In today’s political climate, the only approval rating consistently lower than Barack Obama’s is that of America’s legislators. Often seen as ineffectual at best, voters of both parties agree Congress is in need of a shakeup.
While the upcoming midterm elections will allow citizens to directly send a message to current lawmakers, a recent report might give those engaged in the class war more ammunition to use against them. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a majority of legislators currently have a net worth in excess of $1 million. The organization’s report, which used data from 2012, indicates this is the first time in American history that threshold has been met.
In the span of one year, 11 additional Congress members joined the millionaire club, the report stated, with 268 of 534 current lawmakers now qualifying.
Of course, financial success is a large part of the American Dream; however, that dream also includes the hard work necessary to earn that prosperity. In the eyes of millions of voters, too many congressmen and women have profited off of their position without offering any real service in exchange.
In reality, most of these elected officials were rich before taking office.
According to CRP Executive Director Sheila Krumholtz, Americans generally support wealthy candidates because those are the only individuals who can effectively establish their candidacy.
“Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall,” she said, “there’s been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington. Of course, it’s undeniable that in our electoral system, candidates need access to wealth to run financially viable campaigns, and the most successful fundraisers are politicians who swim in those circles to begin with.”
Overall, the median net worth for legislators broke $1 million last year. Senators are much more likely to be wealthy, boasting a median net worth of $2.7 million – a $200,000 increase over 2011. Senate Democrats are worth less than their GOP counterparts, largely due to the absence of John Kerry and the deceased Frank Lautenberg. The two men boasted a combined net worth of more than $335 million.
In the House, the median was about $929,000 for Democrats and $884,000 for Republicans, for an average of $896,000.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), was the wealthiest legislator, according to the report, with a net worth of about $464 million. On the other end of the spectrum is another Republican representative, David Valadao of California, who is more than $12 million in the red.
While this report shines some light on the disparity between our elected leaders and many of their constituents, far fewer Americans begrudge success than leftists seem to believe. In reality, most voters are far more concerned with a politician’s voting record than his or her bank statement.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo credit: Jessie Owen (Creative Commons)