By Michael Snyder
Do you want to get rich? Just get elected to Congress. The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are absolutely packed with wealthy people that are very rapidly becoming even wealthier. The collective net worth of the members of Congress is now measured in the billions of dollars. The people that we have elected to the House and Senate are absolutely swimming in money.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to get elected to Congress. In this day and age you generally have to be heavily connected to those that are very wealthy to get into Congress because it takes gigantic amounts of cash to win campaigns. But if you can get in to the club, you pretty much have it made. The numbers that you are about to read are very difficult to believe and they should deeply sadden you. They show that Congress has become all about money. Congressional races are mostly financed by wealthy people, most of the people that we elect to Congress are very wealthy, and they rapidly get wealthier after they are elected. All of this money has turned our republic into something far different than our founding fathers intended.
The following are 12 statistics about money and Congress that are so outrageous that it is hard to believe that they are actually true....
#1 The collective net worth of all of the members of Congress increased by 25 percent between 2008 and 2010.
#2 The collective net worth of all of the members of Congress is now slightly over 2 billion dollars. That is "billion" with a "b".
#3 This happened during a time when the net worth of most American households was declining rapidly. According to the Federal Reserve, the collective net worth of all American households decreased by 23 percent between 2007 and 2009.
#4 The average net worth for a member of Congress is now approximately 3.8 million dollars.
#5 The net worth of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi increased by 62 percent from 2009 to 2010. In 2009 it was reported that she had a net worth of 21.7 million dollars, and in 2010 it was reported that she had a net worth of 35.2 million dollars.
#6 The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, saw his wealth grow by 29 percent from 2009 to 2010. He is now worth approximately 9.8 million dollars.
#7 More than 50 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress are millionaires.
#8 In 2008, the average cost of winning a seat in the House of Representatives was $1.1 million and the average cost of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate was $6.5 million. Spending on political campaigns has gotten way out of control.
#9 Insider trading is perfectly legal for members of the U.S. Congress - and they refuse to pass a law that would change that.
#10 The percentage of millionaires in Congress is more than 50 times higher than the percentage of millionaires in the general population.
#11 U.S. Representative Darrell Issa is worth approximately 220 million dollars. His wealth grew by approximately 37 percent from 2009 to 2010.
#12 The wealthiest member of Congress, U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, is worth approximately 294 million dollars.
So how are members of Congress becoming so wealthy?
Well, there are lots of ways they are raking in the cash, but one especially alarming thing that goes on is that members of Congress often make investments in companies that will go up significantly if legislation that is being considered by Congress "goes the right way".
This is called a "conflict of interest", but it happens constantly in Congress and nobody seems to get into any trouble for it.
The following is video of Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes ambushing Nancy Pelosi about one particular conflict of interest involving credit card legislation. As you can see, she does not want to talk about it....
As noted above, insider trading is perfectly legal for members of Congress.
A law that would ban insider trading by members of Congress has been stalled for years on Capitol Hill.
So has this been a significant benefit to members of Congress?
Well, there has been at least one study that appears to indicate that members of Congress have been much more successful in the stock market than members of the general public have....
A 2004 study of the results of stock trading by United States Senators during the 1990s found that that senators on average beat the market by 12% a year. In sharp contrast, U.S. households on average underperformed the market by 1.4% a year and even corporate insiders on average beat the market by only about 6% a year during that period. A reasonable inference is that some Senators had access to - and were using - material nonpublic information about the companies in whose stock they trade.
Of course all of this could just be a coincidence, right?
Meanwhile, members of Congress keep telling the rest of us that we are just going to have to cut back because times are tough.
For example, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, Nancy Pelosi actually claimed that we should try to encourage poor people to have less children because it costs the government so much money to take care of them....
PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?
PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.
This elitist attitude extends all the way into the White House as well. Earlier this year, Barack Obama made the following statement....
"If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, or you might put off a vacation."
Meanwhile, the Obamas are living the high life at taxpayer expense. In a previous article I mentioned one outrageously expensive vacation taken by the Obamas that was paid for by our taxes....
"Back in August, Michelle Obama took her daughter Sasha and 40 of her friends for a vacation in Spain.
So what was the bill to the taxpayers for that little jaunt across the pond?
It is estimated that vacation alone cost U.S. taxpayers $375,000."
There is a massive disconnect between what our politicians say and what our politicians do.
The high life is good enough for them, but the rest of us have got to "cut back" and suffer becomes times are hard.
But when it comes to money and Congress, the most corrupting influence of all is probably all of the campaign money that gets thrown around.
In America today, it takes gigantic mountains of money to run a successful campaign.
Sadly, the candidate that raises the most money almost always wins. In federal elections the candidate that raises the most money wins about 90 percent of the time.
More than 5 billion dollars were spent on political campaigns back in 2008.
That represents a huge number of favors that need to be paid back.
In 2012, it is being projected that 8 billion dollars could be spent on political campaigns.
When big corporations and wealthy individuals shovel huge piles of money into political campaigns, it is generally because they expect something in return.
Most of those that get sent to Congress realize that they never would have won if wealthy donors had not showered cash on them. Most of them understand that they should not bite the hands that feed them if they want the cash to keep rolling in.
Politics in America has become a game that is played by the elite for the benefit of the elite.
Average Americans have the perception that they are involved in the process and that their opinions really matter, but mostly it is just an illusion.
It is so sad.
Meanwhile, members of Congress rapidly get wealthier and average American families continue to suffer. In fact, the standard of living in the United States has fallen farther over the past three years than at any other time that has ever been recorded in U.S. history.
But for members of Congress the good times just keep on rolling.
Just as it has been for most of human history, the rich rule over the poor.
Does anyone out there believe that we have any hope of changing this?
About The Author - Michael Snyder is the founder and editor of The Economic Collapse
The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.
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