Krugman defends Bernie Sanders' wealth, says he displays 'civic virtue'

New York Times opinion columnis Paul Krugman-- who once called Sen. Bernie Sanders' economic policies “destructive self-indulgence”-- is now praising the leading 2020 candidate for “civic virtue” because he’s advocating his policies despite his riches.

Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, offered a defense of Sanders on Thursday following the revelations that the senator became part of America's one percent, thanks to his 2016 presidential campaign that propelled him to national stardom and wealth.

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“A peculiar chapter in the 2020 presidential race ended Monday, when Bernie Sanders, after months of foot-dragging, finally released his tax returns,” Krugman wrote, calling the filings “perfectly innocuous.”

He said that while it seems that “Sanders got a lot of book royalties after the 2016 campaign, and was afraid that revealing this fact would produce headlines mocking him for now being part of the 1 Percent,” he shouldn’t actually hide his wealth.

“Politicians who support policies that would raise their own taxes and strengthen a social safety net they’re unlikely to need aren’t being hypocrites; if anything, they’re demonstrating their civic virtue,” Krugman wrote, calling such attacks “stupid.”

 “Politicians who support policies that would raise their own taxes and strengthen a social safety net they’re unlikely to need aren’t being hypocrites; if anything, they’re demonstrating their civic virtue.”

— Paul Krugman

The senator’s 2018 tax return revealed that he and his wife, Jane, earned over $550,000, including $133,000 in income from his Senate salary and $391,000 in sales of his book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.”

The filings showed that Sanders has been among the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S. According to the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, families in the U.S. earning $421,926 or more a year are part of this group.

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Krugman’s rare defense of Sanders comes after his relentless attacks on the Sanders campaign during the 2016 election.

In a January 2016 column, Krugman decried Sanders’ idealism, saying “it’s not a virtue unless it goes along with hardheaded realism,” which Sanders doesn’t have.

“Sorry, but there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence,” he wrote.

“Sorry, but there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence.”

— Paul Krugman on Bernie Sanders in 2016

In a blog post the same month, Krugman also declared Sanders’ positions on financial reform and healthcare were “disturbing.”

“And in both cases his positioning is disturbing — not just because it’s politically unrealistic to imagine that we can get the kind of radical overhaul he’s proposing, but also because he takes his own version of cheap shots,” he wrote.

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“Not at people — he really is a fundamentally decent guy — but by going for easy slogans and punting when the going gets tough.”