- Wall Street does it by controlling money, credit and
debt, as well as manipulating markets for private enrichment. House and
Senate millionaires do it their way for greater wealth, privilege, power
- New Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) figures show
it. More on them below. New York Times writer Eric Lichtblau commented
in his article headlined, "Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capitol
- In 1991, Representative Ed Pastor (D. AR) entered Congress
with around $100,000 in savings and as much debt owed banks. Now he's a
millionaire, one of 250 in Congress.
- "(A)nd the wealth gap between lawmakers and their
constituents appears to be growing quickly" as austerity cuts harm
most Americans needing help during harder than ever hard times.
- Since 2008, they've lost jobs, homes, personal savings,
and futures. At the same time, congressional members are richer than ever.
Perhaps never "has the divide (been) so wide, or the public contrast
so stark, between lawmakers and those they represent."
- No wonder Gallop's year end poll showed Congress getting
its lowest ever 11% approval rating. At the same time, growing numbers
of Americans reject both parties for independent or unaffiliated status.
- On November 14, the Atlantic Wire headlined, "How
Members of Congress Get Rich Through 'Honest Graft,'" saying:
- "A 60 Minutes report examined the ways members of
Congress trade on inside, privileged information" to get rich. "Congresspeople
are exempt from insider trading rules" so profit in ways others can't
- They do it through stock trades and privileged business
deals. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert earmarked funding for a federal
highway project on land he owned. He later sold it for $2 million.
- Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi profited from eight IPOs,
including some "that had business before her House." So have
other congressional members, past and present.
- Former Senator Bob Dole bought shares in Automatic Data
Processing four days before GHW Bush signed legislation with new military
data processing rules benefitting the company handsomely.
- Former Speaker and Republican presidential aspirant Newt
Gingrich bought Boeing stock just before he helped kill amendments to cut
International Space Station funding. It helped Boeing secure a lucrative
- Numerous others in Congress profit the same way. Some
hit the jackpot. In 2004, the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis
published a report showing Senate portfolios outperformed the market by
about 12% annually. It didn't happen by chance.
- A 2011 study showed House member investments exceed market
performance by 6%. Do it annually and it adds up. For example, $100 invested
at 6% for 40 years grows tenfold. At 12%, it's 80-fold.
- Washington runs on inside information. Congressional
members use it to get rich. While their median net worth gained 15% from
2004 to 2010, America's 10% richest found theirs unchanged, and for Americans
overall, it dropped based on inflation-adjusted dollars.
- Of course, America's top 1% outdid them all. Why else
would nationwide protests target them for social justice.
- Notably, congressional wealth grew two and a half times
(from $280,000 to $725,000) from 1984 to 2009 in inflation-adjusted dollars,
while for average Americans it declined slightly. Moreover, for the past
half century, income inequality mostly benefits congressional conservatives.
Progressivism pays poorly.
- In 1984, one in five House members had zero or negative
net worth, excluding home equity and other non-income producing property.
By 2009, it dropped to one in 12.
- As a result, the gap between congressional members and
their constituents perhaps never has been so wide. Moreover, it increases
annually at a time Main Street's suffering harder than ever hard times,
and few in Washington care.
- Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) Report
- It began saying:
- "These days, being a millionaire (puts you in) the
(top) one percent. But in Congress, it only makes you average."
- Among 535 House and Senate members, 250 (or 47%) are
millionaires, based on 2010 financial disclosure forms. Only America's
top 1% enjoys that status. According to CRP's executive director Sheila
- "The vast majority of members of Congress are quite
comfortable financially, while many of their own constituents suffer from
- It's largely from decades of destructive bipartisan policies.
Since the 1980s, economic inequality grew enormously. Business and super-rich
elites profited handsomely at the expense of working class people.
- Wealth disparity is unprecedented at a time nearly 23%
of Americans are unemployed. Half of US households are impoverished or
bordering on it. Millions lost homes, and growing hunger and homelessness
threaten millions more.
- In contrast, congressional members never had it so good.
"It's no surprise that so many people grumble about lawmakers being
out-of-touch," said Krumholz. "Few Americans enjoy the same financial
cushion maintained by most members of Congress - or the same access to
market-altering information that could yield personal financial gains."
- Moreover, congressional pay, benefits and perks alone
are generous. In 2011, rank and file House and Senate members earned $174,000.
According to US Census data, median 2010 household income is $48,753.
- In February 2011, the Congressional Research Service
reported the following legislative, executive and judicial salaries:
- President: $400,000
- Vice President: $230,700
- House Speaker: $223,500
- Senate President Pro Tempore: $193,400
- House and Senate Majority and Minority leaders: $193,400
- Senators and Representatives: $174,000
- Supreme Court Chief Justice: $223,500
- Associate Justices: $213,900
- Federal Court of Appeals Judges: $184,500
- Federal District Court Judges: $174,000
- Moreover, generous benefits and allowances are provided,
including lucrative pensions based on years of service, peak salary levels,
an accrual rate, and whether members are covered under the Civil Service
Retirement System (CSRS) and/or the Federal Employees Retirement System
- For example, a House or Senate member retiring in December
2010 with 32 years of service averaged $92,251 in annual pensions supplemented
by cost of living increases. Most members have shorter tenures and get
less. By law, pensions can't exceed 80% of final year of service pay.
- In 2006, retired members covered by CSRS got average
pensions of $60,972. Those retiring under FERS, or in combination with
CSRS, averaged $35,952.
- Historically, it was much different. From 1789 to 1815,
congressional members got $6 per day while Congress was in session. From
1815 to 1817, they earned $1,500 annually. From 1818 - 1855, they got $8
- Thereafter, they got $3,000 annual salaries. In 1907,
it was raised to $7,500. In 2006, they earned $165,000. Leaders got more.
Today, congressional members profit handsomely from pay, benefits, perks,
and investment returns based on inside information.
- For example, 2010 US household median net worth is $120,000.
For congressional members, it's $912,000. In 2009, 7.8 million households
had net worths of $1 million or more, around 2.5% of all households. In
contrast, 47% of congressional members are millionaires.
- The top 10 include:
- Rep. Darrell Issa (R. CA): an estimated $451.1 million
- Rep. Jane Harman (D. CA): $435.4 million
- Rep. Vern Buchanan (R. FL): $366.2 million
- Senator John Kerry (D. MA): $249.9 million
- Rep. Jared Polis (D. CO): $285.1 million
- Senator Mark Warner (D. VA): $283.1 million
- Senator Herb Kohl (D. WI): $231.2 million
- Rep. Michael McCaul (R. TX): $201.5 million
- Senator Jay Rockefeller (D. W VA): $136.2 million
- Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. CA): $108.1 million
- Combined net worth: $2.8 billion
- All support lower corporate, capital gains, and top bracket
personal tax rates. They also back austerity cuts for ordinary Americans,
including lower Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
- Median US senator net worth is $2.63 million - 16% higher
than 2008. In 2010, 37 Senate Democrats and 30 Republican counterparts
had average net worths exceeding $1 million. So did 110 House Republicans
and 73 Democrats.
- In 2010, median Republican House member net worth stood
at $834,250. For Democrats it was $635,000 for an average $756,765 - 17%
higher than 2008.
- By law, all House and Senate members must report their
own holdings and that of spouses and dependents annually. However, precise
investment values can't be determined so estimates are made. They exclude
non-income generating personal property (including homes, cars, artwork,
etc.) and pension benefit values.
- Moreover, the top spousal bracket is "more than
$1 million," so true net worth amounts for many lawmakers "are
likely undervalued." For example, some believe John Kerry's wife Teresa
Heinz's net worth exceeds $1 billion. As the Heinz heiress, it's likely
- A Final Comment
- At a time class war in America rages, growing human need
goes unaddressed, Washington is corporate occupied territory, and endless
imperial wars ravage the world one country at a time with more planned,
congressional members never had it so good.
- No wonder fed up Americans want long denied social justice,
and Occupy Wall Street calls "world revolution" the "only
- Change never comes top down, only bottom up. Society's
privileged with power never yield it. Pressure's building to force them.
Human need's too great and worsening. When pain levels cross a threshold
of no return, all bets are off. Or as Gerald Celente says:
- "When people lose everything and have nothing else
to lose, they lose it."
- That moment of truth draws closer, and not just in America.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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