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By: Inoljt,

When Senator Barack Obama was elected president, his victory was widely taken as a momentous event. In racial terms, Mr. Obama constitutes the first minority president of the United States. This is quite an impressive feat - something that many Americans did not think could be done as late as 2007.

From another perspective, however, Mr. Obama's election looks less impressive. This perspective is that of class. Mr. Obama was raised by an upper-middle class family: his mother was an anthropologist who had a PhD degree, and Mr. Obama went to a fairly prestigious private school in Hawaii during his early years.

The last president, Mr. George W. Bush, was also born to a wealthy family - in this case far higher up the social ladder than Mr. Obama's family.

All this raises the question of whether one must be born with parents of a certain income to become president of the United States. In today's America, inequality higher than it has been for a long time. Does that inequality exclude those born from non-affluent backgrounds from potentially becoming president?

More below.

This is a difficult - impossible - question to fully answer. Nevertheless, in the hopes of partially doing so, I have made a table of several recent presidents in the United States and their family background:

Do You Have to be Born Rich to Become President?

Before beginning an analysis of these results, several caveats must be noted. Research for his table relied heavily entirely on a certain online encyclopedia - because this is a blog post, not a peer-reviewed study. Moreover, much of this data is very subjective and subject to dispute. The difference between a "middle-class" and an "upper-middle class" family background is a bit harder to define than the difference between, say, the number three and four. So is evaluating whether a president is "good" or "bad;" with a president like George H. W. Bush, for instance, "neither good nor bad" is probably a better answer than "good."

The designations of "lower-class," "working-class," and so on were drawn from the jobs of the parents. "Elite" generally means the president's father - and it is always the father, given the way American society is structured - was a President himself, a  Governor, a Senator, an executive of a powerful national business, etc.

This table is a cropped version of the full results. For the full table - including all the presidents, which would be too long to put on this post - see here.

With these caveats in mind, there are nevertheless some conclusions that may be drawn from the table. Not all of America's presidents came from rich and wealthy backgrounds; in fact, only four of the fourteen presidents in the table had "elite" backgrounds. President Bill Clinton's stepfather worked as the owner of an automobile dealership; President Ronald Reagan's parents didn't own a house until Mr. Reagan became a famous actor.

On the other hand, coming from a well-off background certainly helps. Fully half of the presidents above had "elite," "upper-class," or "upper-middle class" parents. Interestingly, five of these presidents with well-off backgrounds were Democrats; two (the Bushes) were Republicans. This is fairly ironic given the working-class versus business-class association occupied by the parties.

A president's family background had relatively little to do with whether he was a good president. Of the nine good presidents in the list, five came from well-off backgrounds and four came from poorer backgrounds.

In fact, a regular person's chances of becoming president are higher nowadays than they were in much of the past. For instance, during the Gilded Age - if one takes a look at the full list - seven consecutive presidents (from President Chester Arthur to President Woodrow Wilson) came from "elite" or "upper-class" backgrounds.

There is other interesting information on the full list. Of America's 43 presidents,  24 presidents were "good" presidents, while 17 were "bad." "Good" and "bad" presidents tend to come and go in waves. From President George Washington to President Andrew Jackson, a total of seven consecutive presidents were "good." But then immediately after comes a long list of really "bad" presidents, from President Martin Van Buren to President James A. Garfield. Out of these thirteen presidents, eleven are "bad." To be fair, one of the "good" presidents - President Abraham Lincoln - is commonly considered the greatest president of the United States.

In total, 13 presidents had "elite" backgrounds. This is more than the 10 presidents who had "lower-class" or "working-class" backgrounds. Of those 13 presidents with "elite" backgrounds, 8 were "good" presidents and 5 were "bad." On the other hand, 5 of the ten presidents with "lower-class" or "working-class" backgrounds were "good." Given the small sample size, this is not enough to really say anything conclusive.

One can do the same with political parties. The Democratic Party has elected 13 presidents; nine of these came from "well-off" backgrounds. By contrast, the Republican Party has elected 20 presidents. Of these, only eight came from "well-off" backgrounds. On the other hand, eight of the the 13 Democratic presidents were "good" presidents, while only 10 of the twenty Republican presidents were "good" presidents.

In conclusion, slightly more than half of America's presidents were "good" ones. Democratic presidents, surprisingly, tend to have more elite backgrounds, and Republican presidents more humble ones. But Democratic presidents are also slightly more competent.

And to answer the question posed in the title: No, one does not have to be born rich to become president today - which was  not always the case in the past. But being born rich certainly does help.

Originally posted to Inoljt on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:32 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)

    by Inoljt on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:32:14 PM PDT

    •  A tip for the effort . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greatdarkspot, Socratic Method

      and for providing a thought-provoking discussion topic.  

      The analysis though leaves a lot to be desired -- especially with respect to the "good/bad" criteria which isn't defined.  Also organizing the information on the basis of party affiliation is unlikely to provide much insight since political parties and the county have undergone dramatic transformation over the past couple centuries.  

      e.g. comparing the GOP of Lincoln's time to the GOP of Eisenhower or Reagan's time is meaningless; the same is true of comparisons involving the Democratic party of Jackson's presidency with the Democratic party of Woodrow Wilson, Clinton, or Obama.

    •  FALE (5+ / 0-)

      Spray tons of carcinogens into the ocean to hide petroleum spewed from a hastily-drilled hole from a greedy corporation, but don't smoke pot.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 03:26:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agree with the beginning (0+ / 0-)

      Obama wasn't exactly the downtrodden African-American who rose from nothing against-all-odds that some (I hate using "some" like that but it's appropriate here) wish to believe. His mother had major political connections as well.

      However, the rating of past presidents "Good" or "Bad" went a bit off course. You're highly likely to turn off the audience here labeling Reagan and Bush senior as "Good". You could have just focused on their economic backgrounds and what connections they had early on or developed in their life to lead them to the presidency. I think it simply is true one needs some major foot in the door. The fact is none of us could seriously run for president here and would need some clout to successfully run locally, unless it was a really small town or extremely local position (head of the neighborhood school's PTA!).

      "I think we're an Oligarchy and I think it's getting worse." - Sen. Bernie Sanders

      by PoxOnYou on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:27:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What "major political connections" (0+ / 0-)

        did his mother have?

        I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

        by doc2 on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:31:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  here (0+ / 0-)

          Dunham then had a career in rural development championing women’s work and microcredit for the world’s poor, with Indonesia’s oldest bank, the United States Agency for International Development, the Ford Foundation, Women's World Banking, and as a consultant in Lahore, Pakistan. While at the Ford Foundation she developed a model of microfinance which is now the standard in Indonesia, a country that is a world leader in micro-credit systems.[39] Peter Geithner, father of Tim Geithner (who later became United States Secretary of the Treasury in her son's administration), was head of the foundation's Asia grant-making at that time.[40]

          Also, these are actually more right-leaning solutions to poverty and development. See this and this. Perhaps for whatever reason, she thought it was a good idea to pursue at that time though.

          "I think we're an Oligarchy and I think it's getting worse." - Sen. Bernie Sanders

          by PoxOnYou on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:42:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ronald Regan was a good president? (30+ / 0-)

    Jimmy Carter was a bad one? Who says? Carter was a great President. Reagan was probably one of the worst in US history.

    "Don't compare me with the Almighty, compare me with the alternative!" --VP Biden

    by Socratic Method on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:36:25 PM PDT

    •  carter was mixed (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rimjob, A Siegel, Jane Lew, flhiii88

      among other things, he bungled iran- badly. but you're right about reagan. until bush, perhaps the worst of the 20th century.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:38:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  He was too far ahead of his time... (13+ / 0-)

        legislatively, though, I have come to respect him. His environmental record in just four years as President far surpasses any other President in History. And he did it in just one term. The biggest disaster of that Presidency was that it was marred by Democratic infighting. But hell, when you compare legislative records, Clinton can't hold a candle to Carter, and Clinton had TWO TERMS.

        "Don't compare me with the Almighty, compare me with the alternative!" --VP Biden

        by Socratic Method on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:43:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Or, he was too honest and said what people (6+ / 0-)

          didn't want to hear, about the Energy Crisis, as it was called back then.  But in a way, that's the same as saying he was ahead of his time, if that's what you meant.

        •  the biggest disaster was iran (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the way he played the shah's illness inflamed the radicals, and then he emboldened them further by making the hostages the defining "crisis" of that year. doing so, he opened the door to reagan.

          The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

          by Laurence Lewis on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:56:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  His military rescue mission failed (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mattman, Laurence Lewis

            the one to Iran, to free the hostages that is.

            I do agree with you on the rest, although there is some line of thinking that the work done by his administration paved the way for the hostages being freed, albeit after Reagan took office.

          •  The "Malaise" Speech..... (5+ / 0-)

            Or should I say the aftermath of the "Malaise Speech" didn't help either.

            From PBS' American Experience:

            Perhaps appreciating the president's astonishing frankness, the public rewarded him with higher approval ratings in the days that followed. But then, as historian Douglas Brinkley notes, "it boomeranged on him. The op-ed pieces started spinning out, 'Why don't you fix something? There's nothing wrong with the American people. We're a great people. Maybe the problem's in the White House, maybe we need new leadership to guide us.'" Historian Roger Wilkins concurs: "When your leadership is demonstrably weaker than it should be, you don't then point at the people and say, 'It's your problem.' If you want the people to move, you move them the way Roosevelt moved them, or you exhort them the way Kennedy or Johnson exhorted them. You don't say, 'It's your fault.'"

            To compound all that, Carter unnerved people with his decision to fire the entire cabinet after the speech.

            Carter didn't help himself by clumsily conducting a shakeup of his government in the week following the speech. On July 17, he asked his entire cabinet for their resignations, ultimately accepting those of five who had clashed with the White House the most, including Energy Secretary James Schlesinger and Health, Education and Welfare chief Joseph Califano. Many others in the administration chafed when newly-named White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan circulated a "questionnaire" that read more like a loyalty oath. "I think the idea was that they were going to firm up the administration, show that there was real change by these personnel changes, and move on," remembers Mondale. "But the message the American people got was that we were falling apart."

        •  Based on economic performance Clinton wins . . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rimjob, A Siegel


          Carter's appointment of Paul Volcker was a choice that probably cost him the presidency -- even if it was the right thing to do.

          In terms of the American labor movement Carter did even more damage to the movement than Clinton did with the passage of NAFTA.  The economic boom during the Clinton years mitigated some of the harm for a time.  Clinton paved the wave for some of the excesses in the 2000s, but it's hard to imagine that he, Gore, or any other Democrat would have compounded the problems as much as W did.  Additionally, Clinton's policies couple with George H.W.'s tax increases had put the U.S. federal balance sheet on the right trajectory (until W completely undermined the hard work).

          No president bears full blame or credit for the economic performance that takes place during his administration -- or in the years immediately following his administration.  Based on the measurables -- unemployment, GDP, income levels -- Clinton's performance was superb, Carter's was pretty dismal.

        •  Best president in my lifetime (0+ / 0-)

          was Carter. The only one that even came close to being a genuine liberal.

      •  Bungled (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lawrence, alizard, skohayes

        He was helped by the Republicans. Reagan made a deal with the hostage takers to delay the release until after the election, thus ensuring that he won.

        FOSI: Full Of Shit Information - Both my sister and I are trivia freaks...

        by Spoc42 on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 02:55:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  How did he bungle Iran? (0+ / 0-)

        Note that every one of the hostages was saved. If a Republican were president, we would have sent in the entire Army and many lives would have been lost. Carter did the right thing, working right up to the end to get the hostages released.

        I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

        by doc2 on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:33:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  when the incident began (0+ / 0-)

          he made it the defining issue of his presidency, refusing to leave the white house for a time. he played it politically rather than strategically. he should have understood that giving the shah sanctuary during the revolution would frighten the iranians, because the 1953 coup that overthrew iranian democracy and restored him to power was orchestrated from the u.s. embassy. he should have understood that the iranians stormed the embassy exactly because of that. he should have worked quietly to restore order rather than allowing it to hold his presidency hostage. he showed no understanding of what was happening, and he emboldened the radicals by showing them that they could dominate american and world headlines for a year.

          The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

          by Laurence Lewis on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 10:48:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I'm doing these ratings by how (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greatdarkspot, NotGeorgeWill

      I think most Americans think, not my personal belief. Personally I would put Ronald Reagan as a "bad" president, but I think most Americans think Ronald Reagan was a "good" president.

      That's why Reagan is put as a "good" president.

      by Inoljt on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:38:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  i'd have said the worst, then along came w. (7+ / 0-)

      Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

      by rasbobbo on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:38:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Based on what criteria? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Personally, I would say that Reagan is overrated -- calling him a "good president" is a little too generous (I'd class him as above average, but not great, or near-great).  

      His track record on economic and foreign policy was mixed, but on balance probably more positive than negative.  His track record on fiscal policy stunk, but even so, he shored up Social Security and Medicare.  His policy in Central America was a disaster, but in other areas he had some success and is due some credit for accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union.  In terms of "effectiveness" -- the ability to get legislation passed -- he was far superior to Carter, even in terms of working with Democratic majorities.  His ability to move public opinion was strong too -- the election of his VP with 52 percent of the vote in 1988 serving as one proxy.

    •  I have had it with Carter when I heard (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      him slam President Kennedy last week and say the only reason there is not health care for everyone right now is all Kennedy's fault

      Barack Obama: "These guys want to be paid like rock stars when all they're doing is lip-synching capitalism." may21, 2010

      by vc2 on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 03:53:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Carter's problem.... (0+ / 0-)

      ...was that he tried to be too middle-of-the-road and thought that Congress would be like the Georgia legislature. Interestingly, for all of his progressive ideas since he was President, while in the Oval Office, Carter was really quite centrist. In fact, Reaganomics got their start under Carter.

    •  Carter (0+ / 0-)

      Carter was a LOUSY president and the Democratic party is still paying for it.  And he gets NO slack from me - especially right now when he's bashing Teddy so he can make money (Carter's own words, not mine).

      Currently Top Ten in Slate's Lean/Lock game!

      by greatdarkspot on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:51:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ronald reagan as a good president? (13+ / 0-)


    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:36:50 PM PDT

  •  I wouldn't call Obama's family "rich" (29+ / 0-)

    by any stretch of the imagination -- sure, his mom got help from her family but that's common to a lot of folks these days, especially when the woman is a single parent. And Obama got a good education (as did his wife) but relied on student loans just as many college students do; it was only from writing a best-selling book that he was able to retire those loans.

    "When it gets harder to love, love harder" -- Van Jones, NN10, 7/23/10

    by Cali Scribe on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:40:01 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, how can he be "upper middle class" (28+ / 0-)

      when he and his mom were on food stamps? Huh? OK, his grandma eventually rose to be a bank vice-president, but that doesn't mean she was paid a huge salary, especially during the 60s (I knew a lady who rose to that level in a bank during the same period, and she wasn't paid all that much. She was a woman, after all.)

      Plus, although Obama went to Punahou, an elite school, he was there on a scholarship because his mom and grandparents couldn't afford that tuition.

      Also, Lyndon Johnson was born quite poor. He was only able to attend a teacher's college, one of the reasons he hated the "Harvards" in JFK's administration. So how do his origins rate as "upper class"?

      Not sure about Jimmy Carter being "upper middle class" either.

      And, what's the difference between "lower class" and "working class"?

      So I'm confused. Diarist, can you explain?

      So long and thanks for all the fish.--Douglas Adams

      by Fonsia on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 11:15:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good catch with respect to LBJ . . . (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fizziks, Fonsia, DaNang65, Govinda

        he definitely didn't come from an "upper-class" background.  Lower-middle class is probably more accurate.

        In the case of Eisenhower, he could probably be classed as someone who came from a solid middle class background (e.g. his family endured lean times, but his family's experience wasn't exceptional for the time -- all of his brothers were able to attend college; his mother came from a family that had some wealth -- although it wasn't wealthy by the standards of today).

  •  Back to the drawing board I guess (5+ / 0-)

    They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

    by yet another liberal on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:40:38 PM PDT

  •  The more I look at this (9+ / 0-)

    The funnier it gets.  What?  How did you measure the Good/Bad scale?

    They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

    by yet another liberal on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:42:54 PM PDT

  •  The scholarship of this fine essay, (5+ / 0-)

    aside from the obvious knee slappers, is illustrated by that famous American President, Harry W.Truman.

    Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty, too. Townes van Zandt

    by DaNang65 on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:51:17 PM PDT

  •  Obama attended private school on scholarship (18+ / 0-)

    His family was not rich.

    Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about. Mark Twain

    by Deathtongue on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 10:52:47 PM PDT

    •  maybe ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "intellectual", in the sense of having a high family value set on education???? is what puts Obama and some of the others in this guy's "upper middle class" section???  Obama and his mama were church-mouse poor, but they WERE EDUCATED!

      "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

      by chimene on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 12:17:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And education does make a huge difference. (0+ / 0-)

        Poor people who are educated are on average able to make do in life. I mean look at all the Hippies posting here. A lot of them live on very little and survive not being rich and are able to post smashing diaries that help the political discourse. This is not sarcasm. I am quite serious. I am one of those people and some prominent bloggers like Al Giordano have written about their simple lives which shows that when you are educated you can survive not having a lot of material goods(what's the definition of poor?) better than those without an education. This is why I suspect Obama keeps s on pushing young people to get a college education.

        Sorry long comment and actually agreeing with your post because it struck a cord.

        scientia potentia est - Francis Bacon "...knowledge itself is power."

        by factPlusContextAlmostTruth on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 02:25:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Pres Obama raised in upper middle-class ? (22+ / 0-)

    I would say that his upbringing is a little mixed.

    He benefitted from a scholarsip to enter the private school in Hawai.


    There were periods when his mother, his sister and himself were on food stamps. He certainly experienced, and witnessed, some hardship.

    He lived a few years with his grandparents in a small appartment in Hawai. His grandfather didn't make a lot of money, nor did his grandmother. His grandmother did climb the ladder at her bank but it was later, when he wasn't living with her anymore.

  •  Need to define terms . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fizziks, emilysdad

    I'm sure that most people would agree with your classifications on economic background -- Obama's case being a potential point of disagreement.  

    e.g. Obama's mother and grandparents probably wouldn't be considered upper-middle class, perhaps though there's some weight that you could put on parents' education.  Although you'd need to anchor the measure in some kind of context (e.g. 100 years ago it wouldn't be unusual for a president to come from a family where one or both parents had no education above high school; this might be a little more uncommon in the future).

    Also the the "good/bad" distinctions are entirely arbitrary.

    •  A surprising bit of information: (6+ / 0-)

      Barack Obama is the first president whose parents are both have college degrees.

      He is also the first president whose  parents both have PhDs.

      (e.g. 100 years ago it wouldn't be unusual for a president to come from a family where one or both parents had no education above high school; this might be a little more uncommon in the future).

      "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -- Jonathan Swift

      by Jane Lew on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 11:25:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  At least part of that . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cedwyn, Jane Lew

        is attributable to discrimination against women in higher education for so much of U.S. history -- although higher ed was largely the exclusive right of the most privileged until the introduction of the GI bill.

        I wouldn't be too surprised if the Roosevelts came from a family where both parents had the equivalent of a college education (e.g. FDR's mom may not have formally attended a university, but it sounds like she received private tutoring and probably had something pretty close to the equivalent of a good liberal arts education; same story with Teddy Roosevelt's mom).  Even so, they were definitely an exception.  

        •  It is interesting that my husband's grandmother (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cedwyn, emilysdad

          was graduated exactly 100 years ago in 1910 from Swarthmore College. She went on to get a masters degree from Columbia University in 1912. She married a man who was the black sheep of his family. He had only an 8th grade education. He had 2 sisters who were lawyers.

          I don't know about my husband's great grandmother except that she studied in Germany where her husband got his PhD.

          Her sister, my husband's great aunt, was graduated from Wellsley College in 1886. She did graduate work at the University of Michigan, but I don't think they gave her a degree, She was a professor of botany at what is now the University of Rhode Island. There is a dormitory there named after her.

          "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -- Jonathan Swift

          by Jane Lew on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 02:27:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Very interesting! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jane Lew

        Obviously, the matter is whether the president's mother went to college.

        So we've finally gotten to the point where a decent percentage of people have mothers who have gone to college. Hmmm..... I wonder what the ramifications are for society generally?

      •  I don't think that's true (0+ / 0-)

        George W. Bush's father went to Yale and his mother went to Smith and I think they both graduated.

        •  Barbara Bush was a college drop out... (0+ / 0-)

          She met George Herbert Walker Bush, a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts at age 16 during a dance over Christmas vacation.[3] After a year-and-a-half, the two became engaged to be married, just before he went off to World War II as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot. He named three of his planes after her: Barbara, Barbara II, and Barbara III. When he returned on leave, she had dropped out of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts;[1] two weeks later, on January 6, 1945, they were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Rye, New York.[1]                                                                                                                                                                 Wikipedia

          "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -- Jonathan Swift

          by Jane Lew on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 05:13:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ah, I did not know that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jane Lew

            For some reason, I thought she'd graduated. What would her ancestor Franklin Pierce say!

            •  I once thought that Franklin Pierce (0+ / 0-)

              was the ancestor of Barbara Pierce Bush, but it is not true. Franklin and Barbara do share a common Pierce ancestor though.

              Her ancestor Thomas Pierce, an early New England colonist, was also an ancestor of Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States. She is a direct descendant, great-great-granddaughter, of James Pierce, Jr. who was a fourth cousin of President Franklin Pierce.[2]                                                                                                                                Wikipedia

              "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -- Jonathan Swift

              by Jane Lew on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 10:07:18 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry, but you lost me when you listed (12+ / 0-)

    George Bush I and Ronald Reagan as good....

    That duo is responsible for so many of the things that went wrong in this country.

    "The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

    by Lawrence on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 11:13:09 PM PDT

  •  Obama's mother was a grad student (20+ / 0-)

    and was working towards a PhD which, even nowadays (especially in anthropology) doesn't exactly bring in the big bucks. I would also point out that he went to Punahou as a lot of students do, on scholarship.
    Obama used his lower-middle class background and access to education to get where he is, which means he used his brains. Let's at least give him that.
    And let's not forget that he did it all without the benefit of white skin so he is probably AT LEAST as twice as smart as the other guys who've had the job (thrice as smart as the guy who had the job last).

  •  I wouldn't call Herbert Hoover middle class. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, fizziks, amk for obama, cai, SoCalSal

    He rose to it, but he started out modestly. Not quite the proverbial log cabin, he was raised in a small, two-room frame house with a summer kitchen. And an outhouse.  His father was a blacksmith and something of a jack-of-all-trades. He was an orphan at 9, bounced around several relatives and family friends, never went to high school, and started with the first class at Stanford when no tuition was required.

  •  Obama's family was wealthy? (16+ / 0-)

    News to me and all other Presidential historians. Way to play into that "elitist" framing, though.

    All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier

    by kat68 on Mon Sep 20, 2010 at 11:52:35 PM PDT

  •  I'm sorry, but FAIL on many levels. n/t (7+ / 0-)

    "Dude, you have no Koran." - way cool skateboarder guy.

    by DrJeremy on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 12:19:12 AM PDT

  •  You forgot to factor in... (5+ / 0-)

    the weather on the day they were born.

  •  Obama is not from upper middle class (5+ / 0-)

    He attended Punahou School on a scholarship. His grandfather worked at various jobs, was a furniture salesman during the years he lived in Hawaii. His grandmother started working in the bank at entry level and worked there for many years before being named a vice president. His mother attained her doctorate later in life. Obama's mother was on food stamps for a while to feed her children.

    When his grandmother died, she still lived in the same apartment that Obama lived in when he lived with his grandparents. The building is not grand, nor is the neighborhood.

    Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

    by SoCalSal on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 03:00:38 AM PDT

  •  Gosh, that table makes it look so impressive. (4+ / 0-)

    Your opinions disguised as data torpedo it, though.

    Corporate Dog

    We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

    by Corporate Dog on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 03:14:26 AM PDT

  •  Reagan was HORRIBLE president. He was scum. (6+ / 0-)

    King George the 1st sucked shit - why is HE listed as good?

    "Bad" really lets Bush II off the hook. He's the worst EVER. The Only Reason Reagan lived so long was that he didn't want to die being the Worst President Ever. Once Bush II took that title, Reagan finally left.

    Your list....ugh.

    Spray tons of carcinogens into the ocean to hide petroleum spewed from a hastily-drilled hole from a greedy corporation, but don't smoke pot.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 03:25:18 AM PDT

  •  BS. Having a graduate degree DOES NOT = UPC (4+ / 0-)

    For a real-time/real life example of this... just look at the unemployment lines lately and count the degrees! This is also demonstrably true in the case of Barack Obama's mom --- a SINGLE PARENT who worked mostly for non-profits, admittedly had to go on welfare/food stamps at times to make ends meet and whose son only attended a posh school ON SCHOLARSHIP while living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with his grandparents. The fact that Barack Obama's stepfather --- who was in his life only partly through his childhood --- seemed to make a decent living does not equate an upper-middle class background either. Otherwise, Bill Clinton would also be in that category.

    "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist" --- President Barack Obama, 1-20-2009.

    by tier1express on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 03:35:42 AM PDT

  •  Obama's background might be unusual... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    missLotus, fizziks, amk for obama

    ....but his upbringing was far from upper-middle-class. He was on food stamps for a while and his mother, while well-educated, was not well-off and his father abandoned him. Obama may have gone to a fancy high school, but he got in on a scholarship. In fact, he was in debt until his early 40s, when his book turned into a best-seller.

  •  This diary sucks ass (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA

    I've decided that my previous comment was too diplomatic.

    Not only does this diary mindlessly regurgitate ridiculous right wing talking points (A black child born to a single mother on food stamps in 1960 is upper class!) but it is just wrong all the way through.

    LBJ was not upper class.  He was solidly rural working class.

    Eisenhower was not lower class.  His family were independent farmers, which was not a lower class thing at the turn of the 20th century.

    And of course Reagan and Bush I were not good presidents.

    Get thee to a library and learn something.

  •  I'll skip the insults of the diary (0+ / 0-)

    ...and just observe that only the last few presidents grew up in an age of relatively mass college education.

    The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

    by Rich in PA on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 04:43:12 AM PDT

  •  I dunno. (0+ / 0-)

    When an otherwise good person supports an obviously bad war, that person becomes something less than good.

    by dov12348 on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 04:59:43 AM PDT

  •  I'm not sure about that... (0+ / 0-)

    ... "upper middle class" thing.  He was surrounded by a strong commitment to education and hard work, but not a whole lot of privilege.  It's privilege to have seen more of the world, certainly.  But he didn't do typical upper middle class stuff, like hang out at a country club.  And his education was mostly on scholarship.

    Being a black kid with a single white mother in the 60s didn't exactly mean he was typically "upper middle class" either.  And his father, the little he knew of him, didn't come from privilege either, being the spawn of a missionary's cook.

    exmearden: Grab every minute of joy you can. 8/30/09

    by Land of Enchantment on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 05:37:52 AM PDT

  •  I'd question the "upper-" part for Obama (0+ / 0-)

    Sure, he went to Punahou, but he was a scholarship student.

  •  Wow (0+ / 0-)

    The standard for upper middle class has really changed since I was a child.  My parents were still together in the 1960's, my mom only spent time on welfare in the 1970's, but I went to an elite high school and an even more elite college and law school.  Similar to President Obama, except his parents split up when he was still practically a baby.

    And to think I was born and raised working class (until we became just downright poor.)  

    If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

    by shanikka on Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 07:26:25 AM PDT

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