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Viewing Through a Different Lense … Capital Hill Incomes Jumped 15% While Average Family Incomes Declined

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The only Home where incomes grew by 15% during the Great RecessionIf you’re like me, you probably missed Eric Lichtblau’s story, Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capitol Hill, in the Dec. 26, 2011 NY Times.

Having just paid my taxes, I was curious about an Economix blog that discussed the income differential between politicians and ordinary citizens, from Rome to now. The blog referenced Lithblau’s article which states:

Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group.

Congress has never been a place for paupers. From plantation owners in the pre-Civil War era to industrialists in the early 1900s to ex-Wall Street financiers and Internet executives today, it has long been populated with the rich, including scions of families like the Guggenheims, Hearsts, Kennedys and Rockefellers.

But rarely has the divide appeared so wide, or the public contrast so stark, between lawmakers and those they represent. […]

While the median net worth of members of Congress jumped 15 percent from 2004 to 2010, the net worth of the richest 10 percent of Americans remained essentially flat. For all Americans, median net worth dropped 8 percent, based on inflation-adjusted data from Moody’s Analytics.

Going back further, the median wealth of House members grew some two and a half times between 1984 and 2009 in inflation-adjusted dollars, while the wealth of the average American family has actually declined slightly in that same time period, according to data cited by The Washington Post in an article published Monday on its Web site.

But here’s the money quote from Litchblau’s article…

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said the rising Congressional wealth fuels public doubts about whether members are more focused on their constituents’ interests or their own investment portfolios.

“There’s always a concern that they can’t truly understand or relate to the hardships that their constituents feel — that rich people just don’t get it,” she said. […]

Multimillionaires in Congress “view life through a different lens,” [Anna Eshoo, D, CA] said.

Is it any wonder that most Americans don’t believe Congress listens to them and fails to understand what middle and working income families are dealing with on a daily basis?

Update: Even though the number of Americans living in poverty has spiked to 49.1 million since the recession, as an example of the disconnect between Congress and the people, GOP Senator Pat Toomey unveiled Wednesday his party’s plan for cutting aid to the poor by $440 billion, saying the people “who really need help” in America make up a “small segment of our society.” Toomey, himself a millionaire and former head of the libertarian “Club for Growth”, exemplifies the differnec lense through which members of Congress see the economy as opposed to the populace which Anna Eschoo described.

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Written by Valerie Curl

April 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM

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