Former Gov. Mitt Romney is worth up to $255 million according to the federal financial disclosure report he filed last Friday. This makes him one of the wealthiest presidential candidates ever, with significantly more wealth than President Barack Obama.
Romney's lucrative career as a businessman is central to his platform: He will run the country like he would run a business, and this will encourage economic growth and create jobs. Romney's record, particularly at Bain Capital, has become a major target for the Obama campaign. The president has attacked Romney for being out of touch with everyday Americans and working to create wealth for Bain investors rather than jobs for citizens.
Peter Allan examines the business records of American presidents since 1900 to see if those with business experience were indeed more successful in office, as Romney claims he would be:
If Romney is correct, presidents with significant business experience should outperform those without—and this fact should be reflected in the presidential rankings that have been compiled by a bipartisan group of historians since 1948. If Romney is wrong, if business leaders perform as well or less well than the average, then business success is at best immaterial and may actually be detrimental to presidential leadership. In that case a core tenet of Romney's presidential candidacy evaporates.
Allan found that the three worst presidents of the modern era (Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, and George W. Bush) all made millions of dollars in business before entering politics, thus calling the "Romney Rationale" into question.
Kenneth Walsh, however, argues that some of America's most respected presidents had great personal wealth:
The Founding Fathers were in many cases American aristocrats, men of property who didn't live like everyday folks. This included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Virginia planters who had immense land holdings. Each owned slaves who worked at their plantations and at the president's house. Each became popular in his own era and a revered figure in American history.
The list of America's richest presidents also includes other iconic figures including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. All of them had privileged lives far removed from the experiences of everyday people.
The revelation on the disclosure form (which all candidates for federal office are required to file) that Romney has between $83 million and $255 million in assets (much of which is managed in a blind trust, meaning he has no direct control over the investments) is unlikely to reassure voters that he can relate to the middle class. Yet the struggling economy casts doubts on Obama's ability to create jobs and promote growth.
What do you think? Does it matter that Romney would be one of the richest presidents ever? Click here to take the poll and comment below.