Jim Hightower on the Millionaires’ Club

Millionaire lawmakers can rise above their financial handicap

Wednesday, January 22, 2014   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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Mark Twain spoke for me when he said: “I’m opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”

One danger that such wealth brings is that many who have it become blinded to those who don’t. Thus, the news that more than half of our congress critters are now in the millionaire class helps explain why it has been striving ceaselessly to provide more government giveaways to Wall Street bankers and other superwealthy elites, while also striving to enact government takeaways from middle-class and poor families.

Take the richest House member, Rep. Darrell Issa, with a net worth of $464 million. A right-wing California Republican, he has used his legislative powers to try denying health coverage to poor Americans, even as he tried to unravel the new restraints to keep Wall Street bankers from wrecking our economy again. Issa and his ilk are proof that a lawmaker’s net worth is strictly a financial measure, not any indication at all of one’s actual value or “worthiness.”

I hasten to note that many millionaires in America have been able to rise above their financial handicap, serving the public interest rather than self or special interests. For example, when Rep. Chellie Pingree was elected to Congress in 2009, she was an organic farmer and innkeeper in rural Maine. Definitely not a millionaire, she was a stalwart fighter for such progressive policies as getting corporate money out of politics, enacting Medicare for all, and reigning in Wall Street greed. But in 2011, Pingree married – of all people – a Wall Street financier and was suddenly vaulted into the ranks of the 1-percenters. So, naturally, her legislative positions changed… not one whit.

See, even in Congress, being a millionaire is no excuse for becoming a narcissistic jerk. Siding with plutocrats is not an incurable condition – it’s a choice.

“Millionaires’ Club: For The First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus,” www.opensecrets.org, January 9, 2014.

“For first time, more than half in Congress are millionaires,” The New York Times, January 10, 2014.

The millionaires’ Congress vs. the people

Monday, January 20, 2014   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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The rich truly are different from you and me – they tend to become congress critters.

You don’t find many plumbers, mine workers, dirt farmers, Walmart associates, beauty parlor operators, taxi drivers, or other “get-the-job-done” Americans among the 535 members of the US House and Senate. What you do find is an over-supply of lawmakers drawn from a very thin strata of America’s population: Millionaires. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that last year – for the first time in history – more than half of our senators and House members are in the Millionaires Club. Indeed, the average net worth (the value of what they own minus what they owe) for all lawmakers now totals more than $7 million.

The world in which our “representatives” live is light years from where the majority of people live, and the divide between the governors and the governees is especially stark for the 40 percent of people whose net worth is zero (or, technically, less than zero, since their income and other assets are far exceeded by their debts). This widening chasm is not just a matter of wealth, but most significantly a literal separation of the privileged few from the experiences, needs, and aspirations of the many who’re struggling to make ends meet and worried that opportunities for their children to get ahead are no longer available to them.

The harsh reality is that most Americans are no longer represented in Washington. Chances are that their own members of Congress don’t know any struggling and worried people, share nothing in common with them, and can’t relate to their real-life needs, Thus, Congress is content to play ideological games with such basics as health care, minimum wage, joblessness, food stamps, and Social Security. America’s wealth divide has become a chasm, creating a looming social and political crisis for America that undermines any pretense that ours is a democratic society.

“Millionaires’ Club: For The First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus,” www.opensecrets.org, January 9, 2014.

“For first time, more than half in Congress are millionaires,” The New York Times, January 10, 2014.

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One response to “Jim Hightower on the Millionaires’ Club

  1. Our Millionaire Congress has no clue how the rest of us are struggling to survive since they never see it or have to live it. Long gone are the days when they are “public servants”. This is the reason why the unemployed have dropped off the radar while their benefits are not renewed and more SNAP cuts are offered as “compromise” for more subsidies to their rich “farmer” friends….. How long will the American people ignore this before they bring out the pitchforks and torches and the guillotine……???

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