The other day on a Dutch blog I saw an offhand statement about the Republican candidates being a bunch of plutocrats. It made me curious about who the rich presidents - and presidential candidates - really were. An annual income of about $380,000 puts you in the 1% nationally. In Washington, where most of these guys live, it's more: about $520,000 per year, says the New York Times.
Of course it's dangerous to conflate net worth and income. But the net worth data is easier to get. A site called 24/7 Wall Street has gathered the data and adjusted every president's net worth to its equivalent in 2010 dollars. (Because a number of early presidents made and lost fortunes, net worth is measured at its peak.) And a few Google searches yield the same information for recent presidential candidates like McCain, Kerry and Gore.
The result? Look at all the blue in the chart. Leaving aside the Virginia land barons like Washington and Jefferson, the Democrats have an edge in raw wealth. The richest Republican aside from Romney was Teddy Roosevelt, who wasn't exactly a Tea Partier. Back then, the Democrats were corrupt and the Republicans were the reformers. The next richest Republican? Herbert Hoover, with about $70 million.
The 15 presidents not on the chart had a net worth of close to zero. Lincoln, Grant, Coolidge, Truman, Taft - all frugal civil servants.
In general, though, forget about the parties. The presidency is a rich man's game - no matter what party you're from.