Donald Trump succeeded in the election partly because of his vow to “drain the swamp,” meaning he’d take money out of Washington, D.C. Yet his Cabinet appointees represent a historic level of wealth and a break from the populist rhetoric that appealed to millions of middle-class voters. With many positions yet to be filled, Mr. Trump’s appointees so far have a combined net worth of more than $14 billion, compared with the combined $250 million of wealth controlled by the members of former President George W. Bush’s first cabinet.
That raises questions about whether Mr. Trump’s administration will deliver on his promises to create positive changes for the average worker. Half of Americans have failed to share in the country’s economic gains since the 1970s, according to new research from economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. That means about 117 million American adults are living on income that’s stagnated at about $16,200 per year before taxes and transfer payments, such as Social Security.
Mr. Trump defended his choices at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. “A newspaper criticized me: ‘Why can’t they have people of modest means?’” he said to the crowd. “Because I want people that made a fortune! Because now they are negotiating with you, OK?… It’s no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.”
Several of his appointees inherited or married into their wealth, such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who married into the $5.1 billion Amway fortune, and Deputy Commerce Secretary Todd Ricketts, whose $5.3 billion fortune is due to his father’s business, Ameritrade.
Ricketts is a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and the CEO of Ending Spending, an organization that is “dedicated to educating and engaging American taxpayers about wasteful and excessive government spending,” according to its website.
Mr. Trump has also picked three generals for his administration, including retired Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary. President Obama has also relied on retired generals to fill key roles, as did former President George W. Bush.