Our "Representative$$$" In Washington

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: Dec 28, 2011 1:35 PM
This news analysis, which ran in yesterday's New York Times, details the extent to which the US senators and congressmen who are supposed to be "representing" us are out of touch: While the private sector has grown poorer over the past three plus years, they have grown steadily richer.

Note that it's not just that those who came to Congress already rich (like John Kerry or Darrell Issa) have grown richer.  That's the power of compound interest -- and when it's a result of their own hard work or talent (as with Issa, a successful businessman), there's no reason for objection.

What's noteworthy is how many people of modest means have come to "serve" on Capitol Hill, and left wealthy.  That's not the way public service is supposed to work, and it indicates the need for some serious reforms (we could start by applying insider trading laws to the people who make them).  That's a cause the Republican presidential nominee should take up -- not just because it would be popular, but because it's right.

Nevertheless, it is true -- as the Times analysis points out -- that many of those running for public office tend to be richer than candidates used to be.  But rather than simply attributing the phenomenon to the increased cost of political campaigns, the news story might have profitably examined the link between that phenomenon and the campaign finance laws beloved by the left.  When a relatively poor person can only raise money in small increments, it often makes fundraising prohibitively difficult -- and clears the field for those who can simply spend their own money, rather than having to spend all their time asking for others'.