Mitt Romney, if elected, would be among the three or four richest Presidents in American history. By one estimate, his estimated net worth would make him No. 3, behind Presidents John F. Kennedy and George Washington, but ahead of Thomas Jefferson.
Another estimate would put him behind Washington and Jefferson, but ahead of JFK. Now these figures are at best informed guesswork. Writers will differ on how to estimate the wealth of historic figures and as to how to state it in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars. What the figures do show, even if they’re not exact, is that Mitt Romney is a peer of the richest American Presidents in terms of wealth.
The 24/7 web site says the wealthiest American Presidents, at the peak of their wealth calculated in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars, were as follows:
- John F. Kennedy, estate worth nearly $1 billion.
- George Washington, $525 million.
- Thomas Jefferson, $212 million.
- Theodore Roosevelt, $125 million.
- Andrew Jackson, $119 million.
- James Madison, $101 million.
These figures are the Presidents’ estimated net worth at the peak of their wealth, which did not necessarily last a lifetime. Thomas Jefferson was rich during his lifetime, but he died broke and in debt.
Only a few Presidents have not been the equivalent of millionaires. According to the 24/7 Wall St. web site, they were James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, U.S. Grant, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman.
Great wealth is not a reason to vote against against a candidate, in and of itself. Our greatest Presidents have been found in all income categories. All other things being equal, I would rather vote for a rich financier than for a candidate who begs rich financiers for money to campaign on. Many Presidents of great wealth have been champions of the common people. It just so happens that Romney is not one of them.
Click on The Net Worth of the American Presidents, from Washington to Obama to … for financial snapshots of the American Presidents from the 24/7 Wall St. web log.
Click on How Does Romney’s Wealth Compare to Other Candidates? for the source of the top infographic and background information.
Click on Romney Is Richest Candidate in a Decade for comparisons of Romney with recent wealthy candidates of the past decade.
Click on Tax rates of presidential candidates for effective income tax rates of the candidates.
[Added 2/16/12] Harry Truman was the last U.S. President who was not rich going into the White House, and who, after leaving office, refused trade on the fact of having been President to get corporate directorships, lucrative lecture fees or the like. Today this attitude seems quaint.
My attitude toward people of great wealth depends on how they obtained their wealth and what they choose to do with it. Ross Perot is an example of someone who got rich by founding a successful and useful business, then by virtue of his wealth was able to speak out on public issues without fear or favor. Click on George Romney and Mitt Romney for my thoughts on how Mitt Romney obtained his wealth.