By Wiha Powell
The American people are tired of Congress implementing policies that makes its members richer, while they struggle to make ends meet. So, on behalf of the American people, here is my letter to Congress.
While the American people watched their income decrease, job opportunities dissipate and home values drop as the economy dipped, your 535 elected members were not only shielded from the downturn economy, but gained from it.
According to the US Census Bureau, the median net worth for an American household is $68,828. The median net worth for the current freshmen Members of Congress is $1,067,500.
It is uncanny that there is almost a million dollar disparity between the median wealth of everyday Americans and their representatives in Congress. Over the years, this disparity has only widened. Congressional members’ net worth has more than doubled between 1984 and 2009 from $280,000 to $725,000. So, while everyday Americans struggle to make ends meet, Members of Congress are getting richer and richer.
It is a known fact that Congress has no problem implementing rules for others to follow, but have a problem implementing rules for themselves. Other government officials have strict guidelines on the assets they own and disclosure of financial information. Congressional members have exempted themselves from such rules. According to a recent Washington Post analysis, at least 73 members of Congress have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that benefited businesses or industries either they or their family members are affiliated with. This practice is both legal and permitted under Congress’ ethical rules, which were written by Congress.
Furthermore, under the financial disclosure system of Congress it is not required for Members to identify potential conflict of interest when an official action is taken that intersects or overlaps with their investments.
Congressional members are getting richer although you currently have a nine percent approval rating from the American people on how well Congress does its job. It seems it is time for Members of Congress to focus on legislation that will benefit the American people instead of personal gain.
Since Congress has no problem implementing policies for people to follow, it is recommended that members implement policies that are in the American people’s favor. One such policy is raising the minimum wage (check out my July 11 blog on this issue) to $9 per hour. Raising the minimum wage is currently favored by 71 percent of Americans. History has shown that raising the minimum wage does not have a negative impact on the economy. The only effect it has is helping people who are at the bottom end of the economy spectrum do better and lessen economy inequality. (Hint-hint – this would also be a good political move, that could increase your approval ratings).
Being that the Richie Rich Congress will continue to get richer, it is not too much to ask nor would it be a financial burden for members to put country before self. By passing bills that will be beneficial to the American people and bills that would ensure the economy once again stands on firmer grounds, you will also benefit in the long run.
In closing, I am urging you to once again be citizen legislators, an idea the Founding Fathers originally intended for Congress. Stop being career politicians.
Stop watching the people you represent struggle on less income and disappearing job opportunities. Take the first step in becoming citizen legislators: Put the American people before personal interest.