Why Are America's Socialists So Rich? | Opinion

The popular Twitch streamer and outspoken socialist Hasan Piker was trending on Twitter on Wednesday after a leak revealed how much money he takes home every month: over $200,000. To many, it seemed like, well, a lot for a person who makes a living excoriating the rich with videos like "How the Ultra Rich Exploit Everything" and "NOBODY NEEDS THIS MUCH HOUSE".

This wasn't the first time Piker, who streams under the name "HasanAbi," was criticized for belonging to the class he regularly attacks. Back in August, he made headlines for purchasing a nearly $3 million home in West Hollywood. Back then, people pointed out that Piker's success wasn't purely meritocratic, either; Piker was given his start on the popular leftist media outlet "The Young Turks," which was founded by his uncle, Cenk Uygur.

This is not to say Piker doesn't work hard, or isn't talented. Over 50,000 people subscribe to his channel, and many others donate to him through his chat for simply sharing his opinion. He's providing content that is clearly missing from the larger media ecosystem, and he regularly speaks on behalf of the poor and working-classes in his videos, which are comprised of leftist political commentary.

So it's not surprising that Piker and his supporters have insisted there's nothing to see in the leaked information about his take-home pay, which only revealed what anyone can deduce from his publicly available subscriber count.

And the truth is, he's right that his situation is not exceptional, though not because of how many subscribers he has. In fact, many of the avatars of socialism in America today are rich. And while millions of us in the United States are struggling to care for our children, pay our bills, and cleave to a sense of security and dignity, it often feels like the only people speaking up on our behalf have lives that are totally sequestered from the realities we live with.

There was the report from earlier this year that a Black Lives Matter co-founder, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, purchased a $1.4 million dollar home in Los Angeles. There was New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez going to the Met Gala, the apotheosis of inequality and conspicuous consumption, with the words "Tax the Rich" on her dress, as if that made it ok. Michael Moore, one of the more outspoken critics of American inequality and a champion of Hugo Chavez, is worth a reported $30 million. Shaun King, an activist who regularly speaks out about Black poverty, recently bought a lakefront home in New Jersey. Even Bernie Sanders is now a millionaire.

Hasan Piker
Hasan Piker speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Politicon

What's upsetting about these cases is not the success of any of these activists or politicians or journalists or streamers. It's that they made their money and status off slogans like "Tax the Rich." These slogans are literally making them rich—while leaving the rest of us in the dust. And though they all condemn the Right for abandoning the working class in favor of culture wars, they, too, are profiting off the culture wars and polarization in this country.

In response to the controversy around his $2.7 million home, Piker justified his wealth much like AOC justified going to the Met Gala: "Listen, if you're mad at me, tax the f*** out of people like me," Piker said. But to me, this has always felt like a two-thousand-dollar custom gown at a $30,000-a-plate event with the words "Tax the Rich" scrawled across the back: It's an alibi, a pass, a virtue signal.

I guess it's better to be a millionaire asking to be taxed than a millionaire who doesn't want to be taxed. But at the end of the day, I'm still the guy who spent today unsuccessfully trying to get unemployment. And he is still a millionaire who got rich talking about my problems.

Since the pandemic, even more people like me are overwhelmed with the uncertainty of surviving. And there is something profoundly alienating about these millionaires and other rich folks taking up our cause while living in mansions. Sure, it's better than no one talking about it. But imagine what it's like for us have nots watching socialists move into mansions, mansions they were able to purchase from money they made talking about the fact that we don't know if we'll make rent this month.

How did our socialists get so rich?

Of course, they're not the only problem. There are of course millionaires who don't care about working class Americans like me at all. And many wealthy, privileged liberals are able to sleep at night thinking they're part of the solution because they say the right things ("Tax the Rich!") and buy the right books and have the right feelings, when the reality is that when it comes to really making change for the millions of Americans like myself living a precarious existence, they're useless.

What does your "Black Lives Matter" sign mean to me we I'm wondering if I will be able to buy groceries this week?

Obviously, people have a right to enjoy the proceeds of their labor. But do the people who are calling attention to the plight of labor—America's socialists—really have to enjoy their consumption so conspicuously? Do they really believe they have earned their mansions, and that the rest of us deserve to live unsure whether we can pay rent?

There's no law that says that you have to live like the people you're advocating for. And yet, democratic socialism is about equality, fairness, and wealth redistribution. So why are all of our socialists benefiting from inequality? Why are they all so rich?

Chris Boutté is the host of The Rewired Soul podcast. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @TheRewiredSoul.

The views in this article are the writer's own.