Powerbrokers aren’t broke
If you’ve had an inkling that lawmakers are out of touch with the average American taxpayer, you could be right.
Of the ninety-four freshman U.S. Senate and House members who have joined the 113th Congress, their median estimated net worth is about $1 million more than the typical American household. Them: $1,066,515, Us: $66,740 — according to the most recent figures available for the U.S. Census showing the median net worth of the average American Household.
The 535 members of Congress — 435 members in the House of Representatives and 100 members in the Senate — have a median estimated net worth of about $966,000, according to Center for Responsive Politics data, collected from personal financial disclosure forms filed by all members of Congress and candidates who were victorious at the polls.
Some have earned it, some inherited it and a good number married it.
According to Open Secrets blog, Democrat members of Congress are wealthier overall. Their median net worth is $990,508 compared to the $907,014 for their Republican counterparts. In the House, where the median net worth is estimated to be $856,009, Democrats are wealthier than Republicans, with Democrat members’ median estimated net worth at $910,505, compared with that of the Republicans at just $789,008. In the Senate, though, where the median estimated net worth for all members is $2.5 million, the Republicans have a slight edge — $2.56 million to $2.47 million — over their Democrat colleagues.
The Democrats’ decline in the Senate has much to do with the retirement of Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and the departures of Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), each of whom had an estimated net worth of more than $6 million in 2010. On the House side, 13 members averaging at least $5 million each, did not return.
The New York Times covered the concept of Congress swearing off collecting paychecks until it passes a budget, saying in principle it sounds self-sacrificing, even noble. But behind the “no budget, no pay” proposal, which the House recently passed when it voted to extend the debt limit, is also a basic reality: many of those who support the idea are so wealthy that their Congressional paychecks represent little more than a rounding error.
Rank-and-file members of the House and Senate earn a base salary (excluding benefits and perks) of $174,000 a year. The Speaker of the House is paid $223,500, while the Majority and Minority Leaders receive $193,400.
Roll Call provides a detailed list of the 50 wealthiest members of Congress as of the last filing.
We’ve all heard of the old line, “My wife doesn’t understand me.” The real question is, “Does your member of Congress?”