A fter triumphing in a bitterly contested presidential election, all eyes are on President-Elect Joe Biden and who he will choose to run his new administration. For much of October, media spent their time dissecting the news that, despite living a lavish billionaire lifestyle, Donald Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. In contrast, little was made of Biden’s self-published tax documents. This is surprising because the returns show that he is rich. Filthy rich.
The 77-year-old Delawarean likes to paint himself as a man of modest means. “I entered as one of the poorest men in Congress, left one of the poorest men in government–in Congress and as vice-president,” Biden said during the Democratic presidential nomination process. And while that was technically true, since leaving the White House, he and his wife Jill have amassed a fortune of more than $16.7 million. For comparison, the median net worth of U.S. households is $97,300. His tax returns show that he received over $900,000 from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 and 2019. “When I left the United States Senate, I became a professor,” at the Ivy League institution, he told the country in March. Yet records show he has not taught even a single class during his time there.
Speaking engagements make up the majority of his earnings, where he is often paid princely sums for minutes’ work. For example, his tax returns show that he was paid over $134,000 for a talk in Fort Lauderdale, FL in January 2019. In this sense, he is following in the footsteps of the likes of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush, who command enormous sums for public appearances–a practice often condemned as little more than payoffs for “good behavior” while in office.