Get rich quick scheme benefits those in Congress

Congress has achieved something of a milestone.
For the first time in history, more than half the members of the House and Senate are now millionaires, according to a new analysis of financial disclosure reports filed last year. The median net worth for lawmakers in the House and Senate was $1,008,767 — up 4.4 percent, according to the analysis, conducted by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which examines the influence of money on politics in Washington.
Over all, at least 268 of the 534 current members of Congress had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, which is the year covered by the reports that each lawmaker had to file in 2013.
The wealthiest member of Congress, as has previously been the case, was Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, who had a net worth of between $330 million and $598 million, a significant chunk of which he earned through the Viper car antitheft system that is marketed and sold by a company he owned.
The poorest was Representative David Valadao, Republican of California, who listed debts of about $12.1 million, mostly from loans on a family dairy farm.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress were about equally wealthy, with Democrats boasting a median net worth of $1.04 million, compared to $1 million for congressional Republicans. The averages in both cases were up compared with the previous year, when the numbers were $990,000 and $907,000, the analysis showed.
Many of the members of Congress who were first elected in 2012 were unusually wealthy, helping drive up the overall standard of living among representatives and senators.
But the change in the average wealth also tracks overall changes in the well-being of higher-income Americans nationwide, as stock markets have recovered from the recession. The biggest stock holding among members of Congress is General Electric, followed by Wells Fargo and Microsoft, according to the analysis.
The rise in wealth takes place at the same time that both parties are trying to position themselves as more sympathetic to the jump in inequity in the United States; the rich have gotten much richer while the median family income has been relatively flat or has declined, depending on different statistical measurements.
The growing divergence may help explain why Congress, beyond the politics involved, would allow unemployment benefits to expire, critics said.
“Congress not only seems more responsive to policy desires of the very rich, but increasingly they are the very rich,” said Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington-based research group that focuses on income inequity and poverty. “They probably know far fewer people cut off by the failure to extend unemployment benefits, and that makes them  less sensitive to just how much damage that cutoff is going to cause.”

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