The growing gap between Congress and those it’s supposed to represent

The growing gap between Congress and those it's supposed to represent

Our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) are out today with a fresh bit of evidence about the disheartening disconnect between members of Congress and the millions of Americans who are pinching pennies hoping to get in, or stay in, the middle class.

Reviewing senators’ and representatives’2013 financial disclosure statements, CRP reports that 268 — just over half — report a net worth in excess of $1 million. That’s up from 48 percent in 2012. Senators tend to be wealthier than congressmen and congresswomen; the former had an average net worth of $2.7 million, while the latter came in at $896,000.

The numbers are hardly a surprise. As CRP notes, members of Congress have long been wealthier than the overwhelming majority of the people they represent. And given the state of our campaign finance system, wealthy people have far more ability than the rest of us to seek and to win elected office.

But the huge economic gap between our elected officials and the rest of us helps explain why Washington has been so slow to respond to economic inequality in our society at large. It tells us why so many in Congress appear more concerned about protecting tax shelters like the 15 percent tax rate on capital gains than extending unemployment benefits or increasing food stamp allowances.

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