Obama, Biden Both Report Upticks in Personal Wealth

Posted May 17, 2010 at 4:57pm

Joseph Biden isn’t worth much, but he is less “worthless” than he was in the Senate.

This is the story told by the vice president’s annual financial disclosure form, which both he and President Barack Obama filed Tuesday and posted on the White House website.

Obama’s disclosure form indicates that his minimum net worth has risen at least 10 percent since he left the Senate. In May 2008, Obama reported minimum assets worth just over $2 million. Now his assets are worth at least $2.3 million. Since the president’s assets, like those of Members of Congress and other senior government officials, need only be reported in ranges, it is impossible to know how much Obama’s assets are actually worth. His largest asset, an account of U.S. Treasury bills, is listed as being worth from $1 million to $5 million. Roll Call counts this as $1 million in minimum worth.

The disclosure form Obama filed last year points to the vagaries of federal disclosure rules. In that accounting, the value of his assets appeared to have dropped significantly, to about $1.4 million. There is no way to know whether these were actual losses or simply a change in accounts that required less specific reporting.

Of course, Obama’s salary more than doubled when he went from the Senate to the White House. Senators earn about $174,000; the president earns $400,000. He lists no liabilities.

Obama also lists income of more than $1 million each from his two books — “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” — but that is not included in his net worth because he does not estimate any value for those assets.

Biden’s disclosure forms are a more complicated matter because the minimum worth of his assets is much lower than the minimum value of the debts he owes.

In 2008, Biden listed assets worth a minimum of $44,000 and liabilities — loans against his life insurance policies and several lines of credit — worth a minimum of $150,000. Roll Call scored his net worth at negative $106,000.

Halfway through his vice presidential term, Biden’s assets have grown to a minimum value of $155,000. But his liabilities have also grown, to a minimum value of $190,000, meaning his minimum net worth is still in the red, about negative $35,000. The big change in Biden’s disclosure form is that the 1989 line of credit he shares with his son has increased since his 2008 report.

Biden’s report last year indicated the same kind of slow upward progress; his net worth a year ago came in at around negative $66,000.