In Congress, nearly half the members are millionaires

One-Percenter of the Week: The Senate's median net worth is $2.63 million. The House's is $756,00.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 5, 2012 5:56PM

By Michael Brush

Just a few days into the new year, and we're already blitzed with wall-to-wall election coverage. But the fun is only just beginning. Before this election year is out, scores of congressional candidates will join the presidential contenders already dominating the airwaves.


If you observe their endless debates and expensive attack ads and get a sense that these candidates are out of touch with many of the pedestrian problems faced by the rest of us -- oh, say like trying to balance a family budget -- it's not just your imagination.


Image: US Capitol (© Donovan Reese/Getty Images)While most Americans saw their incomes and wealth slip in the past several years, the wealth of our reps in Washington, D.C., has grown by leaps and bounds. The key takeaway here: Being a millionaire would make any normal person a One-Percenter, a member of the nation’s wealthiest group. In Congress, it just makes you average.


So rather than a CEO this week -- we’ll get back to them – I’m making Congress my One-Percenter of the Week.


  Consider these numbers:

  • Nearly half of the members of Congress are millionaires, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington watchdog.
  • The median net worth of a U.S. senator was $2.63 million in 2010, the most recent year for which financial data are available. That was up 11% from the year before, says CRP.
  • The median estimated net worth for House members was $756,765.
  • The median net worth of House members almost tripled from 1984 and 2009, while the net worth of Americans declined slightly during the same time, according to the Washington Post and the University of Michigan.

"It's no surprise that so many people grumble about lawmakers being out of touch," said Sheila Krumholz, CRP executive director. And it's not only the news of their costly yachts and expensive vacations that rankles.


 It's also the sense that our One-Percenter reps in Washington aren't doing enough to help the rest of us, perhaps because they are so distracted by their embarrassingly rancorous bipartisan arguing -- which has earned them their most unfavorable ratings in years.


Bickering over the budget last summer, for example, brought the threat of a U.S. credit rating downgrade, helping to shave billions off our stock holdings in just a few painful weeks.


A recent Congressional Budget Office study found that public policy efforts -- in the tax code and through programs like Medicaid -- now do less to combat income inequality than they did in 1979.


And three years after the worst financial meltdown in decades -- which many blame on lax oversight of the financial sector by Washington -- our economy is improving, but not fast enough to provide jobs for the millions who are unemployed.


It’s not hard, either, to suggest a little bias toward the One Percent, and a bipartisan one. For all the talk about rescinding the portion of the Bush tax cuts that apply to the highest income brackets, they survived two years with a Democratic president and Democratic majority in both houses of Congress as well as the current, divided Congress. And late in 2011, House Republicans took lots of criticism for stalling on a 2% payroll tax that by its nature helped those in the lower brackets more than the One Percent.


So who's richest in Congress?

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., tops the CRP list as the wealthiest of the lot, with an estimated 2010 net worth of $448 million. He's followed by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, with an estimated net worth of $380 million. (For a look at a list from Roll Call and CNBC, read "The 15 richest members of Congress.")


Just how did these reps get so wealthy? Probably not on the $174,000 they make a year, despite the juicy perks like extra pay for senior posts and generous medical and pension benefits. Most likely, they're so much richer than the rest of us simply because campaigning is expensive, so politics naturally attracts wealthy people. Many of them made their riches in real estate, or they got their wealth through inheritances and marriage.


But shrewd stock picking also clearly help. Studies by Alan Ziobrowski at Georgia State University conclude that our reps regularly outperform the markets by large amounts due to the “significant information advantage” they derive from their jobs.


Our reps may actually be a lot wealthier than the numbers provided by CRP suggest, since so much of their wealth goes unreported. The top bracket for assets of spouses is "more than $1 million," which means that family net worth is likely undervalued in many cases. Plus their annual filings exclude the value of government retirement accounts, primary residences and personal property not held for investment -- like artwork and cars. 


More One-Percenters of the Week:



Jan 5, 2012 8:36PM
I have said for years that Congress had nothing in common with the average 40,000 a year wage earner. this article just reinforces my thoughts.  It is past time to change the election system.  For one thing it is to long.  It should be 6 weeks max.  Public funded to keep it honest with a budget of 1,000,000.  No special interest groups allowed to campaign for anyone.
Jan 5, 2012 9:11PM
Like I've said in the past, FOR THE RICH BY THE RICH. It is time for another Boston Tea Party, and I don't mean the offshoot of the republican party. I mean a tax rebellion like our forefathers had in Boston harbor. They were protesting taxation without representation, that is what the 99 percent is up against in this country. The politicians are a big part of the problem. The 99 percent need to stop paying taxes until we are fairly represented. The evil empire is alive and cosuming the poor and the working class in my country. They try to distract us with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea and all of the others they accuse of being unfair to the citizens. The real evil empire is right here and they are killing us.
Jan 5, 2012 8:33PM

Considering the staggering amount of money it takes these days to run a successful campaign it's no surprise that the affluent are being elected. The 'average Joe" cannot afford to run a successful campaign giving them basically no chance of getting elected.

This also explains why our elected politicians are so tone deaf to the American public and not in touch with the reality we live in daily.

Jan 5, 2012 9:08PM

And I bet not one of them pay their own medical insurance. I don't know about the rest of you people but do you think we should be paying their insurance with are taxes, when a lot of us aren't even allowed to buy our own. Bunch of selfish jerks is what I say.

Jan 5, 2012 11:14PM
How about this tidbit?

36 have been accused of spousal abuse
7 have been arrested for fraud
19 have been accused of writing bad checks
117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
3 have done time for assault

repeat 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
14 have been arrested on drug-related charges

8 have been arrested for shoplifting
currently are defendants in lawsuits,

have been arrested for drunk driving
in the last year.
And they keep pumping out laws against us citizens. Go figure!!

Jan 5, 2012 9:08PM

The largest issues with these elected PROFESSIONAL Politicians is that of power.

The only difference in Democrats and Republicans is how they spend the money they steal or take from lobbyists.

We should throw them ALL out and elect people who will abide by the same laws, social security retirement program, and health care programs as every other citizen n America. Serve only one TERM AND have NO pension (100% pay after 1 term of office s ridiculous).

If this were done, we'd fix all the Government wasteful programs in a hurry and America would be competitive again.

Jan 5, 2012 8:47PM
They should go back to the way congress and the house use to work. Back in the day, they use to work for FREE. Yep, that's right. It was called doing a service for your country, and now they call it a job. If our forefathers could see them today, they would write a new bill that executes any member who gets paid to do their country a service. I'm sure Jefferson would say, that is extortion of the people!
and the only way to change this is to put in a 3rd party willing to change all the rules these clowns have set up for themselves and the other rich people and companies in this country . start by outlawing the lobby industry , taking all this crazy money out of the elections , allow only legal citizens to donate to the elections and limit their amount to $500. put term limits in for all who run for any office . this is what happens when they stay there for decades.  time for change people and our votes can change it .
Jan 5, 2012 9:04PM
When was the last time a commoner(if you get my drift) was elected to Congress? If you are not rich to begin with,you have two chances of getting elected to Congress:slim and none.
Jan 5, 2012 9:16PM
Now I see why congress does not want the rich to pay taxes. If you ask me, they all should be paying 75% taxes on there money, put them on social security, take away their retirement plans and offer them medicare just like us!
Jan 5, 2012 9:14PM
Vote out all the millionaires this November period.
Jan 6, 2012 2:02AM

This one works for starters: Congress shall pass no law which applies to Congress and not the American People and Congress shall pass no law which applies to the American People and not to Congress.


Also need a Balanced Budget Amendment, it's time our govenment learns to live within its means and quit selling our futures, our children's futures and grandchildren's futures down the drain.

Jan 5, 2012 9:09PM

That's why they are so out of touch

but people keep voting them in

Jan 5, 2012 9:18PM
VOTE THEM ALL OUT!! How much is enough???
Jan 5, 2012 8:59PM
Dysfunctional Congress?  It sounds like they are functioning REAL good for themselves .. it is all those of us who are the 99% who are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to good government.
Jan 5, 2012 8:48PM
The intersting part is that many of them are wealthier when they leave than when the start.  Hmmmmmmmmm wonder how they do that?
Jan 5, 2012 9:23PM
Is it any wonder they are against tax increases for the wealthiest?  Nothing like protecting their own enlightened self-interest at the expense of the disappearing middle class.
Jan 13, 2012 7:44PM

I think if the President has term limits, so should congress, the house, and even supreme court judges. No more lifers. We need people who aren't entrenched in party politics. It's like watching 6 yr olds fight over a toy. We need people who will stick to their guns no matter what the rest of their party is pushing on them.  The good of the country is and should always be the top priority. Let's stop being Dem. and Rep. and start being Americans again. We've got to put aside our differnces, before we become a 3rd world country.

Sad thing is these congress members are constantly distracting voters with such important issues as "family values" which these politicians pretend to understand and "universal healthcare reform" as long as they have theirs F**k the rest of us. 
Jan 6, 2012 2:35AM

So they should all give up their free pensions and create their own like they tell us.  No more free health care either for them.  I know that will be the day lol!!!


In the meantime they really don't care about the rest of us.

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