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Wealth Gap Between Congress and Average Americans Widens

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According to a new report in The Washington Post, the median net worth of the current Congress rose 5% during the recession while it fell 39% for the average American. The wealthiest one-third of lawmakers saw their net worth rise 14%.

The Washington Post disclosed these statistics in a recent story on the wealth gap between Congressional members and the American public.

"These are supposed to be our representatives," says The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task. "If they're not living the same lives or understanding the lives that the average American is living, how can they really represent our interests?"

The Post analyzed the financial disclosure forms and public records for all Congressional members from 2004 to 2010. Some key findings of the report are:

  • By 2010, the median estimated wealth for members of the House of Representatives was $746,000; for senators it was $2.6 million.

  • There was virtually no difference between the wealth of Republicans and Democrats in 2010. Just six years earlier, the net worth of Republicans was 44% higher than the net worth of Democrats.

  • 28% of Congress, or 150 members, reported earning more income from outside jobs and investments than from their Congressional salary of $174,000.

  • 27% of Congressional members saw a decline in their net worth between 2004 and 2010.

Lawmakers acquired their wealth in a variety of ways but real estate, institutional funds and the wealth of their spouses were the top three sources.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi increased her wealth by an estimated $60 million between 2004 and 2010. The gains primarily came from the commercial real estate holdings of her husband, according to The Post. Representative Darrell Issa made his reported $448 million in commercial real estate as well as other financial investments.

Related: America Has Now Become an Aristocracy of Elites: Chris Hayes

"We have this huge disparity that's only getting worse in terms of inequality in this country," says The Daily Ticker's Henry Blodget. "If it continues, the country will begin to break apart and get more and more antagonistic class warfare. It's something we have got to solve not only in Congress but in the American public at large."

Related: Income Inequality is America's Biggest Challenge: United Nations Economist

Is Congress pursuing policies that benefit middle and lower income Americans? The Washington Post found that 73 lawmakers sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that could benefit businesses or industries that involved those Congressional members or their families.

"It's just outrageous that our legislators could be profiting directly from the legislation that they're making," says Aaron Task.

Top 10 Wealthiest Members of Congress (by household assets, 2010) according to The Washington Post:

  • Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) $448.1M

  • Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) $380.4M

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) $231.7M

  • Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) $143.2M

  • Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) $136.2M

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) $101.1M

  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. VA) $99.1M

  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) $85.6M

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) $73.2M

  • Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) $69.0M

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