Speed Reads

Trump Transition

Donald Trump's unfinished Cabinet is already the wealthiest in modern history

"Blue-collar billionaire" Donald Trump may tap multimillionaire Mitt Romney for secretary of state, but Romney — whose net worth is about $250 million — would be somewhere in the middle of Trump's Cabinet picks, wealth-wise.

Wilbur Ross, Trump's commerce secretary nominee, is worth at least $2.5 billion, according to Forbes, and Ross' nominated deputy, Todd Ricketts, is scion of the billionaire family that owns the Chicago Cubs. Betsy DeVos, whose father-in-law co-founded Amway, belongs to a family worth $5.1 billion. Treasury secretary nominee Stephen Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood financier, is worth more than $40 million; Trump's pick for transportation secretary, shipping heiress Elaine Chao, is worth some $37 million with her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump's would-be HHS secretary, is worth $13.6 million.

Most of those millionaires and billionaires earned their money the old fashioned way — inheritance — then built their familial windfall into a bigger fortune. "Many of the Trump appointees were born wealthy, attended elite schools, and went on to amass even larger fortunes as adults," note Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson at The Washington Post. "As a group, they have much more experience funding political candidates than they do running government agencies."

Cabinet officials are frequently wealthy — George W. Bush's first Cabinet had a combined, inflation-adjusted net worth of about $250 million, and President Obama's commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, is worth an estimated $2.5 billion — but Trump's Cabinet is already the wealthiest in modern American history. And he still has some nominees left — Oklahoma oil magnate Harold Hamm (net worth: $16.7 billion) is rumored to be on the short list for energy secretary. Politico estimates that the Trump Cabinet and administration could be worth up to $35 billion.

America's median income is $55,000. "This isn't a criticism or a conspiracy... but it's important to recognize that everyone's perspective and policy and government is shaped by the kind of life you've lived," Nicholas Carnes, a political scientist at Duke University, tells The Washington Post. "The research really says that when you put a bunch of millionaires in charge, you can expect public policy that helps millionaires at the expense of everybody else." So far, the wealthiest Cabinet official in American history has probably been Andrew Mellon, a three-president treasury secretary whose prescription of tax cuts for the wealthy helped fuel the Roaring '20s, and likely the Great Depression that followed.