The Income Gap: Why Rich Congressmen Can’t Comprehend Real America

America is a representative democracy, but our legislators in Congress do not accurately represent the population as far as income is concerned. The income disparity between sitting members of Congress and the average household explains why the rich enjoy all the advantages in America. Party affiliation does not favor Republicans or Democrats as far as income is concerned, and both sides of the aisle have their fair share of extremely wealthy members.

When looking at the voting records of Democrats and Republicans, Democrats are more likely to support jobs and social programs for families, minorities, and the poor. Conversely, Republicans are much more likely to support corporations, the banking industry, and the wealthy to the point of cutting services to the bottom 98% of the population so the top 2% can maintain their wealth and pay less taxes.

In 2009 the median household income was approximately $46,326, and that figure represents a single wage earner. Households with dual wage earners earn on average $67,348 per year. The figures vary from state to state, and within states the figures are different depending on location, education level and industry in the region. Whatever metrics one uses to figure income, our representatives are doing much better than the average American, and for Republicans, it demonstrates their blatant disregard for the majority of Americans.

The current salary of rank and file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year with majority and minority leaders earning an additional $20,000 per year putting them in the top 3-5% of all wage earners in America. The net worth of Senators and Representatives is even more revealing. In the Senate the average net worth is $13,989,022 and in the House the average is $4,670,831. It must be noted that legislators receive travel and administrative allowances that drive up their cost to the American taxpayer. There is nothing wrong with Senators and Representatives being wealthy, but their wealth makes them ineligible to critically make and pass laws that affect the great majority of Americans.

The wealth of American legislators makes them so far removed from the average American that they cannot relate to living from paycheck to paycheck, or to having to subsist on unemployment benefits or Social Security retirement income. Many legislators came from humble beginnings, but that does not make them sympathetic to the plight of the unemployed or average working-class wage earner. Their wealth explains why legislators give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, and why they insure that wealth is preserved. There is a thinking that legislators protect the wealthy for the campaign contributions, but the reality is they are protecting themselves as much as their donors.

Republicans are primarily the protectors of the wealthy, and although Democrats are guilty of pandering to campaign donors in the banking industry and Wall Street, Democrats are more likely to promote legislation to create jobs and social programs for the poor and infirm. In the past year, Democrats sponsored legislation to remove tax incentives for corporations that outsource jobs, and a jobs bill that provided incentives for small businesses that create jobs. Republicans blocked both pieces of legislation with the help of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their foreign donors.

The Republicans also held unemployed Americans hostage to get tax breaks for the 2% richest of Americans. Although both parties are filled with multi-millionaires who benefit from lower capital gains and estate tax, it was Republicans who refused to extend unemployment benefits until they secured the wealthy tax breaks. Democrats are just as wealthy as Republicans, but they fought for health care reform, unemployment benefits, and social programs that benefit the majority of Americans.

It is not that Republicans are ignorant of the situation most Americans find themselves in; it is just that they are more concerned with maintaining or growing their own wealth. A couple of weeks ago, John Boehner broke down crying when he spoke of America’s children having the same opportunities that he had growing up, but his emotional outburst belied his voting record in regards to job creation and aid to families struggling in the difficult economy. For most Republicans, their loyalties lie with the people of their economic class instead of working-class Americans.

America’s legislators are in the top 3-5% of Americans who don’t need jobs, health insurance, or reasonable retirement income and they are not representative of the population. 98% of the voters who elect representatives are not wealthy and most live paycheck to paycheck; few have affordable health care coverage. By contrast, legislators receive incredible pensions and health care for the rest of their lives and based on their net worth, most will never need either. It is possible that they feel the average citizen is in the same position, but that is unlikely.

It is more likely that they just don’t care about average Americans, and their votes are to support and maintain their own wealth. Judging by the net worth of legislators, they must have significant stock in large corporations that explains their reluctance to hold them accountable to the government or taxpayers. It also explains why they refuse to pass legislation that will create jobs because it will diminish the bottom line of the corporations they have stock in; or own outright.

Democrats are just as wealthy as Republicans, but they have social and moral conscience enough to try to alleviate the poverty and diminishing economic situation the Republicans have put the American worker in. If Democrats are serious about creating jobs and a stable economy for all Americans, they will publicize the wealth of all legislators so the American people can see for themselves who is representing the people and who represents the wealthy. If they did, Republicans would be hard pressed to campaign on promises to cut taxes for the rich, outsource jobs, and deny health care to millions of Americans. The American people are not the brightest folks on the planet, but they know hypocrisy when the see it.  It is up to wealthy Democrats to help Americans see it.

8 Replies to “The Income Gap: Why Rich Congressmen Can’t Comprehend Real America”

  1. Most of them live in a protective bubble that insulates them from the trials and tribulations of trying to make ends meet, whether or not families have paychecks. It would be a mistake, however, to label all of them as empathy-challenged. There are those who are fundamentally decent humans trying to help the less fortunate, while there are others who struggled earlier in their lives and never forgot where they came from. Just the same, you are describing those who think the non-wealthy are unworthy and not deserving of compassion or consideration. People in that category blithely deride the unemployed, and accuse them of being lazy and parasitic. They also enjoy the best health care the country has to offer, while they think nothing of denying health care to millions of others by considering the dismantling of health care reform. In addition, they support the “right” of corporations to pursue the bottom line by outsourcing jobs for cheap labor in order to increase their profits. Their own financial investments in these companies, as well as political contributions the companies give, means that they have no incentive to help less fortunate people. I was watching the Rachel Maddow show, where she was describing some of the prospective Republican presidential candidates. These folks share the mean-spirited selfishness that enables them to enact legislation guaranteed to increase the misery index in this country. I seriously doubt that would give them pause, because they are more enamored of their failed ideology than in the Americans they profess to love.

  2. I think the Congress needs to become more of a job you do for your country than it is one of a paycheck. Cut the salary’s and take away the health care for anyone in Government making over 100,000. Make them buy their own.

    Their wages must be tied to the Average Americans to the degree that if the average yearly wage is flat, their is too. If it goes negative, theirs does too by the same percent. If it goes up, then theirs does too. No acceptance of gifts of any kinds while in office and no housing allowance for those making over 200,000. Performance

    This sounds like Rome where the Senators virtually ran the country and were the richest of all people. That didnt work out so well.

  3. I knew that members of Congress enjoyed great perks not received by the VAST MAJORITY of Americans – I did NOT realize the incredibile wealth of individual members. This is truly disgusting. These members should NOT receive lifetime health care for free, nor should they receive pensions. The salaries should be SLASHED – they are supposed to be citizen legislators, not millionaires doing it “for pin money”.

    These congresspeople are comletely clueless as to the plight of MOST AMERICANS on a daily basis – particularly the last three years. Wages have been stagnant for 30 years and HC costs rise continuously and they do not want to have HC for everyone. I cannot imagine what they think the senior citizens live on and they do not give them increases due to another dysfunctional system of entitlement determination. Most seniors receive around $1,000 per month AFTER they have paid for Medicare. Medicare and Rx for seniors should be FREE.

    I do believe the Rethuggery Obstructionist Party of Teabagging Fewls will mess up the economy so completely in the next two years, they will be ousted again, meanwhile, Americans suffer. How many more homeless, uninsured Americans will exist by then? How many people will simply, in the words of Rep. Grayson, “die quickly”?

    Hey, Rethugs, WHERE ARE THE JOBS? You’ve got your tax-cut bonus – WHERE ARE THE JOBS? I expect FULL employment not later than February 1, 2011.

  4. Take a break from patting yourselves on the back in gloated self-assurance, and pick up another history book–put your self in the opposite shoes and let your eyes be opened.

    I’m going to go eat my cake… cause its delicious.

  5. We are living in Rome, Shiva. And every other historical empire in its decline. Just look at the increasing division of wealth in this country. You’ll find parallels throughout history.
    The only answer is election reform. But all that gets is lip service. Nothing significant has been done about it, and nothing will — it’s a Catch-22; election reform has to be passed by the very elected who benefit from maintaining the status-quo.
    The barbarians are at the gate.

  6. Ignorance IS expensive, and history shows that when the wealth divide is too great, revolt often results with the consequence being a revolution, such as the ones in France during the late 18th century and in Russia during the early 20th century. Of course, Rome also offers parallels, and people ignore these examples at their own peril.

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