Trump Says “I Just Don’t Want A Poor Person” Running The Economy

by Kelly Tunney
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Despite a campaign promise that turned into a mantra to "drain the swamp" if elected, President Donald Trump filled his cabinet and surrounded himself with top aides who are largely businessmen, billionaires, and other people with little experience in their appointed positions. And during a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, he told voters why: Trump doesn't want poor people in his cabinet.

As part of an airing of grievances in Iowa, Trump told a story about how someone asked him why he has appointed billionaires Wilbur Ross and Gary Cohn to positions overseeing the economy — Secretary of Commerce and chief economic advisor, respectively. He told the crowd that he wants rich people in those positions because they don't need the money, and therefore their sole concern is with working for America. He said,

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. We can’t have the world taking advantage of us anymore. I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person, does that make sense? If you insist, I'll do it. But I like it better this way, right?

During the rally, Trump touted that Cohn "went from massive paydays to peanuts," though the White House has not disclosed salaries for the administration.

Trump's cabinet is one of the wealthiest in history. Quartz reported in December that at the time, his 17-member cabinet picks held more wealth than a third of American households. His cabinet is made up of people like Ross, of WL Ross &Co; Cohn, the former president and COO of Goldman Sachs; and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs executive. On the campaign trail, Trump routinely criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her Goldman Sachs speeches.

This isn't the first time Trump has asserted that not needing to be paid for a government job is a positive thing. Trump's own assets are worth about $1.4 billion, according to a recent financial disclosure. While on the campaign, he said he would refuse his presidential salary and donated the first quarter salary to the National Parks Service.