The American people have been facing tough economic challenges. While politicians often lecture Americans about tightening up their proverbial belts to help themselves during these dire economic times, it appears that many politicians are in fact doing the opposite, since their income has grown exponentially while they've been in office.
Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post reports that the wealth gap between lawmakers and constituents is widening, according to an analysis of financial disclosures by the Washington Post:
Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home equity.
Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.
The comparisons exclude home equity because it is not included in congressional reporting, and 1984 was chosen because it is the earliest year for which consistent wealth statistics are available.
The growing disparity between the representatives and the represented means that there is a greater distance between the economic experience of Americans and those of lawmakers …
The growing financial comfort of Congress relative to most Americans is consistent with the general trends in the United States toward inequality of wealth: Members of Congress have long been wealthier than average Americans, and in recent decades the wealth of the wealthiest Americans has outpaced that of the average.
Coupled with the exorbitant cost of running an election campaign, it stands to reason that the wealth gap would widen. It also reflects what appears to be the growing chasm between lawmakers and voters on what is really needed to ensure that all Americans can actually pursue happiness. You can't be happy if you've been unemployed or underemployed for years and lawmakers want to cut services that help you while cutting taxes for the wealthy, who can actually afford the added burden — especially short-term.
Sadly, these figures are only confirming what many have figured out: This country is splitting into the haves and have-nots at breakneck speed. Most lawmakers belong to the haves, while most citizens belong to the have-nots. The tenets of capitalism aside — the grossly unequal distribution of wealth is truly a problem in a land that promises economic opportunity for all. Is that a promise that members of Congress can afford to keep?
Read more at the Washington Post.