Senator from Vermont, is running to become the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020.
On Tuesday, Sanders officially launched his 2020 presidential campaign, joining several other Democratic candidates who have already thrown their hats into the ring, including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar. The Bernie Sanders campaign raised $4 million in less than half a day after Sanders said he was running.
Bernie Sanders stands apart from the rest of the field, and already has considerable support among voters, because he launched a memorable long-shot campaign to become the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. In fact, many of the current candidates have drawn inspiration and embraced the progressive policies closely associated with Sanders’ 2016 campaign.
Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” and for decades there has been considerable skepticism America could ever elect such as left-leaning politician to the presidency. Age could also be a factor. Bernie Sanders is 77, the oldest declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and he’s also older than President Donald Trump (72) and former Vice President Joe Biden (76). If elected, Bernie Sanders would be the oldest president in U.S. history.
But before Bernie Sanders gets that chance, he must first win the 2020 Democratic nomination. Here’s some key information that voters should consider about Bernie Sanders’ finances, his background in politics, where he stands on key money issues, and more.
Bernie Sanders: His Early Days and Current Net Worth
Bernie Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were immigrants from Poland, and he grew up in a lower-middle-class, Jewish family in Flatbush. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Chicago in 1964, and led sit-ins against racially segregated campus housing, attended civil rights and Vietnam War protests, and began exploring socialism during his college years.
After college, Sanders moved to Vermont and joined the state’s Liberty Union Party, a democratic socialist group. He ran as the Liberty Union Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate in 1971 and for governor twice in the 1970s, never winning more than 6% of the vote. Some of Sanders’ speeches from this period are essentially identical to his standard talking points today.
“If we wanted to, we could wipe out economic hardship almost overnight,” Sanders told a Vermont newspaper in 1971, according to Politico. “We could have free medical care, excellent schools and decent housing for all. The problem is that the great wealth and potential of this country rests with a handful of people.”
In 1981, Sanders finally became an elected official when he won the race to be mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s biggest city. He served as a U.S. Congressman from Vermont from 1990 to 2006 and then moved to the U.S. Senate, where he recently began his third term in office.
Throughout his career, Sanders has developed a reputation as a workaholic who is focused on the issues and spends no time worrying about his appearance (hence the free-flowing white hair), traditional political conventions, or anything outside of his core mission in office. “He has no hobbies,” Luke Albee, Sanders’ chief of staff in the House, told the New York Times magazine in 2007. “He works. He doesn’t take time off. Bernie doesn’t even eat lunch. The idea of building a fire and reading a book and going on vacation, that’s not something he does.”
While Bernie Sanders regularly rails against the rich and seems to not care about his own wealth, his personal net worth spiked after he emerged as a political celebrity during the long 2016 presidential campaign. Sanders reportedly received a $795,000 book advance for his 2016 book Our Revolution: A Future to Believe in, boosting his income over $1 million that year. In 2017, Bernie Sanders’ gross income again topped $1 million largely thanks to book royalties and an advance from another book, Where We Go From Here: Two Years in the Resistance, which was published last fall.
Bernie Sanders’ net worth was estimated at $700,000 in 2016, and upwards of $2 million more recently. MONEY also estimated that the total worth of his retirement savings and pensions are more than $1 million.
However, according to Roll Call, Bernie Sanders has a net worth of $0, based on his official disclosure forms that factor in assets worth $300,000 combined with a roughly equal amount of liabilities.
Bernie Sanders 2020
Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign is expected to be an extension of his 2016 run for the Democratic party nomination when he emerged as the only real challenger to Hillary Clinton.
Sanders started his campaign for the 2016 nomination as an extreme long shot candidate, but ultimately won 22 states in the Democratic primaries. He also consistently beat Clinton among the 18- to 29-year-old demographic, an indication that Sanders proposals like raising the minimum wage and providing free college tuition and free health care for everyone resonate with younger voters.
Sanders’ 2016 campaign raised $228 million, including donations from 2.5 million different individuals and over $100 million from people who gave $200 or less. For his 2020 presidential campaign, Sanders is again pushing for extensive grassroots support: He will reject money from political action committees and rely on donations from individuals. The Bernie Sanders campaign raised an impressive $4 million in the first half-day after Sen. Sanders officially said he was running.
Bernie Sanders on Taxes, Health Care, and Other Issues
Bernie Sanders’ political stances have not changed much, if at all, since his 2016 presidential campaign. Back then, Sanders pushed for a higher minimum wage, as well as universal health care and free tuition at public colleges. Today, Sanders is still arguing for these and other progressive policies — which are widely embraced by liberal voters, as well as other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, nowadays.
“All of those ideas people were saying, ‘Oh Bernie, they’re so radical. They are extreme. The American people just won’t accept those ideas’,” Sanders said to CBS on Tuesday while officially announcing his 2020 candidacy. “Well, you know what’s happened in over three years? All of those ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream.”
In 2017, Sanders sponsored a “Medicare for All” bill, which would have ensured that all Americans get health care. “We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about,” Sanders wrote at the time in a New York Times op-ed.
To pay for universal health care, free public college, and other government programs, Sanders said during the 2016 campaign that he would raise taxes on all taxpayers — with big increases on the richest Americans and smaller but still substantial tax hikes on low earners. According to the Tax Foundation’s analysis, Sanders’ 2016 plan would have resulted in a 10.56% lower income for all taxpayers, after his higher rates were assessed.
Bernie Sanders has called for an increase of the estate tax on the wealthiest Americans, with tax rates as high as 77% on estates worth over $1 billion. He continues to push for a $15 minimum wage nationally and supports a wide range of other progressive policies, including paid family and medical leave for workers and a transformation of the nation’s energy systems away from fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of power.