Thursday, August 11, 2016

Would Bernie Sanders have been the first President who wasn't a Millionaire?

The same could be said of Marco Rubio. But anyway, is it true? Make your guess...

Clinton's financial situation was that they were worth between $350,000 and $1 million, around the time of the 1992 election, as that was what they reported in their filing to the Federal Election Commission. So if one wanted a simple answer, it would be: "somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million."
Which is the first lead, the Federal Election Commission. But this site explains how difficult it is to interpret presidential financial disclosures. Still, it seems very likely that the Clinton's weren't millionaire's, since Bill's income was trivial as a governor, and Hillary Clinton continued to practice law with the Rose Law Firm for easily 100s of thousands, but millions?

So what about other presidents, were they millionaires? Unless you're a CEO, your finances are pretty much your business so its hard to know. But a guy on reddit makes some good points from which we can make some plausible inferences:
  • Eisenhower was a career military man from a comfortable and modest family.
  • Nixon might have been close but I son't think so. He was an enlisted man in the Navy before he started in politics.
  • LBJ came from a dirt poor area in Texas, although his personal enrichment was legendary.
  • Jimmy Carter was famously a peanut farmer before turning to politics. A gentleman farmer at best meant he was land rich and cash poor.
  • Reagan had means from his time in Hollywood but was hardly rich.
  • Bush was the wealthy and the wealthiest President since FDR.
  • Clinton was not rich. He made less than $30k/yr as governor of Arkansas, although hillary famously "had" (her quote) to work and had an eye for cattle futures.
  • Bush II had money from the fam as well as his own dealings.
  • Obama might have just got there because of his book and speaking fees before he ran for the Senate but he was hardly rolling in it.
It also occurs to me that many former presidents were former governors / politicians, and we know how much they make (high 10s of thousands for governors / low 100s of thousands for senators. They may or may not have been millionaires based on how or whether they invested that income, or who they were married to (in Bill Clinton's case), but based on that it seems hardly plausible that not a single president in recent history wasn't a millionaire.

If you're a Bernie disciple, you probably never tried to look up whether the meme was true before sharing it. And if you did, you looked at how much money former presidents had well after becoming president, which is not comparable to Bernie as he was running for president.