US Congress Worth Over $2 Billion: Wealthy Lawmakers Mostly the Top 1 %

Do people become politicians because they are rich or are they rich because they are politicians?  Whichever the case, such a high proportion of wealthy lawmakers is just not a healthy situation.

According to a Roll Call analysis of US Congress members’ financial disclosure forms, the collective net worth of American lawmakers jumped 25 percent to over $2 billion in just the last two years — with 50 of the richest Congressmen and women accounting for 90 percent of the increase.

And Congress appears to be getting richer faster than the rest of the nation. From the end of 2008 to end of 2010, aggregate household worth increased 12 percent.” That is about half the increase Congress achieved during the same time period.

But just how rich US lawmakers are hits home when you see the visual representation. According to Laura Clawson, Daily Kos, 

When you have a government made up of rich people and people whose financial lives are defined by what they own, it turns out that you have a government that reflects the interests and beliefs of the ownership class. There are, of course, exceptions, rich people who nonetheless care passionately about the wellbeing of working people or blue-collar workers who believe they will shortly own their own plumbing businesses and therefore need to care most about rich people, but on average, not so much.

But a person’s financial circumstances certainly affect a person’s political outlook. For example, people identified as lower or middle class have been more likely to see income inequality as a problem and to favor redistribution of income, according to figures from the General Social Survey. […]

This is not just the problem with the world oldest democracy, but the world’s largest democracy, India faces a similar situation, where the parliament is sample set of the disparity between the rich and the poor.

Going back to my opening question- If the wealthy became politicians, they are obviously removed enough from the average working class families. These wealthy lawmakers are deciding what is best for our small businesses, deciding taxes and budgets. They decide how the country tackles climate change when it is well documented that poorest are the most affected by rising temperatures. There is also the conflict of interest angle where lawmakers have their own business interests.

On the other hand, if politicians got rich by being politicians then other questions arise- special interests and lobbying. Either case is just not healthy for the country and the problems arising are clear.

Anyone else see a problem with this? Share your thoughts.

About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+
  • Totally agree. Sadly the democracy that we experience today has finds its roots all the way back to Plato’s Republic. Plato, through his work, envisioned the ideal government. But it wasn’t democracy. It was based on meritocracy. The elite would have access to power based on their accomplishments and position. Even though we are able to vote, our representants are elected based on meritocracy and decisions are taken by the few and affect the many. Just like Plato had envisioned.

    Democracy, the power by the people, for the people would result to chaos according to Plato. (I disagree). Even though there needs to be a leader, the leader must be in touch with his or her followers, he must listen to them in order to make the best decisions.

    Anyhow, there is a real problem. People should take back their power and it starts by taking back their own power in their own lives.

    • Thanks Sophie! Sadly, leaders these days represent only the most powerful or wealthiest in their constituency.

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