Rich Congress, Poor America
by Stephen Lendman
The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) calls itself “the nation’s premier research group tracking money in US politics and its (corrosive) effect on elections and public policy.”
“Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the organization aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry, and a more transparent and responsive government.”
Doing so remains a major uphill struggle. It shows virtually no signs of success. Conditions are worse than ever in modern times. Washington’s political establishment is ruthless, corrupt and lawless.
Members infesting it are privileged. Most are very, very rich. Generous congressional benefits supplement their wealth.
A long ago discredited canard claims anyone working hard enough can get rich. Growing millions of poor, unemployed, underemployed, hungry and homeless Americans attest to the Big Lie.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote:
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early…They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we…”
“Even when they enter deep into our world…they still think that that they are better than we are. They are different.”
Most House and Senate members for sure are. They live in their own world. It’s light years from most constituents they serve.
Inside their bubble, it’s paradise. Outside it’s dystopian hell. They barely notice. They’re indifferent. They don’t care. They ignore human suffering. They do so dismissively. They do it disgracefully.
The American dream for growing millions is nightmarish. Congressional members worry most about being reelected.
They’re beholden solely to wealth, power and privilege. They’re mindless of constituent needs. Their voting record shows it. Public betrayal reflects it.
On January 9, CRP headlined “Millionaires’ Club: For First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 million-Plus.”
In tongue in cheek understatement, The New York Times said it’s “hardly the kind of news that lawmakers in Congress would want to highlight during a week when unemployment benefits expired for (1.3 million) Americans.”
Millions more will lose theirs before yearend. Congress won’t renew benefits without offsetting social cuts. Whether December’s dismal employment report changes things remains to be seen.
A meager 74,000 jobs were created. Consensus expected around 200,000. Major media reports ignore mostly low quality jobs. It’s the same story monthly.
Jobs created are largely menial, low pay, part-time or temp. They’re poor or no-benefit work.
They’re largely jobs most Americans shunned decades earlier. Today they’re grateful for any work.
The fake unemployment rate dropped to 6.7%. It’s because hundreds of thousands of discouraged workers stopped seeking work. They can’t find it.
Labor force non-participation hit a new all-time high. It’s nearly 92 million adult men and women.
They want work. Enough jobs aren’t available. They’re blamed for disgraceful government policy. Job creation isn’t a federal priority. Pathetically little is done to help.
America’s unemployed go unnoticed. They’re nameless, faceless, out-of-sight, out-of-mind non-persons. They’re unwanted. They don’t exist. They don’t count.
They’re growing millions of forgotten lost souls. Labor force participation is lowest since August 1977. It stands at 62.8%.
It’s heading south to greater lows. It’s a shocking indictment to bipartisan indifference. Protracted Main Street Depression conditions go unaddressed. Pathetically little is done to help.
National resources go for militarism, imperial wars, corporate handouts, and tax cuts for super-rich elites.
Social America is on the chopping block for elimination. Popular needs are increasingly ignored. Safety net protections are disappearing.
Real unemployment exceeds 23%. Numbers are manipulated to conceal it. Media reports don’t explain. Misinformation echoes the charade. Fake excuses substitute for responsible policy.
Most House and Senate members are entirely self-serving. They’re richer than ever. They live in their own world.
They’re mindless of institutionalized inequality. America’s poor ranks keep growing exponentially.
In the 1970s, about one in 50 Americans were on food stamps. Today it’s around one in six. Since yearend 2008, recipients increased about 50%. Their ranks grow monthly.
Over half of US households need some form of federal aid. Bipartisan complicity keeps cutting it when most needed.
Most Republicans and Democrats want it eliminated altogether. They pretend otherwise.
A decade or two ahead, America will be entirely thirdworldized. Middle America is fast disappearing. Most children live in households considered low income or impoverished.
Over three-fourths of working people live from paycheck to paycheck. They’re one missed pay period away from potential homelessness and destitution.
Most House and Senate members belong to America’s top 1%. It has more wealth than the bottom 95%. Force-fed neoliberal harshness created this nightmare.
Class warfare isn’t new. Today it rages. Private wealth benefits most. Popular interests aren’t important. Increasingly they’ve gone begging.
According to the Economic Policy Institute’s research director Josh Bivens:
“Congress not only seems more responsive to policy desires of the rich, but increasingly they are very rich.”
Republicans and Democrats “know far fewer people cut off by the failure to extend unemployment benefits, and that makes them less sensitive to just how much damage that cutoff is going to cause.”
Most congressional members don’t care. Their voting records show it. So does their accumulated wealth.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP):
“Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates.”
Most congressional members are far wealthier than average Americans. “(B)ut the fact that now a majority…are millionaires represents a watershed moment…”
It’s when lawmakers let unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million affected people. They cut food stamps. Other social benefits are eroding when most needed.
Guaranteeing a living wage is shunned. Cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security matter more.
So does benefitting America’s super-rich like themselves. According to CRP’s executive director Sheila Krumholz:
“Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall, there’s been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington.”
“Of course, it’s undeniable that in our electoral system, candidates need access to wealth to run financially viable campaigns, and the most successful fundraisers are politicians who swim in those circles to begin with.”
Republican and Democrat median wealth is virtually equal. Senators on average are threefold richer than House members.
Their median net worth is $2.7 million. It’s no exaggeration calling the Senate a multimillionaire’s club.
Around two-thirds of its members are super-rich. Some have enormous fortunes. So do super-rich House members. Congress’ top 10 rank as follows:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R. CA) has an estimated maximum net worth of $597.9 million.
Senator Mark Warner (D.VA) has up to $418.7 million.
Rep. Jared Polis (D. CO) has $326.1 million.
Rep. John Delaney (D. MD) has $244.1 million.
Rep. Vernon Buchanan (R. FL) has $235.8.
Rep. Scott Peters (D. CA) has $197.4 million.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R. TX) has $183.8 million.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D. CA) has $174.9 million.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D. W VA) has $139.3 million.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D. CT) has $121.3 million.
Note: Former senator/current Secretary of State John Kerry is heir to the HJ Heinz fortune. It’s through his wife Teresa. He’s super-rich on his own.
Estimates of their combined wealth range up to $3.5 billion. Clearly he’s in a class of his own.
Congressional members are free from want. Halls of Congress don’t echo brother can you spare a dime.
Harder than ever Main Street hard times go unnoticed. Republicans and Democrats never had it so good. They’re richer than ever.
They dismissively ignore America’s most disadvantaged. They do so in their greatest time of need.
They do it disgracefully. They do it shamelessly. They do it when wealth more than ever is disproportionately shared.
They do it when growing poverty, unemployment and human misery affects tens of millions. They do it because they don’t care.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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