6 astounding facts about our super-rich Congress

Altogether, its members are worth billions. Not bad for one of the least productive Congresses in U.S. history

By Kali Holloway
Published January 14, 2015 9:30AM (EST)
  (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet Despite a performance rating that’s nearly the lowest it’s ever been, members of Congress are richer than ever. In fact, a Center for Responsive Politics study finds that, on average, one member of Congress has the cumulative worth of 18 American households. Which is an astounding amount of wealth for a body that ended last year as one of the least productive Congresses in American history. Here’s a snapshot of what else the study found:

1) The rest of us got poorer while Congress grew richer

While the Great Recession took its toll on most Americans, members of Congress saw their wallets grow fatter. Since 2007, the median net worth of Americans has dropped by almost one third (28%). Meanwhile, members of Congress’ median worths rose a staggering 43%.

2) Congress is mostly made of millionaires

The rich (and very rich) are right in their element in Congress. Millionaires made up more than 50% of Congress in 2013, with nearly 271 of the 533 members claiming personal fortunes of at least seven digits. The median net worth of members was $1,029,505 in 2013, up 2.5 percent over the year prior. Contrast that with the median net worth of your average American household, which sits at a comparatively paltry $56,355.

3) The richest members of Congress are hundred-millionares

The top five members of Congress are worth astounding amounts. At $200.5 million, Republican Dave Trott’s personal wealth ranks just fifth highest in Congress. Democrat Jared Polis ranks fourth with $213.2 million. Democrat John K. Delaney is worth $222.4 million, placing him third. Another Democrat, Mark Warner, is worth $254.2 million. And Republican Darryl Issa is by far the richest man in Congress -- in fact, it's not even close -- worth an incredible $448.4 million. And that’s still $15.6 million lessthan he was valued at last year.

4) Altogether, the members of Congress are worth billions

In 2013, the sum of the median worth of the members of Congress was about $4.3 billion. That’s roughly equivalent to the net worth of 76,000 American households. And that’s not including the holdings of Republicans Steve Knight, who for some reason hasn’t filed a financial disclosure statement, and Michael Grimm, who resigned in December after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion charges in a federal court.

5) Nancy Pelosi is among the very rich

The former Speaker of the House and current House Minority Leader grew her fortune hugely between 2012 and 2013, increasing it from $87.9 million to $100.8 million.

6) Surprise! Most didn’t get there by pulling themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps

Most of the members of Congress are rich because they arrived there that way. In fact, of this year’s freshman crop, half were already millionaires when they took office.

Let’s all agree to remember these numbers as Congress slashes and burns programs to help the poor and middle class while lecturing us all about “entitlement programs.”

To marvel at the maddening findings of the study in their entirety for yourself, be sure to click here.

Kali Holloway

Kali Holloway is the senior director of Make It Right, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She co-curated the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s MetLiveArts 2017 summer performance and film series, “Theater of the Resist.” She previously worked on the HBO documentary Southern Rites, PBS documentary The New Public and Emmy-nominated film Brooklyn Castle, and Outreach Consultant on the award-winning documentary The New Black. Her writing has appeared in AlterNet, Salon, the Guardian, TIME, the Huffington Post, the National Memo, and numerous other outlets.

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