Study: Half of all Congress People Are Now Millionaires

Daniel Doherty
Posted: Jan 10, 2014 9:30 AM
Study: Half of all Congress People Are Now Millionaires

Not everyone is, of course, but more than half are -- for the first time ever. So when the president talks about income inequality in his forthcoming State of the Union Address, I suspect the middle class will feel completely at ease knowing full well the legislative branch truly understands their plight (via Open Secrets):

For the first time in history, most members of Congress are millionaires, according to a new analysis of personal financial disclosure data by the Center for Responsive 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 last 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.)

Last year only 257 members, or about 48 percent of lawmakers, had a median net worth of at least $1 million.

Members of Congress have long been far wealthier than the typical American, but the fact that now a majority of members -- albeit just a hair over 50 percent -- are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code.

Obviously the results haven’t changed all that much in a single calendar year. Last year 48 percent of the federal congress boasted net worths exceeding $1,000,000; this year, that percentage has risen to 50 percent. But you might be surprised to learn that, on average, Democrats in Congress are worth slightly more than Republicans:

Breaking the numbers down further, congressional Democrats had a median net worth of $1.04 million, while congressional Republicans had a median net worth of almost exactly $1 million. In both cases, the figures are up from last year, when the numbers were $990,000 and $907,000, respectively.

Again, this isn’t a substantial difference -- but the Center for Responsive Politics’ findings are interesting nonetheless. After all, Democrats in Congress pride themselves on “fighting for” and “protecting” the middle class. But how many actually know what it’s like to be part of the middle class? Although, in fairness, one could say probably the same thing about Congressional Republicans -- and Senate Republicans, in particular:

Similarly, the median net worth for all senators increased to $2.7 million from $2.5 million, but in that body it was the Republicans who were better-off. Senate Democrats reported a median net worth of $1.7 million (a decline from 2011's $2.4 million), compared to Senate Republicans, at $2.9 million (an increase from $2.5 million).

Senate Democrats were the only group reporting a drop in their median net worth from the prior year -- a decline that is at least partly because of the loss of two extremely well-off Senate Democrats from the list: now-Secretary of State John Kerry, who had been the wealthiest senator with a 2011 average net worth of $248 million, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) who had an average net worth of $87.5 million before his death last year.

That’s to say, the only reason Senate Democrats saw a net decrease in their total net worths is because two ultra rich Democrats left the upper chamber. Nevertheless, money in politics is a necessary (and increasingly tolerated) evil, and nothing is going to change that anytime soon:

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