Let Them Eat Cake: Members of Congress 14 Times More Wealthy Than Average American

A majority of members are worth more than $1 million, for the first time ever.

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Congress is now majority-millionaire.

An analysis of 534 current members of Congress' personal financial disclosure data estimates that 268 members had an average net worth of $1 million or more as of 2012. As of last year, there had been only 257 millionaires among the group, according to the study from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group. This year is the first time the group's analysis has found that most members have wealth over the $ 1 million mark.

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It doesn't take a statistician to know this means Congress members are far wealthier than most of their constituents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household net worth in the U.S. was $68,828 as of 2011. The median of all Congress members' average net worth, according to CRP, was slightly more than $1 million as of 2012. That means Congress members' median net worth is more than 14 times as large as the median household income (in 2012 dollars).

To put it another way, more than half of Congress members are estimated to be millionaires, while just around 1 percent of all Americans are, according to CRP – an important fact, the group says, particularly when members are contemplating the economic fortunes of their poorest constituents.

"[T]he fact that now a majority of members – albeit just a hair over 50 percent – are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code," said the CRP report.

(The analysis, it should be pointed out, is not an exact accounting of all Congress members' wealth; rather, members must report their various assets and liabilities as falling along a spectrum. CRP conducted the analysis by adding up Congress members' minimum and maximum potential assets and liabilities and finding the average of the answers. This year is the first time that more than half of the members of Congress have registered average net worths of over $1 million.)

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One other thing that separates taxpayers from their representatives is that members appear to have ridden out the recession relatively comfortably, as their net worths didn't take the hit that most Americans felt over the course of the recession. Median household wealth in the U.S. fell by 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, the Federal Reserve reported in 2012. Meanwhile, the median member of Congress' wealth grew over that period.

A few more fun facts from the report:

- Senators are far richer than House members, with members of the upper chamber having average net worths of nearly $2.8 million, compared to nearly $900,000 for their counterparts on the other side of the Hill.

- Members' wealth shows little partisan divide – Democrats had a median net worth of $1.04 million as of 2012, while Republicans had almost exactly $1 million.

- The figures, however, fall along a very broad spectrum. The wealthiest congressman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has an estimated net worth of $464,115,018 – more than $200 million more than the next-wealthiest congressman, Sen. Mark Warner,D-Va., who has an estimated net worth of $257,481,658. On the other end, Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., has an estimated $12,167,002 in debt, most of it related to his family's dairy farm, according to CRP.

- Members' top stock investments also include some of the hottest companies in the news, like Apple (No. 5, with 62 investors) and J.P. Morgan Chase (No. 7, with 56 investors)...an interesting connection to keep in mind the next time you see members grilling Tim Cook or Jamie Dimon.

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