Robert Trigaux column: Look close at rich and really rich who want to be president
Every one of the leading contenders in the Republican presidential primary is a millionaire. That level of wealth seems standard these days for anyone seeking the nation's highest public office.
But Mitt Romney's personal net worth, valued at close to a quarter-billion dollars, makes his wealthy Republican competitors, as well as President Barack Obama, look like paupers.
To help capture the magnitude of this difference, consider this. For every $100 personally owned by Romney, President Obama has $4.20, Newt Gingrich has $2.70 and Ron Paul has $2. And Rick Santorum, closely trailing a victorious Romney in last week's Iowa caucus, has but a single buck.
Romney's estimated $250 million makes him the third-richest candidate to run for the White House in the past 20 years. Only third-party candidate Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire who made his money building a technology business, and Steve Forbes, who inherited much of his wealth from father Malcolm Forbes and Forbes magazine, were richer candidates. Neither Perot nor Forbes, of course, won their elections despite such deep pockets.
Why should we care in the 2012 presidential race? Because we are watching the start of a campaign cycle populated by rich and, in Romney's case, extremely rich candidates at the same time that the United States is embroiled in a growing public debate about income inequality. U.S. wealth has become so skewed in this country that the wealthiest 25 percent of American households control nearly 90 percent of the nation's assets.