The US Congress is a profitable place to be, with more than half it’s members being millionaires, and and who wouldn’t want to be.
268 of the 534 members of the US congress are now millionaires, a recent study by the Center for Responsive Politics reveals, a first in the 239 year history of the institution (the first one meeting in 1774). The average, when you take congress as a whole, for democrats being $1.04 million, and republicans $1 million even. If you take a closer look at the Senate, the breakdown is an average of $1.7 million for democrats and $2.9 million for republicans. Although interestingly in 2011 it was $2.4 million for democrats and 2.5 million for republicans. The big slump for democrats and tidy rise for republicans is mostly explained by John Kerry’s leaving the Senate to be President Obama’s Secretary of State, and the recent resurgence of Wall Street. However, don’t worry the net worth of congress as a whole continues to rise comfortably.
Rep. Darrell Issa is the wealthiest congressman with a net worth of $464 million, which he made from the car alarm business. The lowest net worth congressman is Rep. David Valadao, who is in the red by $12.1 million due to his family ranch being in heavy debt.
The study of assets, such as corporate stocks and bonds, and liabilities, such as credit card debt, loans, and mortgages, revealed a few pointers for the rest of the US population, who might want to be millionaires as well as the US Congress. The most popular investment choice was General Electric, a company specialising in aviation engines used in military programs, such as the F-35 and by Boeing in civilian aircraft.
The averages US household income is currently $52,000, down from $55,000 in 1998. 28 percent of US households are on less than $25,000, and the average net worth of a US household in 2011 was $70,000, almost twenty times less that the average congressional representative.
With political campaigns becoming ever more expensive its just as well the politicians are able to keep pace. Recently a Super PAC called Texans for a Conservative Majority spent three quarters of a million against a republican candidate, who they obviously felt wasn’t conservative enough.
This week congress has been discussing the issues of the minimum wage, and unemployment insurance. The re-implementation of Bush era extensions of unemployment insurance, to a maximum of 73 weeks are on the table again, and the minimum wage may be looked at in the coming months. However, with half a million Americans giving up entirely on the search for work in the last few months, they will not qualify for any extension.
In November last year the US congress’s approval rating dropped to an all time low of 9%, according to a Gallup poll. Given the margin of error on the poll was +/- 4 percent, the news might actually be worse for congress, but with a reelection rate of 80-90 percent for both the House and the Senate, approval must now be considered irrelevant.
The Centre for Responsive Politics is a nonpartisan Washington think tank tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. I doubt it’s work will worry the many millionaires in the US Congress, and who wouldn’t want to be them.
By Andrew Willig