Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group.
Congress has never been a place for paupers. From plantation owners in the pre-Civil War era to industrialists in the early 1900s to ex-Wall Street financiers and Internet executives today, it has long been populated with the rich, including scions of families like the Guggenheims, Hearsts, Kennedys and Rockefellers.
But rarely has the divide appeared so wide, or the public contrast so stark, between lawmakers and those they represent.
One likely cause of the rising wealth, political analysts say, is the growing cost of a political campaign. A successful Senate run cost on average nearly $10 million last year, and a successful House race was $1.4 million, significantly above past elections.
The prohibitive cost has inevitably drawn richer candidates who can help bankroll their own campaigns and attract donations from rich friends — while deterring less well-off candidates, political analysts say.
The data analyzed by The Times corroborated the idea that incoming members are in fact richer than those in the past. The freshman class of 106 members elected last year, including many Tea Party-backed Republicans, had a median net worth of $864,000 — an inflation-adjusted increase of 26 percent from the 2004 freshmen.
Once in Congress, members benefit from many financial perks unavailable to most Americans. Beyond a base salary of $174,000 — an increase of about 10 percent since 2004, somewhat less than inflation — members get extra pay for senior posts and generous medical and pension benefits, as well as accouterments of power often financed by taxpayers or their campaigns.
Congressional assholes railing against government employee pensions while padding (and eventually collecting) their own.
Hmm, where have I heard a similar story about a DOE asshole who railed against teachers' pensions, then cashed in as soon as he retired to greener passages at News Corp.?
Oh, yeah - now I remember:
Just weeks before former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein slammed teacher pensions as "hollowing out public education," Klein walked into the teacher pension office to collect his own annual windfall, sources told the Daily News.
Klein, who could rake in as much as $4.5 million this year at his new gig with News Corp., also will collect $34,000 annually for his eight years as chancellor.
Accepting the money seems to fly in the face of a harsh editorial he wrote last week, ripping into the guaranteed pensions earned by veteran teachers.
"Defined-benefit pensions helped bring the once-vibrant U.S. auto industry to its knees," Klein wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 10. "The promised benefits just proved too costly. In that industry, such pensions are mostly a thing of the past."
"Alas," he added, "the same kind of pensions are now hollowing out public education."
But Klein's eight-plus years as chancellor entitled him to a slice of the public pension pie and last month he helped himself. His $250,000-a-year salary allowed him to cash out at a much higher rate for fewer years logged.
A teacher with a master's degree can make up to about $34,000 in annual pension payments only after 20 years of service.
Klein said through a spokesman that he had no comment.
You better you bet he had no comment - even Joel "Running The Phone Hacking Cover-Up" Klein couldn't lie his way out of this hypocrisy.
It's a shame the corporate news media doesn't throw it into his face every time he rails about teachers and pensions.
Same goes for these assholes in Congress padding their own pensions even as they hawk deficit reduction on the backs of working and middle class people.
But that's the country we're in now - the system is broken, our leaders are hypocrites and crooks and the corporate news media seems to carry their water more often than not.
The times when they don't -as in when they expose a Joel Klein collecting his pension just a few days after railing about teachers collecting theirs - the stories disappear like so much mist into the ether.