44 Percent of the Congress are Millionaires
With 44% of congress being millionaires, that place is more like a country club than a legislature.
I don’t begrudge anyone having money as long as the gains aren’t ill gotten, but it’s really something of note when those who represent the people don’t actually come from the people. Sure, we vote for them, but modern elections are like a house party put together by someone else who then sends you an invite. In effect, the people are barred from putting together their own party and inviting the politicians, but if they did, there’s a fair chance that many of the current occupants of the congress wouldn’t be invited. When nearly half of the congress are millionaires, there’s an open question as to whether their lives are such that they can relate to their constituents. We’re not taking about someone who has one or two million as that’s really chump change; we’re talking about folks who have several million dollars of net worth.
Not only are many of the congress independently wealthy, but they also draw salaries, pensions and health care benefits from taxpayers as well. There ought to be a means test before the taxpayer is on the hook for paying these sorts of dollars and perhaps if their legislator is independently wealthy, the voters ought to pressure him or her to forego these things. I’m not suggesting that the savings would amount to something that would impact the deficit a lot, but the symbolism would mean much. After all, many of these people can afford to be altruistic.
There was a recent Gallup poll out that I referenced here last week on the public’s confidence in congress. That poll indicated that only 11% of those polled had any confidence in the congress. I’m sure that much of that is driven by the fact that their wealth leaves them mainly in a position where they’re separate from the rest of us and that’s so obvious to most people that they have no confidence that these people have their interests at heart.
Although Americans don’t like to look at ourselves in this way, our nation has actually become a nation of feudal lords and serfs. That’s something I have to keep in mind whenever I’m tempted to get too partisan. In many ways, the back and forth between the democrats and republicans or between left and right is really a play that’s being staged for our consumption. The partial list that follows, although dated, is bi-partisan and it’s a certainty that these guys share more commonality across parties that they do with those they purportedly represent. There are a couple of names here that I was surprised about (Olympia Snowe and Claire McCaskill). These guys downplay this very well to keep their wealth hidden. Also, note that the list below is just the top 20, not everyone.
1 John Kerry (D-Mass.)……..$336,224,883
2 Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)……..$241,545,513
3 Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)……..$103,560,020
4 Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)……..$93,715,011
5 Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)……..$89,509,099
6 Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)……..$84,171,162
7 Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)……..$46,127,014
8 Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)……..$33,308,537
9 Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)……..$32,428,089
10 Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.)……..$31,421,472
House of Representatives
1 Jane Harman (D-Calif.)……..$397,412,077
2 Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)……..$343,457,521
3 Robin Hayes (R-N.C.)……..$173,409,173
4 Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)……..$165,748,714
5 Michael McCaul (R-Texas)……..$64,073,077
6 Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)……..$62,468,047
7 Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)……..$50,297,547
8 Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)……..$47,350,092
9 Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)……..$43,716,445
10 Gary Miller (R-Calif.)……..$39,978,021