Your “Representatives” in Congress

Photo by flickr user landahlauts used under a Creative Commons license.Photo by flickr user landahlauts used under a Creative Commons license.Ever wondered why our country’s laws so often favor the rich over middle and working-class people? Consider this: Last week, the Center for Responsive Politics released its latest survey of congressional financial disclosure forms. Of the 535 voting members of Congress, over 44 percent of—237 to be exact—are millionaires. Fifty members have net worths of at least $10 million, and seven are worth more than $100 million. (I profiled Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who is now the richest member of Congress, in the September/October issue of Mother Jones.)

By comparison, around one percent of Americans are millionaires. There is no other minority group that is as overrepresented in Congress as millionaires are. For black people to be similarly overrepresented compared to their percentage of the population, the entire Congress would have to be black. (Actually, even that wouldn’t be enough.) If Mormons were similarly overrepresented, there would be 75 of them in Congress (there are 16 right now).

So next time that the Congress does something that seems outrageously biased in favor of rich people—say, slashing top income tax rates or spending $440 billion over 10 years to cut estate taxes on one quarter of one percent of Americans—remember who members of Congress are really helping: themselves.