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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on In this Jan. 30, 2019 (AP) Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on In this Jan. 30, 2019 (AP)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on In this Jan. 30, 2019 (AP)

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman March 1, 2019

Old meme is wrong on Bernie Sanders' resume, finances

Bernie Sanders has announced his second presidential run and it didn’t take long for critics to start spreading their own internet claims about the Vermont senator.

A refurbished meme that makes a myriad of assertions about Sanders’ lack of money and experience is circulating again, having first surfaced during his 2016 presidential bid.

The full post reads: "Bernie Sanders. Never opened a business. Never invented anything. Never had a 9-5 job. Never proposed a single bill that passed (25 years in office). Lived off welfare before he was elected office. 74 years old - net worth $300,000. Says he can fix healthcare and the economy. Wants to be President. Just like his hero Karl Marx, succeeded at nothing."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The first couple of claims – that Sanders never opened a business or invented anything – are accurate. He did found the American People’s Historical Society, a nonprofit that, according to Politico, made "low-budget films about people, places and events in Vermont and New England."  But this wasn’t a "business" in the strictest sense.

While voters may certainly like candidates with business ownership on their resumes (and perhaps patented inventions, too), it’s not a requirement nor a path most presidents have taken on their way to the White House. Only seven presidents, including President Trump, were businessmen before they were elected.

At the bottom of the post, it also says he is 74 years old and has a net worth of $300,000. This meme hasn’t been updated since it was first shared in 2016, when Sanders actually was 74. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Sanders’ net worth is estimated to be around $2 million as of 2017.

We will look more closely at the other claims – that Sanders hasn’t held a "9-5 job," hasn’t proposed any enacted bills, and that he lived off welfare before being elected.

"Never had a 9-5 job"

This claim could be read literally as meaning he never held a job that required him working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It could also suggest he has never held a steady, full-time job.

According to several reports, Sanders didn’t collect a steady paycheck before being elected to office as mayor of Burlington, Vt., in 1981. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1964, though, Sanders did work a series of odd jobs before his political career began. Some of the positions he held include: an aide at a psychiatric hospital, a freelance writer, a preschool teacher and a carpenter.

Many of these jobs were likely part time, as Sanders ran for office a few times before winning, but we could not find evidence that proves none were full time, either. And the Sanders campaign did not respond when we asked if any of these jobs were considered full-time positions.

That said, Sanders held office for over 30 years in positions that, some would argue, are probably worth the designation full-time positions.

"Never proposed a single bill that passed"

Sanders was the primary sponsor of seven pieces of legislation that were enacted, according to records:

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H.J.Res. 132 (102nd): To designate March 4, 1991, as "Vermont Bicentennial Day."

H.R. 1353 (102nd): Entitled the "Taconic Mountains Protection Act of 1991."

H.J.Res. 129 (104th): Granting the consent of Congress to the Vermont-New Hampshire Interstate Public Water Supply Compact.

H.R. 5245 (109th): To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1 Marble Street in Fair Haven, Vermont, as the "Matthew Lyon Post Office Building."

S. 893 (113th): Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013.

S. 2782 (113th): A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to improve the Federal charter for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

S. 885 (113th): A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 35 Park Street in Danville, Vermont, as the "Thaddeus Stevens Post Office."

"Lived off welfare before being elected"

There is no evidence to support the notion that Sanders lived off welfare before he was elected. A spokesperson for his campaign also told us the claim is fictitious.

It has been reported, however, that, in 1974, Sanders did run for political office while collecting unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits are paid to individuals previously employed who are out of work  through no fault of their own. They are funded by taxes paid by employers into unemployment funds to be used specifically for this purpose. "Welfare," as traditionally defined in the United States, consists of a number of government programs designed to help low-income individuals and families buy food, find affordable housing and help pay for medical care.

Our ruling

An old meme suggests Sanders is not fit to be president because he hasn’t held a "9-5 job," never proposed a single bill that passed and lived off welfare before he was elected to public office.

Sanders didn’t collect a steady paycheck before he was elected, and at one point he ran while he was collecting unemployment. But the meme ignores other positions he held throughout the years as well as his decades serving as an elected official.

Sanders has sponsored multiple bills that were eventually enacted and there is no evidence to support the claim that he once lived off welfare.

We rate these claims False.

Share the Facts
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Says Sen. Bernie Sanders lived off welfare before he was elected, never held a "9-5 job" and hasn’t proposed a single bill that passed.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Our Sources

Facebook post, Feb. 22, 2019

TIME, 6 Other Businessmen Who Became President of the United States, Nov. 9, 2016   

Celebrity Net Worth, Bernie Sanders Net Worth, Accessed Feb. 28, 2019

The Street, What is Bernie Sanders' Net Worth?, Aug. 15, 2018

Politico, Bernie Sanders Has a Secret, July 9, 2015   

Mother Jones, How Bernie Sanders Learned to Be a Real Politician, May 25, 2015

GovTrack, Sen. Bernard "Bernie" Sanders, Accessed Feb. 28, 2019  

Huffington Post, Bernie Sanders Ran For Office While On Unemployment, May 29, 2015

Email interview, Sarah Ford, spokesperson for Sen. Sanders presidential campaign, Feb. 28, 2019

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Old meme is wrong on Bernie Sanders' resume, finances

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