President Donald Trump, addressing criticism that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others in his Cabinet are too rich, said at an Iowa rally Wednesday that he doesn’t want poor people in charge of the economy.
“These are people that are great, brilliant business minds, and that’s what we need, that’s what we have to have so the world doesn’t take advantages of us,” Trump, told a crowd of about 6,000 in Cedar Rapids. “We can’t have the world taking advantage of us anymore. And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense?
“If you insist, I’ll do it, but I like it better this way.”
Ross, a billionaire investor who divested much of his portfolio before taking up his position, is just one of the many billionaires or multimillionaires that make up the majority of the president’s Cabinet. As a whole, the group is thought to be the wealthiest in American history, and Trump himself has at least $1.4 billion in assets, according to a financial disclosure form released this month.
The sheer wealth in the Trump administration has been the subject of frequent news coverage, and many of his appointees faced significant opposition from lawmakers who dubbed the group a “cabinet of billionaires.”
Trump, during his rally, cast off such criticism, saying the appointment of such people as Gary Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, would help the country better represent itself on the international stage. He noted many in his Cabinet “had to give up a lot to take these jobs.”
“This is the president of Goldman Sachs. Smart. Having him represent us, he went from massive paydays to peanuts, to little tiny ...” Trump said. “I’m waiting for them to accuse him of wanting that little amount of money.”
It’s unclear how much Cohn makes as the chief economic adviser to the president (the White House has yet to update its database of administration salaries), and it’s sure to be less than the $285 million departure package he received when he left Goldman Sachs. But the top annual salary for Cabinet officials last year was $176,461, more than three times the average U.S. household income in 2015.