Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wealth in Congress

With the branches of government in Washington all coming up with their own versions of how best to tax Americans and the resulting analyses which frequently show that wealthier Americans will benefit from the proposed changes to the tax code, a recent analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) becomes particularly pertinent  In this analysis, CPR analysts looked at the personal disclosure data filed by all members of Congress for the year 2015 (the latest year for which all data is available) and have compiled a list of the wealthiest and least wealthy members of both the House and Senate. 

In 2015, more than 70 percent of Senators were millionaires with the median net worth of Senators hitting $3,132,848.  In the case of the House, the median net worth of Congressmen and Congresswomen was $888,508.  In the Senate, the net worth of Republican Senators rose 13 percent on a year-over-year basis, from $2.9 million in 2014 to $3.3 million in 2015.  The median net worth of Senate Democrats rose by 9 percent on a year-over-year basis, still well up from the 4.5 percent experienced by the public at large.  

Here is a line graph showing how the median wealth of both the House and Senate has changed over the decade between 2005 and 2015:

Since the personal disclosure data is not specific, reporting the member's wealth in a range rather than a specific value, here is a list of the twenty richest members of Congress and the Executive Branch based on their net worth (assets minus liabilities):

Here is a list of the ten wealthiest members of Congress in 2015:

These ten members alone account for nearly half of the entire net worth of the House and Senate combined.

As we know, not all members of the House and Senate are wealthy when they enter office, however, many of them are wealthy when they depart ceremoniously or otherwise.  Here is a list of the beneficiaries of the biggest increase in their net worth over the ten year period from 2005 to 2015:

By way of comparison and just in case you think that wealth and Washington are inextricably tied together, here is a list of the ten poorest members of Congress, many of whom are "poor" because they are carrying business or personal debt that exceeds the value of their assets:

In the case of David Valadao, the "poorest" member, most of his liabilities are related to an operating herd line of credit with a value of between $5,000,001 and $25,000,000 for his Valadao Dairy business along with an operating herd line of credit for his family's Triple V Dairy business as shown here:

With the level of wealth among Congress and the Executive Office and the ever-changing proposed tax changes by Washington, I think that common sense will tell us that at least some of these members will back changes that benefit themselves and their net worth.  At the very least, a very significant number of them have absolutely no idea of what it is like to be a member of the "Main Street Class" who have to worry about debt payments and making ends meet at the end of the month.

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