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Wealthy Congress, Strapped Americans

David Callahan
The Washington Post has a striking analysis of the growing wealth gap between members of Congress and average Americans. It finds that the "median net worth of a member of the House in 2009 was more than 2 1 / 2 times greater than it was in 1984 — $725,00 vs. $280,000 — when adjusted for inflation. . . . Meanwhile, the median net worth of Americans, as a whole, actually declined slightly over the same period."

There is nothing much surprising in this story. Running for Congress has gotten ever more expensive, disqualifying many people who can't self-finance -- or at least support themselves while run. But the story here is broader, of course. Educated elites have pulled away from the rest of the country overall, and many members of Congress are drawn from these ranks.

The story also points out that political polarization in Congress -- something Americans despise -- has intensified along with rising economic inequality. Again, this is not new -- Nolan McCarty and Keith Poole explore this link years ago -- but it is important to focus on this fact.

Congressional net worth more than doubles since 1984