I’m venturing away from health policy for a moment and into the world of politics more generally, and with that I feel the need to make it clear that I am not endorsing any candidate through this post. Rather, I want to pose the question: How wealthy should America’s president be? The fact of the matter is that no one with truly modest finances has ever actually been elected president. That’s because getting elected requires education, intelligence, work and leadership experience, connections, and campaign finances. The positive association between these things and wealth is generally strong. So, a wealthy president is likely to excel in at least some of these other areas that we consider integral to effective executive leadership.
But presidents are also supposed to be accountable to the public. That’s why they are elected, not appointed. That’s why we have term limits, not dictatorships.Yet how accountable can someone be when they cannot even begin to relate to the average member of the populace? In other words, is there a point at which a candidate’s wealth stops being an indication of their fitness for the office and starts becoming an indication that they are out of touch with mainstream America? Again, all presidents are “different” from the majority of us, and in that sense, they are all at least a little bit out of touch. But might some be far more out of touch than others, and might wealth be a good way to tell them apart?
If so, Mitt Romney looks to be so out of touch with America that he ought to just pick up and move to the colony that Newt Gingrich wants us to build on the moon. According to a recent Associated Press article by Connie Cass, Mitt Romney’s wealth is approximately double that of Richard Nixon’s, Gerald Ford’s, Jimmy Carter’s, Ronald Reagan’s, George H.W. Bush’s, Bill Clinton’s, George W. Bush’s, and Barack Obama’s, combined. Considering for a moment that Obama alone is worth something like $5 million, that’s pretty astounding.
Indeed, Romney may be worth up to $250 million. There is discussion of the fact that even though he no longer works, he earns more in a day from capital gains (investment income) than most Americans make in a year. I’m afraid that he can no more identify with my financial situation–or that of tens of millions of Americans who have it far worse than me–than I or they can identify with his financial situation. Seriously. I can’t even begin to know what I would do if I made over $50,000 a day. I wouldn’t have to work, that’s for sure. Perhaps I’d run for president.