Friday, December 30, 2011

Dr. Obvious Reports: Growing Wealth Widens Distance Between Lawmakers and Constituents

I suppose it needed to be said because clearly a substantial portion of the population still, despite all of the mounting evidence in recent years, does not realize how badly they are getting screwed, but this story from the Washington Post should surprise exactly no one who is actually paying attention to the state of affairs in this country:
Though lawmakers on Capitol Hill have long been more prosperous than other Americans, others of that time included a barber, a pipe fitter and a house painter. A handful had even organized into what was called the “Blue Collar Caucus.”

But the financial gap between Americans and their representatives in Congress has widened considerably since then, 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.
So what is one of the biggest reasons for the increasing disparity? Why, the exploding costs of Congressional campaigns, of course. Thank you, doc.
Another possible reason for the growing wealth of Congress is that running a campaign has become much, much more expensive, making it more likely that wealthy people, who can donate substantially to their own campaigns, gain office.

Since 1976, the average amount spent by winning House candidates quadrupled in inflation-adjusted dollars, to $1.4 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.
So what kind of effect does this state of affairs have on the Congresscritters' empathy for the working and middle classes? It goes down, you say? Doc, you're a genius.
But a person’s financial circumstances certainly affect a person’s political outlook. For example, people identified as lower or middle class have been more likely to see income inequality as a problem and to favor redistribution of income, according to figures from the General Social Survey.
The article is lengthy and includes interviews with actual Congresscritters about how their life experiences influence their politics. Blah, blah, blah, whatever. The amazing thing is that the Post treats this story as if it is actual news, when it should be perfectly obvious to any sentient observer that the system was bought and paid for by the wealthy a long time ago.

Bonus: "Don't give me any of that do goody-good bullshit"

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