The Era of Medical and Financial Transparency Is Probably Over

Two weeks after his heart attack Bernie looked fine. I guess there's no point in digging any further, is there?Corine Sciboz/ZUMA

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In 2016 Donald Trump refused to release his income tax records even though (a) he had promised to do so, and (b) he’s a real estate billionaire, the exact kind of person whose financial history is especially salient in a presidential election. This paid off: no one really cared, apparently, and Trump became president. The price of concealing his financial history was smaller than the price he would have paid for whatever that history would have shown.

This year, Bernie Sanders has refused to release his medical records even though (a) he promised to do so, and (b) he’s 78 years old and recently had a heart attack, making him the exact kind of person whose medical history is especially salient in a presidential election. Will this pay off? It seems like it: Sanders is soaring in the polls. The price of concealing his medical history is—in his estimation, anyway—smaller than the price he’d pay for whatever his medical history shows.

Presidential candidates are finally learning that releasing records of any kind is all downside. If the records show that everything is OK, no one cares and it buys you nothing. But if the records show a problem, it could blow your candidacy to pieces. There is literally no reason to do it unless there’s a big price to be paid for keeping things under wrap. But guess what? There isn’t.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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