Just how rich are these candidates?

Sen. John McCain, left, and Barack Obama

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: John McCain and Barack Obama have spend the better part of the past couple of days beating each other up for being out of touch with the average American. It's a discussion centered on the real estate market. We all know housing's in serious trouble, but both men seem to be doing just fine for themselves there. McCains got more houses than he can remember. Obama's is worth a $1.5 million. But if you really want out of touch, Marketplace's Steve Henn has the story for you.


Steve Henn: No matter how many houses McCain or Obama own, they're both in the top 1 percent of American income earners. That means they're rich, right?

Well, rich is relative. Robert Frank is the author of "Richistan" and blogs on wealth for the Wall Street Journal. Frank divides the wealthy into upper Richistan, which includes the McCains and anyone worth more than $100 million. Middle Richistan starts at about $10 million. And then come the merely affluent.

Robert Frank: Which in the world of Richistan is the worst kind of pejorative insult you could ever call anybody.

The Obamas recently became affluent.

Frank: Yes, yes, but they are not McCain's.

The Obamas earn a few million dollars a year, mostly in book royalties, and recently bought a stately Chicago home. But even McCain, with more houses than he can count, may feel pressure to keep up with the Jones'. Mario Correa hosts a TV pilot, "PowerHouse." Think "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" set in Washington. It features homes like Surrey Hill owned by Republican lobbyists Ed and Edwina Rogers.

Mario Correa: It has an elevator. It has eight refrigerators. It has so many rooms that she doesn't remember how many rooms she has in it. And it has a gift-wrapping room where she likes to gift wrap gifts in money.

That's right, money. Edwina Rogers, a former advisor to the president, buys sheets of cash from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, cuts them up and uses them for wrapping paper.

Edwina Rogers: Isn't it exciting? I love giving gifts wrapped in U.S. dollars.

If the McCains peers are wrapping up presents in sheets of cash, it might make them feel, really -- well, just middle class.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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