Monday, September 22, 2008

The 50 Richest Members of Congress Might Surprise You

Recently, while taking my boys to Scouts, I indulged in one of my favorite guilty pleasures -- listening to Michael Savage. I admit, I can't handle him in massive doses, but his depth of knowledge is amazing and his candor is off the chart. I often get the next blog idea from listening to his show. Tonight he spent some time discussing the 50 richest members of Congress (source: Roll Call). He focused on how these politicians (whom he referred to as "mobsters") were rich and planning on staying that way through the policies they perpetuate to bail out financial institutions. I will make a few different observations.

  • The top ten may come as a surprise to many. Seven of the top ten were Democrats and not Republicans. This included number one, former Democratic nominee for President John Kerry (D-Mass). So much for the "party of the poor" mantra that the Democrats love to rally around. No wonder the American voters had a difficult time buying Kerry's case that he was "for the poor" and worth close to a quarter of a billion dollars ($230.98 million).

  • Twenty-one of fifty are in the Senate, although the house out numbers them four to one. The Senate is a millionaires boys club if there ever was one, with one-fifth of them worth at least 7 digits. The list ends at 50, there are probably several more between $999K and $5 million (the bottom of the list) that are among these numbers.

  • Some of the richest might surprise you. I would think most Americans had not heard of Jane Harman, Darrell Issa, Robin Hayes, Vern Buchanan, and Gordon Smith. Each are worth $28 million or more.

  • Others are household names. John Kerry (mentioned before, the former Democratic nominee), Rockefeller (yes, from that family, a great grandson of the financial giant), and Edward Kennedy (who also enjoys family money).

The bottom line is that both Houses of Congress are homes of enormous affluence and neither party can accurately argue that they are some how "for" the poor because of their personal lives. The Democrats have been postured as the party "for the poor" by both their own communications and by the media for decades. The only true measure is in the policies they promote. And then it isn't money going to the poor or tax breaks for particular groups, it is measured by the impact policies have on poverty.

Ironically the best example of fighting poverty happened when both parties worked together. A Republican Congress and a Democrat President essentially wiped out "poverty as we knew it" by signing bills that put strict limits on how long one could be depended on government, which provided incentive for people to move towards higher incomes and work. As a result of that policy the percentage of poor has declined over the last decade after years of growing in number.

Kevin Price articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at HoustonBusinessShow.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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