The value of Trump’s cabinet highlights his obsession with wealth
In July of last year, a $40m yacht was released from its moorings on Lake Erie. At 50 metres in length, it more than satisfied the 24-metre requirement to be classed as a “superyacht”. Unmanned, the enormous vessel caused thousands of dollars of damage.
However, it didn’t belong to a wealthy businessman or venture capitalist. ‘SeaQuest’ is in fact owned by US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos - whose family own at least 10 yachts and who, herself, is worth an estimated $1.1bn.
With no background in teaching, DeVos’ appointment seemed unusual and was widely criticised by teachers unions. Furthermore, she married into the vast majority of her fortune. Her husband, Dick DeVos, is the former CEO of marketing goliath Amway and the family are worth around $5.4 billion. However, DeVos was just one of many new cabinet members whose money seems to have done the talking.
Trump is known for having an unusual approach to politics. He likened his cabinet to top athletes. "I want people that made a fortune because now they're negotiating with you," he said in December 2016. "It's not different than a great baseball player or a great golfer."
His decision to hire the best and brightest from the world of business, rather than politics, was written in the stars. “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich,” he once stated. He even claimed to have a $9bn fortune despite this being double Forbes’ estimate.
With minds from business, politics, education and even the arts, Obama’s initial cabinet was an assembly of thinkers. It is thought to have been worth around $67m which, even adjusting for inflation, is a far cry from the value of Trump’s.
Having made his money in steel, coal, automotive and textile investments, current Secretary for Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr is worth around $505m. With experience working for Rothschild Investments, representing investors in Trump’s casinos and starting his own business, Ross is in good company in the White House.
Worth over $200m, Steven Mnuchin is Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury. A hedge fund manager with the best part of two decades’ experience at Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin is known for seeing opportunity when others see disaster. He bought failed residential lender IndyMac during the financial crisis of 2007 - 2008 before rebranding it to OneWest Bank, rebuilding it and selling it to CIT Group in 2015.
Trump’s cabinet is replete with multimillionaires. His initial cabinet also featured Sonny Perdue ($32.1m), Elaine Chao ($29.9m), David Shulkin ($17.1m), Ben Carson ($15.8m), James Mattis ($7m) Jeff Sessions ($6.3m) and Ryan Zinke ($2.3m).
An easy criticism is that Trump has appointed individuals from the gilded world of business lunches and charity galas - that his secretaries would be more at home on one of his golf courses than they are in the White House. “The Trump cabinet is mostly a collection of incompetent doofuses,” remarked Democratic National Committee chairman and former Vermont governor Howard Dean.
“Wilbur Ross has advocated a mindnumbingly foolish protectionist policy that has been roundly criticised by most every reputable economist, business leaders and even GOP members of Congress,” writes Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post. “And he has had his own conflict-of-interest scandal.”
“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has become a poster boy, along with his wife, for clueless excess,” she adds. “His willingness to spin for the president’s tax plan at the expense of his department’s credibility undercuts his effectiveness on the Hill and has drawn searing criticism from economists.”
With a whole host of super-wealthy secretaries, Trump’s initial cabinet was worth $2.3bn. However, it’s worth noting that Obama’s second term cabinet was more affluent than his first. This was thanks to the addition of Secretary of State John Kerry (worth $150m) and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, worth a whopping $2.2bn.
With so many hirings and firings, the value of Trump's current cabinet will likely change. However, it is obvious that he places a great deal of importance on individuals' monetary worth. Clearly, money talks.
The collective value of given cabinets does not include vice presidents. Values were calculated by Politico