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First, a blog post comparing Canadian and US democracy. I think he makes good points; while I hate plurality voting, given it, I think US primaries are a saving grace, while non-US political parties are closed in a way that makes sense at first ("private voluntary grouping, right of association...") but is creepy in practice ("...that gateway all access to political power.") We don't let right of free association trump anti-discrimination laws, and there's a lot more potential employers than viable parties...

Also makes me wonder if the alleged low role of money in foreign elections, due to campaign limitations and public funding, is offset by not *needing* money to influence policies when you're all buddy-buddy with the elected politicians already.


So, lots of our recent presidents have been rich when they ran for President; I think Obama was a multi-millionaire based on... his book sales? But how about being born rich? Somewhere out there might be a webpage of presidential family wealth, but I just plowed through Wikipedia biographies.

Obama -- grad student parents, father on scholarship, Obama took a scholarship to go to prep school. Mother's mother ended up as VP for a bank, so not totally foreign to money, but I'm not sensing great wealth. Transferred from Occidental to Columbia, an Ivy League school.

Bush -- very rich. Went to public schools(!) then prep schools and Yale.

Clinton -- parents were a travelling salesman and a nursing student, mother's parents ran a grocery store. She later married an auto dealer; Bill went to Catholic then public (US) school, Georgetown on scholarship.

Bush I -- very rich. Private school, Navy, Yale.

Reagan -- born in an apartment to a salesman. Went to public school and a Christian liberal arts college.

Carter -- father was a businessman/farmer. Jimmy didn't inherit much. "For a year, due to a limited real estate market, the Carters lived in public housing; Carter is the only U.S. president to have lived in housing subsidized for the poor.[21]" Went to state universities and the Naval Academy.

Ford -- father was a wool trader, son of a prominent banker. But also abusive, so mother left him after 16 days, marrying a paint salesman. Seems to have gone to public school and state university.

Nixon -- early life "marked by hardship". Father was a businessman with a career spanning from working as a farmhand, failing as a rancher, opening a grocery store and gas station. So not utterly impoverished, but not doing great. Dick went to public schools, was offerred a grant for Harvard but went to liberal arts due to family illness; got a full scholarship to Duke Law.

LBJ -- father seemed fairly successful at business, buying lots of real estate and a newspaper, until LBJ was 9, but someone who read a real biography says he crashed after that. Father was also a state legislator. LBJ went to public school and state university, the latter being "Southwest Texas State Teacher's College"; he paused to teach Mexican-American kids to save more money to finish his education, which to me suggests (a) cheap college that (b) he still couldn't afford out of family funds. My source adds "His early jobs included working on a road crew and teaching English at a Hispanic-majority school in the Rio Grande valley." Later that in 1920 his father bought a cotton farm for more than he could afford, right before the price of cotton fell 80%. Never recovered from that.

JFK -- very rich, prep school, Harvard

Eisenhower -- father was an engineer, failed storeowner, and mechanic. Public school, was too poor to go to college, joined the Army and West Point.

Truman -- father was a farmer and livestock dealer, grandparents had 600 acres of farm. After high school, "Truman worked as a timekeeper on the Santa Fe Railroad, sleeping in hobo camps near the rail lines.[12] He worked at a series of clerical jobs, and was employed briefly in the mailroom of the Kansas City Star." No college.

So of the past 12 presidents, 3 were undeniably rich. The rest tend to small businessman at best, or arguably middle or even working class. Of the last 5, back to 1980, Reagan and Clinton are from meh or even poor backgrounds, and Obama's just complicated but not obviously rich; academic parents and maybe some grandparental money.

Not a lot of rising from the outright ghetto or white equivalent, but not a lot of inheriting millions either. More than happens in the population at large, this isn't a *representative* sample, but it's not even majority dominated by inherited wealth, either.

If we counted *cultural* capital many of these might look better off; even a failed businessman is likely to have some education, connections, and knowledge of how to even try to start a business, compared to a really poor urban worker or rural sharecropper. But even so, decent public schools (Clinton went to public *magnet* IIRC), state colleges or scholarships show up a lot.

4 of the 12 went to Ivy Leagues. Clinton went to Georgetown, which is maybe almost Ivy, and then went to Yale Law. Counting that, all of the last 4 have gone to Ivy for part of their education, plus JFK. Eisenhower and Carter went to West Point or Annapolis; connected, but free out of pocket. Five went to less connected schools for undergrad, though only Reagan of the last 5. Clinton also studied at *Oxford*, on a Rhodes Scholarship.

So education is getting more elite; we still see scholarships funding Clinton's education (along with public schools) and part of Obama's.

Of the 3 rich presidents, 2 were the last two Bushes. Hard to say if that's a worrying trend or just a fluke of that family. Well, I guess it's a worrying trend; hard to say if it's an *inevitable* trend.

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Damien Sullivan

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