Would Donald Trump Be the Richest President Ever?
I wouldn't bet on a Donald Trump presidency. Still, it's interesting to see where Trump's wealth would stack up compared to the wealth of historical Presidents. As the election season revs us, there's a lot of yammering about money in politics. People are concerned about the price candidates are paid for speeches, the vast contributions made by corporations, and the net worth of some of our more colorful candidates.
Yes, Donald Trump is certainly high on the hog, compared to the rest of the candidates in the race for the Republican nomination. Experts peg Trump's net worth $4 billion, but "The Donald" himself claims it's more than $10 billion. Whichever the case, the only historical candidate who can claim this level of fortune is Ross Perot, who ran in 1992 and 1996.
Whatever Trump is worth, the rest of the candidates simply aren't in his league. The second wealthiest candidate is Carly Fiorina, with a net worth of about $80 million. Hillary Clinton is a distant third, at about $15 million. At the low end of the scale, we have Democrat Bernie Sanders, with a mere $500,000.
The media tends to attach moral value to wealth and poverty. Depending on who you talk to, Trump is an embodiment of the American Dream or a bloviating oligarch. Whatever the reality, a President Donald Trump (startling as the thought may be) would be the wealthiest president in U.S. history. But he wouldn't be the wealthiest by the margin you might be imagining. Certain heads of state, recent and from long ago, have trailed not so far behind Trump in terms of personal wealth.
Early U.S. Presidents
Our earliest presidents were usually men of property. In fact, it wasn't until 1853, when Franklin Pierce took office, that the United States had a head of state who wouldn't at least be a millionaire today. Leaders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned sprawling estates, had slaves and purchased vast acreage to farm and develop as they pleased. Adjusted for inflation, Washington's wealth and assets would total more than half a billion dollars today, making him our second wealthiest president. Behind him are Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson, each worth $212 million, $125 million and $119 million, respectively.
Most of the presidents who served from the 1860s to the late 1920s were among the nation's poorest. Lincoln would have been middle class today, as would have Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant and Calvin Coolidge. So who was the poorest president of all time? It's not truly known, but Harry Truman probably finds the bottom of our list.
Who Was the Wealthiest?
Without question, John F. Kennedy was the wealthiest U.S. president ever to serve, with a net worth of up to $1 billion. By some figures, George Washington may have had more in terms of property. But no other president could touch JFK's monetary wealth, though, Trump, were he elected, would top them both.
It's also interesting to note that Trump, should he be nominated and win, would also be the first U.S. president to hold office having never been a lawyer, elected official or member of the military.
People at all sides of the political spectrum are scoffing at Trump's chances at even receiving the Republican nomination. But don't overlook the influence that dollars like his can have in a race like this. It's not inconceivable that the list of wealthiest presidents may one day have a new No. 1.