The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What used to be a common colloquial phrase is now being lived out daily in the income inequity plaguing America. Stagnant wages, unemployment, productivity surges and low skilled and temp job growth has left the average worker struggling not to lose ground financially. One group appears to be doing better than ever, however, and that is our elected officials in Congress.
Congratulations, Senators and Representatives. Now over half of you are officially millionaires!
According to Open Secrets, which tracks money in politics: “Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 — an increase from the previous year when it was $966,000. In addition, at least one of the members elected since then, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), is a millionaire, according to forms she filed as a candidate. (There is currently one vacancy in Congress.)”
It’s an increase of 11 new millionaires over last year, when only 257 members of Congress crossed the $1 million mark.
While those who are in Congress continue to do well, or those who do well are running for Congress, how’s the rest of America doing? Well, we’re still struggling. As Think Progress notes, the gap between our elected officials and us is growing ever wider. The median net worth for an American in 2010 didn’t even crack $40,000.
“The stark disparity between the economic reality of lawmakers and their constituents may help to explain why Congress seems fixated on things that rich people care about while allowing programs for the poor to languish,” writes Think Progress’ Alan Pyke. “A study released over the summer concluded that while the U.S. Senate used to ignore poor peoples’ concerns in favor of upper- and middle-class interests, it now disregards the middle class as well and responds almost exclusively to rich peoples’ problems. That study refined previous work by other researchers that showed similar congressional tendencies to serve the rich and ignore the rest.”
Responding to the rich and ignoring the poor is one thing. Running for Congress for the purpose of trying to make things more difficult for those who are struggling? That’s just cruel. But that’s exactly what Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert claims was his own reason for seeking a run for higher office.
“If it weren’t for the policies in this War on Poverty declared 50 years ago, it may well be that I would not have ever run for Congress,” the Republican said on the floor last week, according to The New Civil Rights Movement. He claims he was motivated not by the plight of those less fortunate, but his utter conviction that there were single women having babies to get easy, free government money. “One women had had 15 kids, didn’t even know where they all were, that was the most that I ever dealt with. It began to really eat away with me that in the 60s the federal government, desiring to help poor moms who were dealing with deadbeat dads, decided, ‘We’ll help, we’ll give a check for every child you can have out of wedlock.’”
With so many of our elected officials literally unaware of the struggles of the average or financially struggling American, and some of them even admitting they were inspired to run not to provide a helping hand for those in need, but to dismantle the very programs created to assist the poor, it’s no wonder that congressional approval still remains at near record lows.
Perhaps on election day, we can remind them of who they are really in Congress to represent: the average voter. If they choose not to do so, then they should be replaced. After all, they have quite the financial cushion to protect them while they look for new jobs.
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