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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Ideas

Why it matters that our politicians are rich

Science is finding that money actually changes how you think and act—and not for the better

As the presidential primary race has unfolded over the last few months, curious Americans have angled for a look at the candidates’ wallets—and observed that they are bulging. There’s Newt Gingrich, with his $7 million fortune and an up to $1 million revolving line of credit at Tiffany. The relentlessly anti-elitist Rick Santorum disclosed last week that he earns roughly $1 million a year. Mitt Romney built an immense $200 million fortune through his “corporate raider” work at Bain Capital; even Ron Paul, who claimed in one debate that he was embarrassed to show his tax forms because he made so much less money than his rivals, is worth as much as $5.2 million.

This striking wealth among politicians goes beyond the GOP. One of these four men will face off against the now wealthy Barack Obama, whose book royalties alone ran to $2.5 million in 2008. Beyond the Oval Office, there’s Congress, whose members have a median net worth of $913,000, compared with $100,000 for the rest of us, according to a recent New York Times report. (Massachusetts’ own John Kerry is one leader of the pack, with a fortune that in 2009 was estimated at $167 million.)

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