Millionaires in Congress: a ruling elite?

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When our constitution was ratified, it was never the intent of the founders that serving in Congress be a career pursuit. It was George Mason who said,

Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interests of his constituents that the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people from whence he was taken where he can participate in their burdens.

But according to a story last week in Politico, congressional service appears to be not only a career pursuit but a lucrative one as well.

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A majority of the members of Congress are millionaires for the first time in history, according to a new analysis. At least 268 of the 534 current Hill lawmakers had a net worth of more than $1 million in 2012, according to a Center for Responsive Politics examination of financial disclosures. In addition, the median net worth of congressional members topped $1 million, up from $966,000 last year.

Before you point the finger at rich Republicans, I hate to tell you Democrats actually had a slightly higher net worth. Senators led members of the House with a median net worth of $2.7 million versus only $896,000 for the “lower house.”

The real point is this: do (and can) these people represent the average American? I have nothing against financial success, but when it comes to making the laws for the nation, is this ruling elite living under the same laws and do the laws have the same effect upon them?

Further it has become increasingly difficult for an average American to run for federal office. The resources required to mount a political campaign are immense.

In my first campaign for Congress in 2008, after returning form my assignment as a civilian-military advisor to the Afghan Army, I was asked by the National Republican Congressional Committee Executive Director, “how much money can you self-fund?” Obviously, this person had no idea what a 22-year-career in the military and two and a half years in Afghanistan meant financially.

So I pose the question, has political office in America truly become an elitist playground? I don’t believe this has always been the case — especially for the House of Representatives. Is it possible to have a “Mr./Ms. Smith goes to Washington” story today?

Politics in America is now a huge business, with some people generating staggering amounts of gross income. Unfortunately it is also costing the average American more debt, depressed wages, fewer opportunities for full time employment, and an uncertain future.

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