Richest Cabinet in History Would Gain from Bush
by Julian Borger in Washington
Published on Tuesday, February 27, 2001 in the
Guardian of London
The Bush administration's generous tax-cut plans were put
into perspective yesterday when it was reported that the new treasury
secretary, Paul O'Neill, earned more than $56m last year as chairman
of Alcoa Inc, the giant aluminium corporation.
Mr O'Neill, much of whose income came from exercising share
options, should feel at home in the Bush cabinet, which is by
far the wealthiest in US history.
The cabinet is a veritable tycoons' club with seven of its
members owning assets worth more than $10m (£6.8m). Eleven
of the remaining 12 are millionaires. The pauper in their ranks
is the agriculture secretary, Ann Veneman, whose property's minimum
value is only $680,000, but then again under favourable conditions,
her net worth could be as much as $2m.
The president has assets valued at $11m-$21m, including a
sizeable Texas ranch. Much of that money was made while he was
a manager and shareowner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, which
benefited greatly from state funding of its stadium.
Twelve of the US cabinet would qualify as millionaires in
pounds sterling. Among their British counterparts only the Lord
Chancellor, Derry Irvine, could hold his own in such monied company.
The figures, which were revealed in financial disclosure forms
submitted to the US Office of Government Ethics, are especially
striking in view of the new administration's $1,600bn tax-cut
proposal, which Mr Bush has set out to sell to a generally sceptical
As part of that sales pitch, Mr Bush introduced an "ordinary"
couple, Paul and Debbie Peterson, who he said would stand to gain
$1,100 a year from the plan to cut taxes. However, the president
did not mention that, on the basis of its latest tax returns,
the Bush family would benefit by up to 60 times that amount, according
to a calculation published in the Wall Street Journal.
Under the plan, tax rates on top earners would drop from 39.6%
to 33%, while the lowest rate would be brought down from 15% to
However, many low-earning families would hardly benefit at
all, because they already benefit from Clinton-era tax credits
designed to help the country's working poor.
The US Census Bureau estimates that 3.7m US households suffer
from hunger as a result of being unable to afford to buy basic
food items. Many more, about 9m households, have "uncertain
access to food".
The agriculture department reported last year that up to 12m
people, including a million children, are eligible for food stamps
but are not receiving them because of red tape, lack of information
or family pride.
Meanwhile, families at the Bush-O'Neill end of the scale will
not only benefit from income tax cuts if the Bush plan gets through
congress unaltered. The proposals include the elimination of inheritance
tax, which affects only the wealthiest 2% of the population with
more than $1.35m to leave their children. The Republicans have
dubbed it the "death tax".
The Wall Street Journal calculated that all but three of the
Bush cabinet were rich enough to benefit from the abolition of
Richest six in cabinet of tycoons
George Bush, president: $11m-$21.6m
Dick Cheney, vice-president: $19.3m-$81.7m
Paul O'Neill, treasury: $62.8m-$103.3m
Donald Rumsfeld, defence: $61m-$242.5m
Colin Powell, secretary of state: $19.5m-$68.9m
Mitchell Daniels, budget: $18.1m-$75.3m
Source: Office of Government Ethics financial disclosure forms.