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Trump: 'I just don't want a poor person' running the economy

  • President Donald Trump says he doesn't want a "poor person" to run the U.S. economy.
  • Trump defends his choice of wealthy businessmen like Wilbur Ross and Gary Cohn for top administration posts.

President Donald Trump has offered a simple explanation for his wealthy Cabinet choices: Rich people know how to manage money better than poor people do.

In a rambling aside at a rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, Trump responded to criticism about his choices for top economic jobs, including billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary and former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn for chief economic advisor.

Trump, who bashed Goldman Sachs during the presidential campaign, received backlash for choosing wealthy Wall Street figures for top administration posts. Many of his nominees had complex financial holdings around the world, which created myriad potential conflicts.

Trump contended on Wednesday that wealthy people can better run the U.S. economy because they do not need money.

"I love all people, rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person," Trump said. "Does that make sense? Does that make sense? If you insist, I'll do it. But I like it better this way, right?"

The wealth of Trump's nominees created snags in the confirmation process as executive branch ethics officials aimed to make sure they complied with guidelines. While Trump's choices have divested from assets, some still have business holdings that leave the door open for potential conflicts.

Here are Trump's comments from the Iowa rally:

So, somebody said, 'Why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy?' … I said, 'because that's the kind of thinking we want.' I mean, you know, really. Because they're representing the country. They don't want the money. They're representing the country and they had to give up a lot to take these jobs. They gave up a lot. And you get the president — this is the president of Goldman Sachs. Smart. Having him represent us. He went from massive paydays to peanuts, to little tiny — I'm waiting for them to accuse him of wanting that little amount of money. They wanted that. But these are people that are great, brilliant business minds. And that's what we need, that's what we have so the world doesn't take. … We can't have the world taking advantage of us anymore. And I love all people, rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense? If you insist, I'll do it. But I like it better this way, right?