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One of the great things about America is people are free to make as much money as they can, as long as its made honestly.  Sometimes though, there is a trend in income growth that makes one wonder if there is anything funky going on.

The US is still in the midst of a two-year long economic downturn, unemployment and underemployment are at levels not seen for seven decades and at the same time U.S. median household income dropped 3%  to $50,221 between 2008 and 2009, the second annual  decline, according to the Census Dept.

There is a group that saw its wealth increase during that same period, Members of Congress.The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the financial disclosure forms of the members of Congress and found that the collective personal wealth of congressional members increased by more than 16 percent between 2008 and 2009. The study also reported that half of all members had a personal wealth of over a million and around 20% over $10 Million.To put that in perspective only one percent of all Americans are millionaires.

In 2008 median wealth for a member of Congress was $785,515 it grew by 16% in 2009  to $911,510 (vs -3% of US HH income).

“Few federal lawmakers must grapple with the financial ills — unemployment, loss of housing, wiped out savings — that have befallen millions of Americans,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center for Responsive Politics’ executive director. “Congressional representatives on balance rank among the wealthiest of wealthy Americans and boast financial portfolios that are all but unattainable for most of their constituents.”

Based on their 2009 wealth, the legislators who you should most hit up for a loan (the richest) include Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) $303.5 million, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) $293.4 million and Sen. John “why the long face?” Kerry (D-Mass.) whose wealth was $238.8 million.

Issa, Harman and Kerry realized wealth gains of nearly 21 percent, 19.8 percent and 14.3 percent respectively.

There is no “party bias” either, in the House, there are five Democrats and five Republicans among the 10 wealthiest members, in the Senate side, six Democrats and four Republicans are in the top ten.

I am not contending that there is anything illegal going on, nor is my contention that the average 16% increase has anything to do with violating congressional rules.  There is however, something wrong when people go to Washington DC to represent their constituencies but end up enriching themselves.  At the very least it suggest one of the reasons why Members of Congress are perceived to be out of touch with Americans. Their income is going up while the rest of us are seeing a decline.

It’s also ironic that many of these same legislators are screaming about the money being made by those “greedy Wall Street Executives.”  But then again hypocrisy has never been a problem for those living within the beltway. 

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