Column: The millionaires' Congress vs. the American people
By JIM HIGHTOWER, OtherWords
AUSTIN, Texas — The rich truly are different from you and me — they tend to become Congress critters.
You don’t find many plumbers, mine workers, dirt farmers, Walmart associates, beauty parlor operators, taxi drivers or other “get-the-job-done” Americans among the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate. What you do find is an over-supply of lawmakers drawn from a very thin strata of America’s population: Millionaires.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that last year — for the first time in history — more than half of our senators and House members are in the Millionaires Club. Indeed, the average net worth (the value of what they own minus what they owe) for all lawmakers now totals more than $7 million.
The world in which our “representatives” live is light years from where the majority of people live, and the divide between the governors and the governees is especially stark for the 40 percent of people whose net worth is zero (or, technically, less than zero, since their income and other assets are far exceeded by their debts). This widening chasm is not just a matter of wealth, but most significantly a literal separation of the privileged few from the experiences, needs and aspirations of the many who’re struggling to make ends meet and worried that opportunities for their children to get ahead are no longer available to them.
The harsh reality is that most Americans are no longer represented in Washington. Chances are that their own members of Congress don’t know any struggling and worried people, share nothing in common with them and can’t relate to their real-life needs. Thus, Congress is content to play ideological games with such basics as health care, minimum wage, joblessness, food stamps and Social Security.
America’s wealth divide has become a chasm, creating a looming social and political crisis for America that undermines any pretense that ours is a democratic society.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter The Hightower Lowdown.