With a win in Illinois, Mitt Romney
continues to build on his delegate lead, and thus, on his air of inevitability,
in the race for the GOP nomination for president. Also, as the weather gets
warmer and the political season gets hotter, the Occupy Wall Street (or Main
Street, or McDonalds, or your favorite park) crowd will again break out their
tents and sleeping bags and get back to camping, chanting, defecating,
fornicating, robbing, and raping—along with providing talking points—like “one-percenter”—to the democrats.
Of course, for months now
liberals have painted Romney as a super wealthy Wall Street elitist—a “one-percenter” in the words of the Occupiers. With an estimated
net worth of between $150 and $200 million, Romney is certainly in the top
one percent of the wealthiest Americans. As Thomas Sowell recently
noted, “Can a man who has been defensive about his own wealth fight off the
standard class warfare of Barack Obama, who can push all the demagogic buttons
against Mitt Romney as one of the one-percenters?” The
answer is a resounding “yes!”
First of all, Romney should
point out that he is in pretty good company. According to 24/7
Wall Street, many U.S.
Presidents were among the wealthiest (using 2011 dollars) Americans of their
time. In fact, according to 24/7’s figures, Romney would be far from the
richest president in U.S.
That honor would go to our
first President, George Washington. With his vast amount of land (approximately
60,000 acres), his wife’s inheritance, and given that his presidential salary
was two percent of the total U.S. federal budget in 1789, 24/7 Wall Street
estimates that Washington was an elite “one-percenter”
with a net-worth of about $525 million.
Thomas Jefferson was also a
“one-percenter.” With his architecturally extravagant
home, Monticello, containing 11,000 square feet of living space and perched on
a 5,000 acre estate, Jefferson had an estimated worth of $212 million.
James Madison and Andrew
Jackson were both worth north of $100 million, while John Adams, James Monroe,
and John Quincy Adams were all worth over $20 million.
Teddy Roosevelt was born
into significant wealth and was the beneficiary of a large trust fund, which,
of course would make him one of the most reviled of the “one-percenters.” His net worth was estimated to be $125
million. This means that if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t been such a slacker (worth less
than $1 million), Mount Rushmore could have been named “OnePercentPeak.”
Teddy’s fifth cousin and
later U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt, was also born into privilege that
qualified him as a “one-percenter.” As a youth, he
made frequent trips to Europe, attended an
elite boarding school, and later went to Harvard. The architect of the New Deal
was also the beneficiary of a large inheritance. He had an estimated wealth of
However, each of these
pales in comparison to the Kennedy family fortune. Preceding his father Joe
Kennedy in death, John F. Kennedy was unable to inherit his father’s vast
wealth. And vast it was. Through stock, industrial, commodity, and real estate
investing, along with what some have deemed to be illicit means, Joe Kennedy accumulated
a truly enormous amount of wealth. In 1957, when Forbes magazine published its
first list of the richest Americans, Kennedy’s fortune was estimated to be
between $200 and $400 million ($1.6 to $3.5 billion in today’s dollars). This
placed him in Forbes’ top 20.
If alive today, perhaps President
Kennedy, when addressing the Occupiers (if he were allowed to speak) would
utter something like, “Ask not what your country can do for you, just ask a ‘one-percenter’ like
The fact is that, whether
or not they were “one-percenters,” all U.S. presidents,
including liberal favorites like FDR and JFK, were very accomplished men. (Though
Obama is BY FAR the least accomplished.) It would be nearly impossible to
become President of the U.S.
and not be a significantly gifted individual. Generally, leaders—whether
political, business, spiritual, military, athletic, and so on—are by definition
very gifted. In our capitalistic culture (what’s left of it), this generally
leads to some, if not significant, financial success.
Despite the rantings of the Occupiers, financial success in and of itself
is nothing to be condemned. In fact, the greatest social activist of all time,
Jesus Christ, never condemned wealth or the wealthy. His message on wealth was not
to let it get in the way of following Him. Also, when it comes to money, Christ
taught us to be personally generous with however much we have.
In light of this, when
examining a candidate’s personal finances, instead of focusing on his bottom
line, a better indicator of whether he is fit to lead would be his personal generosity.
If a candidate claims to care for the poor and less fortunate, did he put his
own money where his mouth is, or as is too often the case, is he more focused
on giving away other people’s money?
Trevor Grant Thomas
Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.