WASHINGTON: Just how rich is Mitt Romney? Add up the wealth of the last eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. Then double that number. Now you’re in Romney territory.
He would be among the richest presidents in American history if elected — probably in the top four.
He couldn’t top George Washington who, with nearly 60,000 acres and more than 300 slaves, is considered the big daddy of presidential wealth. After that, it gets complicated, depending how you rate Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, Herbert Hoover’s millions from mining or John F. Kennedy’s share of the vast family fortune, as well as the finer points of factors like inflation adjustment.
But it’s safe to say the Roosevelts had nothing on Romney, and the Bushes are nowhere close.
The former Massachusetts governor has disclosed only the broad outlines of his wealth, putting it somewhere from $190 million to $250 million. That easily could make him 50 times richer than Obama, who falls in the still-impressive-to-most-of-us range of $2.2 million to $7.5 million.
“I think it’s almost hard to conceptualize what $250 million means,” said Shamus Khan, a Columbia University sociologist who studies the wealthy. “People say Romney made $50,000 a day while not working last year. What do you do with all that money? I can’t even imagine spending it. Well, maybe ...”
An unbelievable boatload of bucks is just one way to think of Romney’s net worth. Put alongside America’s 400 or so billionaires, Romney wouldn’t make a ripple.
Only a few members of Congress are in the Romney realm, including Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. Kerry’s ranking would climb much higher if the fortune of his wife, ketchup fortune heir Teresa Heinz, were counted.
Further up the ladder, top hedge fund managers can pocket $1 billion or more in a single year.
At the top of the wealth pile sits Bill Gates, worth $59 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s estimates.
America’s super rich generally don’t jockey to live in the White House. A few have toyed with the idea, most notably New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom Forbes ranks as the 12th richest American, worth $19.5 billion. A lesser billionaire, Ross Perot, bankrolled his own third-party campaigns in 1992 and 1996.
Many presidents weren’t particularly well-off, especially 19th century leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan and Ulysses S. Grant. Nor was the 33rd president, Harry Truman.
How does Romney stand next to a regular Joe? He’s roughly 1,800 times richer.
The typical U.S. household was worth $120,300 in 2007, according to the Census Bureau’s most recent data, although that number is sure to have dropped since the recession. A typical family’s income is $50,000.