Joe Biden: Personal Wealth

Joe Biden

Second only to democrats coming out in support of gay marriage, all the rage in Washington is for officials to take a pay cut in support of government officials who may face a furlough.

Obama and several other cabinet members rushed this week to day they would turn back some of their salary to the U.S. Treasury as a gesture of solidarity with federal workers facing furloughs. So far, Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have all said publicly that they would be giving back portions of their $200,000 salaries.

A nice gesture, I have to admit.  Something that I think helps in regards to the optics of the whole situation.  However, Joe Biden isn’t all in, yet:

Others, like Biden, have said they will return a portion commiserate with the number of days their department’s employees are furloughed.

But Biden’s decision not to follow Obama’s lead and return a flat portion of his salary — and the possibility that nobody on the vice president’s staff will be furloughed — has already prompted speculation in the media that Biden was looking to sidestep the pay cut.

I think that there are two reasons for Biden holding onto his money – actually three:

  1. He’s a democrat.  And democrats don’t like to part with their money for charitable reasons.
  2. He rightly thinks that he’s earned the money and has a right to keep it.
  3. He doesn’t have a lot of money and so a $11k cut would hurt.

Actually, I suspect all three reasons contribute to Biden’s reluctance to subject himself to a voluntary tax, but The Hill takes the high road and points out that Joe isn’t independently wealthy:

Unlike some members of the Obama Cabinet, he is not independently wealthy.

Obama’s net worth is estimated at between $3 million and $8 million and Secretary of State John Kerry’s wealth is in the range of $200 million according to The Hill’s “50 wealthiest lawmakers: list.

Biden’s net worth in comparison, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is around $230,000, an amount roughly equivalent to his annual salary.

When I first read that this afternoon I kinda nodded and was like, “yeah, that makes sense.  He should be expected to give up 5% of his net wealth in a show of support.”  However, it then hit me, how does a senator who makes north of $150,000 a year, and now a Vice President who makes north of $220,000 have a net worth of only $230,000?

How is that possible?

If this is true, it means that the Vice-President of The United States of America is almost living hand to mouth.

Fascinating.

10 responses to “Joe Biden: Personal Wealth

  1. Maybe he gives a lot to charity? I don’t know if Democrats are like Ayn Rand devotees in terms of not wanting to give the charity. From my experience both Democrats and Republicans give to charity.

    • Maybe he gives a lot to charity?

      Nope:

      Biden and his wife, Jill, gave 1.5 percent of their income away in 2011, with charitable donations totaling $5,540 out of $379,035.

      Republicans have mocked Obama and especially Biden for being unusually tight-fisted when it comes to making charitable gifts.

      When the Obama campaign released past tax returns for Biden in 2008, it was revealed that the Bidens donated just $3,690 to charity over 10 years — an average of $369 a year.

      http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0912/81529.html

      From my experience both Democrats and Republicans give to charity.

      Again, not correct:

      Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

      Other research has reached similar conclusions. The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.

      The upshot is that Democrats, who speak passionately about the hungry and homeless, personally fork over less money to charity than Republicans — the ones who try to cut health insurance for children.

      “When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html?_r=0

  2. Biden has always been known to be the least wealthy member of the Senate. He’s never lived in D.C. (till being veep) and commuted daily by train to his house in Delaware. All his financial records from 1995 forward are here:
    http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/candlook.php?CID=N00001669

    He really is the guy he always says he is: “Joey from Philly”. After this job though, I think we can expect to see his financial fortunes improve considerably.

    • He really is the guy he always says he is: “Joey from Philly”.

      My larger point is this:

      Why should I take any sort of fiscal advice from a man who makes better than 200k and yet has no substantial net worth?

      • You’ve got Joey giving you personal financial advice? Really? Wowza pino.

        A distinction can be drawn between accumulating personal wealth and taking smart fiscal policy positions. These are not contradictory. They can coexist.

        Very very rich people also give very very poor financial advice. See Cramer, Jim.

  3. Are all assets counted in the $230,000, such as farmland, and houses? Communting in everyday is not cheap. Major medical bills, a divorce? I don’t think the last two apply. Relatives hitting him up for money?

    I don’t know.

    • The thing is, bruce, does it matter? Honest man, lives within his means in same house for decades . . . makes it all the way to Veep . . . pretty good record by any standard.

  4. You’ve got Joey giving you personal financial advice? Really? Wowza pino.

    Heh heh. You know I mean advice regarding taxation, budgets and such.

    A distinction can be drawn between accumulating personal wealth and taking smart fiscal policy positions. These are not contradictory. They can coexist.

    Very very rich people also give very very poor financial advice.

    Fair enough. The opposite is true, after all. See Warren Buffet.

    Are all assets counted in the $230,000, such as farmland, and houses?

    Total personal wealth.

    I mean, how does he now have that amount in home equity?

    No stocks?

    No 401ks?

    IRAs?

  5. As much as I dislike Vice President Biden, his relative poverty indicates personal honesty. If you look at how many politicians became richer during their public service, it is implausible to believe that some of them did not misuse their public trust.

    • If you look at how many politicians became richer during their public service, it is implausible to believe that some of them did not misuse their public trust.

      Yes. To the extent that he isn’t worth millions, I agree,

      But 230 large? Bullshit.

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