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Rich Lifestyles of the GOP's Starve-the-Poor Presidential Candidates

With housing foreclosures at an all-time high, the top tier of Republican presidential candidates is living high on the hog.
 
 
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With the campaign season for Republican presidential primaries in full bloom, the candidates are falling all over each other in a fierce competition to tout their conservative bona fides . Even as housing foreclosures reach all-time highs, and unemployment in some states climbs into the double digits, Republican presidential contenders remain insistent in their demands for reducing government assistance to those suffering under the weight of economic disaster. So, let's have a look at how the candidates themselves are faring on this dismal economic landscape.

1) Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP's presidential frontrunner, according to the latest Gallup poll , is hardly an elitist. Born into a farming family of modest means in rural Haskell County, Perry continued farming cotton and raising cattle even after he was elected to the state legislature in the mid-1980s, according to the Texas Tribune , yielding him and his wife a combined income of just $45,000 -- a pittance compared to his current $150,000 annual salary as governor (not to mention the millions he's earned on the side in real estate).

You would think that a past of manual labor would have instilled in Perry a sense of solidarity with the working class, but it's just the opposite. Although Perry wasn't born into wealth, he might as well have been, given the ease with which he became accustomed to a life of privilege, which is currently being funded by the taxpaying residents of Texas.

Based on Perry's tax records, the Texas Tribune 's Jay Root reveals that "Perry's biggest income gains have come from buying and selling land" during his 30 years in public office. "Since the early 1990s, when Perry began serving as a statewide elected official, the transactions have helped him earn about $2 million in pre-tax profits," according to Root.

Even with all that money, Perry finds it appropriate to use taxpayer funds to pay for his extravagant and temporary mansion, while he and his family await renovations and repairs to the governor's mansion. (An unknown arsonist practically destroyed the residence in 2008.

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According to a May 2010 Associated Press investigation, Perry "has spent almost $600,000 in public money during the past two years to live in a sprawling rental home in the hills above the capital." Texans are forking up over $10,000 a month to cover Perry's rent, which includes "utilities and upkeep to house Perry in a five-bedroom, seven-bath mansion that has pecan-wood floors, a gourmet kitchen and three dining rooms."

The AP breaks down the costs:

His 6,386-square-foot rental sits on more than three acres and was advertised in 2007 for sale at $1.85 million. Perry's state-paid expenses at the home include $18,000 for "consumables" such as household supplies and cleaning products, $1,001.46 in window coverings from upscale retailer Neiman Marcus , a $1,000 "emergency repair" of the governor's filtered ice machine, a $700 clothes rack, and a little over $70 for a two year subscription to Food & Wine Magazine Maintenance on the heated pool has cost taxpayers at least $8,400, and the tab for grounds and lawn maintenance has topped $44,000, the records show. All told, taxpayers have spent at least $592,000 for rent, utilities, repairs, furnishings and supplies since Perry moved in.

While charging the Lone Star state a steep fee to maintain his fancy abode, Perry has kept busy slashing funds to public education and the social safety net to solve his state's budget woes. In 2011 alone, he cut $4 billion from public education and $4.8 billion from Medicaid to fill a $27 billion two-year budget gap (even as one in four Texas children are living in poverty).

 
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