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Boom Years for Congress

December 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Between 1984 and 2009, the average net worth of American families has decreased by about .7 percent. But for the folks in Washington that we elect year after year to make laws for us and spend our money, these past few decades haven’t been so bad. Over the same time period that average Americans experienced a slight decrease in their net worth, members of Congress, on average, have enjoyed a increase in their worth of about 159 percent.

Read the full report from the Washington Post.

It’s cliché to say, but Congress is clearly out of touch with most Americans. The enormous gap between the lived experience of members of Congress and the lived experience of the rest of us comes across clearly in their policy-making decisions. Rather than working honestly on creating jobs for those who have been hit by the recession, the only things Congress can agree on are policies that are supported by and favor large corporations. The major bills that have passed so far this session or are about to pass – the free trade deals, patent law reform, and internet censorship powers (SOPA/PIPA) – are all focused on protecting big, politically-connected business interests. They’re not about creating jobs, even though that is how they’ve been marketed to the public.

It’s not that Congress doesn’t care about the rest of us, it’s that they honestly do not understand us and the struggles we face. In this post-Citizens United era of unlimited, money-driven political speech, Congress is hearing almost exclusively from an elite group of highly ideological corporate executive, lobbyists and lawyers. According to a report from the Sunlight Foundation, nearly 25 percent of all money spent on elections last year can from the top .01 percent of the population. In fact, the top .01 percent spent more money on political campaigns in 2010, on average, than the average American earned in income. The U.S. Congress has clearly become an institution by and for the 1 percent, and that’s not going to change until the rest of us can overcome our personal divisions and join together in a fundamental fight to reform the political economy of the U.S.

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Comments

Displaying 1-30 of 34 total comments.

  • messejproduction 12/27/2011 1:41pm

    THIS SLIDE, IN FACT DEMONSTRATES THAT REPUBLICANS "love america " BUT DON’T CARE ABOUT ALL AMERICANS. THEY ARE ONLY CONCERNED WITH TAKING BACK " their america". If they truly cared about the " JOB CREATORS" WHY IS LEGISLATIONS ONLY DESIGNED TO BENEFIT RICH JOB CREATORS AND NOT THE SMALL BUSINESS JOB CREATORS; or the professions that facilitate JOB CREATION, LIKE TEACHERS, ARMED FORCES AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AND MANY OTHER JOBS THAT BUILD LEADERS. AND WHEN WILL LAW MAKERS MAKE THE VOTING RIGHTS AMENDEMENT A LAW???? The ABUNDANT LACK OF SUPPORT AND RESPECT FOR OUR NATIONS FIRST AFICAN AMERICAN PRESIDENT HIGHLY UNDERSCORES YOUR LACK OF CONCERN TO CHANGE AND IMPROVE ALL OF AMERICA.

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    iSureDoMisesHayek 12/27/2011 4:24pm

    @messejproduction:

    While it is usually a safe bet to conclude that congress is out of touch with its constituents, I wouldn’t put too much faith into the graph shown above to paint a full and accurate picture regarding either party. Even the Huffington Post is willing to admit that Democrat Rep’s stock portfolios outperform Republicans by more than 7% (fourth paragraph from bottom).

    In either case, you shouldn’t look at just the fact that they are growing their wealth, but HOW they are growing wealth. Furthermore, I can assure you that my lack of respect for the nation’s “first African American President” (as you put it) does not stem from the color of his skin, but rather the “color of his policies”.

    Huffington Post Article:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/24/members-of-congress-get-a_n_866387.html

    Original Paper:
    http://www.bepress.com/bap/vol13/iss1/art4/

    PS: Don’t write in all caps. It’s difficult to read and it makes you seem unintelligent. Just a friendly suggestion.

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    iSureDoMisesHayek 12/27/2011 5:52pm

    PSS:

    Read the “fine print”: “Net worth figures exclude home equity”.

    You mean the author excludes the biggest investment (and store of wealth) that most Americans will ever make within their lifetime from the data set?!?! Sheesh.

    Wealth comes from capital accumulation, not money sitting in the bank. This graph paints a highly inaccurate picture. I’m not saying that congress isn’t out of touch… I’m just saying be careful HOW you say it.

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    donnyshaw 12/28/2011 12:05pm

    Including home values would only make the wealth disparity greater, don’t you think? Btw, the reason the study excluded home value was to provide a measure of liquid assets.

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    iSureDoMisesHayek 12/28/2011 1:44pm

    No, I don’t. Again, wealth comes from capital (productive assets) accumulation OVER TIME. I have doubts about the way the data has been presented.

    Where are the outliers in the data? We are only given 2 data points for “US Families”, both in years directly following large recessions. What is the make-up of wealth among individuals in each party and how does using MEDIAN NET WORTH affect the political party representation? What defines a “US Family”? What are the confidence intervals? Was inequality measured by using Lorenz Curves / Gini Coefficients? If so, that in itself is highly deceptive.

    Simple things like leading the reader to believe that multicolinearity between “polarized voting” and “economic inequality” is absolute makes me believe that the article is less concerned with painting an accurate picture and more so with presenting an opinion. (Cont)

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    iSureDoMisesHayek 12/28/2011 1:46pm

    We now enjoy many luxuries that simply weren’t available 25 years ago. For the graph to imply that the standard of living has diminished over the last 25 years for everyone is misleading at best.

    Again, I’m not disagreeing with your overall sentiment (at least not from the first 2 paragraphs), but more so with the Washington Post’s graph. As an economist I am all too familiar with graphs like these and how people like messejproduction wave them like a “fact flag” all over social networking sites.

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    GamerLEN 12/29/2011 9:04am

    A suggestion.

    If you keep capslock on when you write, most people will ignore your post.

    Yelling is not emoting or expressing, it is just yelling.

  • eth111 12/28/2011 10:48am

    To Mr. Shaw’s 1% comment, the piece that most people miss is that the 1% is not about income or relative net worth, it is about how connected you are to the elite political class. Currently, in this country, there is the political class (both R and D) and everybody else. The political class continues to extract wealth and freedom from the rest of us to further their own interests. Both parties are engaged in social engineering rather than limiting the intrusion and allowing individuals to make their own decisions.

    Note that the counties containing Silicon Valley are no longer the wealthiest in the country. 5 of the 10 wealthiest counties in the country abut DC, therein lies the problem. When takers can acquire wealth faster than makers, we have inverted the underlying philosophy that grew this country to its former glory. Jefferson, Bastiat, Spooner, and many others warned against it, yet we went down that path anyways.

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    donnyshaw 12/28/2011 12:03pm

    the 1% is not about income or relative net worth, it is about how connected you are to the elite political class. Currently, in this country, there is the political class (both R and D) and everybody else. The political class continues to extract wealth and freedom from the rest of us to further their own interests.

    Agreed!

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  • Starsifter 12/28/2011 8:08pm

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