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Report shows growing wealth gap between lawmakers and constituents

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

As American voters continue to express concerns about the U.S. economy’s fate and the country's overall direction in the midst of ever-present partisan gridlock, a recent Washington Post report about the growing wealth gap between lawmakers and their constituents may indicate a political disconnect that runs much deeper than initially realized.

The Post reports the following figures:

“Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home­equity.”

Meanwhile, the opposite holds true for the average American household:

“Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.”

The comparisons noted exclude home equity figures because they’re not included in congressional reporting. Additionally, 1984 was chosen as the starting point for the statistics because it’s the earliest year that wealth statistics are available.

Another noteworthy figure is that the proportion of representatives who have little besides a home has also shrunk. The Post notes that one in five House members in 1984 possessed zero or negative net worth excluding home equity. In 2009, one in twelve representatives fell under this category.

From a glance at these figures, it’s no wonder that more of the general electorate feels disconnected from their representatives. As American families have continued to struggle, members of Congress have experienced the opposite in being on the wealthier side of circumstances.

With many politicians being faithful to maintain their own financial assets and to watch them grow, it’s frustrating to the electorate that these same politicians don’t exert the same kind of faithfulness in working together to accomplish meaningful results for the country’s sake.

It’s mind-boggling to ponder.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing wealth. In fact, no one should be penalized for working hard and gathering the fruit of diligent labor in this country. The problem begins, however, when the very wealth of public representatives is outpacing what’s expected of them as servants of the public good. It’s at this point that the chambers of Congress come off as an entrance into an oligarchy instead of a taking on of a duty to serve one’s constituents.

From what can be gathered with this latest report, the ideological gridlock with the many of the current politicians in Congress (along with their dismal approval rating) is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s alarmingly wrong at the moment. The wealth gap between representatives and their constituents, while the political system is proverbially crashing and burning, brings a whole new discussion into play about the privileged class of Republicans and Democrats who seem to be taking their voters for granted.

With these current circumstances and others, it’s shouldn’t be any wonder that more than 2.5 million voters have left the Republican and Democratic parties since the 2008 elections. The storm that the unaffiliated voter can brew will only intensify from here on out.

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