A new report reveals that members of Congress are just like the rest of us . . . only much, much richer:
Two-hundred-and-thirty-seven members of Congress are millionaires. That’s 44 percent of the body – compared to about 1 percent of Americans overall.
CRP says California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is the richest lawmaker on Capitol Hill, with a net worth estimated at about $251 million. Next in line: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), worth about $244.7 million; Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), worth about $214.5 million; Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), worth about $209.7 million; and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), worth about $208.8 million.
All told, at least seven lawmakers have net worths greater than $100 million, according to the Center’s 2008 figures.
“Many Americans probably have a sense that members of Congress aren’t hurting, even if their government salary alone is in the six figures, much more than most Americans make,” said CRP spokesman Dave Levinthal. “What we see through these figures is that many of them have riches well beyond that salary, supplemented with securities, stock holdings, property and other investments.”
I’ve never been one to begrudge representatives their “six-figure” salaries. When the pay is set low for elected officials, the only people who can afford to run for office are the independently wealthy (the Texas state legislature, for example, pays representatives $600 a month—which ensures that the only legislators are rich people). Campaign finance laws have also made it almost impossible for anyone who is not already rich to even run for office. Indeed, its rather surprising that less than half are millionaires.
What is even more shocking, however, is that an institution that wields so much power over our nation’s economy is comprised of people who can’t figure out how to make money. Perhaps its shouldn’t be surprising that our country is in debt when our own legislators have low net worths.
Take, for example, Joe Biden. He joined the Senate in 1973 and has made more than $100,000 a year since 1991. So how does he only have a net worth of $27,000? And how is it possible for five legislators (Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.)) to have a net worth of less than zero?
Let’s hope Nancy Pelosi keeps these financially incompetent folks away from the Budget committee.