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Chances are, your congressman is richer than you are. Much, much richer.
That’s one of the big takeaways from a pair of data-driven pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post on Tuesday. The papers (with the help of the Center for Responsible Politics, in the case of the Times) took a look a recent congressional financial disclosures to show that the financial gap between lawmakers and their constituents has only widened in recent years.
The Times reports that the median net worth of a member of Congress climbed 15 percent from 2004 to 2010, to $913,000; meanwhile, the median net worth for all Americans dropped 8 percent over that same period, to roughly $100,000. The lawmakers’ gains are even more noteworthy because over that same period the net worth of the richest 10 percent of Americans remained essentially flat, based on inflation-adjusted figures.
The Post, meanwhile, takes a longer view. The paper found that the median net worth of a member of the House has more than doubled (from $280,000 to $725,000, excluding home equity) between 1984 and 2009. The wealth of an average American family, meanwhile, has declined ever so slightly during the same period.
The Times with some possible reasons:
There is broad debate about just why the wealth gap appears to be growing. For starters, the prohibitive costs of political campaigning may discourage the less affluent from even considering a candidacy. Beyond that, loose ethics controls, shrewd stock picks, profitable land deals, favorable tax laws, inheritances and even marriages to wealthy spouses are all cited as possible explanations for the rising fortunes on Capitol Hill.