According to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics, 238 of the 535 “public servants” (Congressmen), are millionaires. That is 44% of all members of Congress are rich beyond the wildest dreams, and possibilities, of most Americans they govern. In fact, your chances of running into a millionaire in the state’s capital are four times higher than in the rest of the nation.
And this is just the reported wealth. No one knows how many undisclosed assets members of Congress possess. The numbers would likely be even higher if personal residences, government salaries, and pensions were included. Yes, you read right. They are millionaires without even counting their already bloated salaries and perks and that awesome health insurance that you and I pay for.
Half of Congress is basically part of the 1% and we are expecting that they enact legislation that would in any shape hurt their position in society? Increase their taxes? Is this a joke?
One reason for why half the people running this country are millionaires is that members of Congress are not subject to any of the ethics and conflict-of-interest laws that most public servants are. Congressmen can own stocks and investments unhindered and in any company while at the same time being often in charge of drafting legislation that might affect said company.
This leads to a fundamental conflict of interest because these Congressman are not likely to enact legislation that might hurt the cash value of any of the companies they and their spouses have personal investments in.
Joe Lieberman, for example, who has been opposing any and all health care reform has close ties to the insurance industry as his wife worked for a health care lobbying firm whose clients benefited from the senator’s legislation.
Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks and the likes of Koch Brothers own Congress and they have spread the golden parachute so wide that these Congressmen and women don’t see anything else but dollar signs and thus rarely, if ever, enact legislation to benefit the majority of this society that isn’t part of the millionaires’ club.; the average citizen. All they care about is pandering to the causes of the wealthy to ultimately line their own pockets.
To make matters worse, not only are Congress members not subject to any kind of ethics standards while in office (except for those of the sexual kind because we all know how bad sex is. See Anthony Weiner), but most Congressmen go working for some of the companies they “failed” (read: refused) to properly regulate while in office.
In secret, pre-arranged deals they are promised millions of dollars or more in pay if they come to work for them after they leave office. Once a public official makes a deal to go to work for a lobbying firm or corporation after leaving office, he or she becomes loyal to the future employer. And since those deals are done in secret, legislators are largely free to pass laws, special tax cuts, or earmarks that benefit their future employer with little or no accountability to the public. While campaign contributions and super PACS are a big problem, the everyday bribery of the revolving door may be the most pernicious form of corruption today.
Unlike some other forms of money in politics, politicians never have to disclose job negotiations while in office, and never have to disclose how much they’re paid after leaving office. In many cases, these types of revolving door arrangements drastically shape the laws we all live under. For example, former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) spent his last year in office fighting reforms to bring greater transparency to the derivatives marketplace. Almost as soon as he left office, he joined the board of a derivatives trading company and became an “advisor” to Goldman Sachs. Risky derivative trading exacerbated the financial crisis of 2008, yet we’re stuck under the laws written in part by Gregg. How much has he made from the deal? Were his actions in office influenced by relationships with his future employers? Does anyone care? Do most of the middle class, or poor chest thumping idiots who fight for the causes of the rich, even know this?
Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010. Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush’s prescription drug expansion. He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies. During the health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin’s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme. Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010. He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group. Comparing Tauzin’s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110 percent.
An important thing to note is that political affiliation doesn’t appear to matter when it comes to wealth as both Democrats and Republicans seem to be rolling in money. Even Nancy Pelosi owns vineyards in Napa Valley and Barack Obama’s wealth as of 2010 is estimated at $ 11.8 million. And these are the good guys. Although frankly I doubt that Obama or Pelosi amassed the wealth by selling out to big money. Most of Obama’s money comes from book sales and he has spent most of his life being a community organizer. Pelosi seems to have married rich.
It is certainly no coincidence that Congress has been repeatedly favoring the wealthy and the corporations that keep them wealthy at the expense of the middle class and middle class causes and thus the overwhelming majority of the people who elect them into office and on whose behalf they are to act. The reason we are this money-loving, greed-is-good society that doesn’t give a damn about the greater good, is because of legislation that has been favoring the wealthy and corporations that, in turn, keep members of Congress wealthy and cushioned so they continue creating the kind of legislation and with it society conducive to their paradigm of greed and exploitation in the name of Jesus and capitalism and the Founding Fathers.
Rich politicians without accountability to anyone is a serious problem. And nothing gets done with respect to the occupy Wall street movement because the 1% are in charge.
That is the theme in America and these corrupt congress members have convinced millions of minions, which make up the base of the Republican party, that it is in their very interest to vote for people like them, making referneces to Jesus, god and love for one’s motherland because those tactics always work.
I am not advocating for our leaders to be poor but based on the aforementioned and the non-existence of laws restricting Congress from behaving in such a manner and pretty much next to zero accountability on their part, I do have to question the extent to which those laws truly benefit the public that elected those officials.
When looking at a piece of legislation or law we take for granted and accept in this society as a given through the social contract, we often forget that those laws were drafted by a Congress member who, most likely than not, is primarily looking out for his own interest. Yet we often don’t question those laws – from tax law to anything that is regulated by Congress really. W just obey them, no questions asked.
Remember laws aren’t written in a vacuum or by divine, infallible beings. Behind every law that you see, on the local, state or federal level, sits a human being who has an interest and altruism and the greater good usually aren’t part of those interests
A congress member’s primary irresponsibility is to its constituents. Instead, it seems like Congress members are using their position as elected officials to line their own pockets.
I also have to wonder about the extent to which someone whose earnings and assets are orders of magnitude higher than those of the masses, can actually relate to the people governed. When you are that far removed from the people you make decisions for, like some sort of a royal in his ivory tower, how effective of a leader can you be? How much of their causes are you going to fight for ? How much of their struggles do you truly comprehend?
Rich people also tend to suffer from amnesia. Just because someone grew up poor, doesn’t mean that once they do make it they will relate or be charitable. Look at John Boehner. The man grew up poor, apparently twelve people in his house sharing one bathroom, and he is worse than Mitt Romney – repeatedly blocking legislation that would benefit the middle class in favor of legislation that only furthers rich people – and thus indirectly his pockets.
The Culture of Greed is the New American Dream
But isn’t that whole pandering to rich people and that wanna-be millionaire mentality exactly the problem in the US? What everyone is encouraged to do? Not being rich has become a liability. And the get-rich-or-die-trying mentality has become the American Dream unbeknownst to most of those who dream it.
We don’t like non-rich people. Forget about the poor. They are a non-issue. We definitely can’t stand those. Just look at the streets in the US where the poor, who are often mentally ill, have been abandoned and discarded by society, roaming the streets like stray dogs, eating out of garbage and sleeping under bridges. We treat stray dogs better than these human beings.
But even middle class folks are not favored upon. Middle class seems to have become a mere transition stage for most people on their way to this elusive millionaire thing. John Steinbeck’s quote about why socialism never took root in American comes to mind, because “the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
Most people, even middle-class folks, don’t like middle-class. And being filthy rich, not just rich, is what has become the new American Dream.
In fact, the entire platform Romney is running on is that he is rich ipso facto he is entitled to the presidency.
Romney doesn’t actually like the United States and he certainly is not a patriot. Because a patriot pays his taxes, a patriot does not spend most of his life working against the United States by betting against the American dollar or siphoning his wealth off to offshore accounts to evade paying his fair share of taxes to the government that has provided him with the groundwork and infrastructure necessary to be the man he is today. In fact, he has worked so hard against America, that he doesn’t dare to release his tax records because they show a man who spent his entire life ruining the American dream for everyone – which was the creation of the middle class after WWII, not the creation of vacuous vulchers like him.
Yet Romney and that god awful callously ignorant wife of his feel entitled to this country as leaders because he has money. He treats running for president like a hostile corporate takeover or a promotion – from CEO of a company to CEO of the United States. He doesn’t have any concrete policy proposals other than undo everything Obama did and that “being successful” ought not to be punished. As if capitalism was about stealing, which is how he got rich.
The Love of Money – A pillar Next to Jesus and Jingoism
There is a theme to be found here folks and that theme is called the unconditional love of money. This country is a lot about the love of money and every policy out there, or not out there, is because of this love for money and this wanna-be millionaire mentality.
As Marina Keegan – the late Yale student who tragically died in a car accident this past May wrote in her essay on the sad lives of Ivy League graduates that blindly chase corporate jobs even though they really have many other wonderful things in mind when they first enter college as hopeful freshmen: “When I arrived at Yale as an eager 18-year-old, I had never even heard of consulting or I-banking. And to be honest, I still didn’t totally understand the function of a hedge fund. But what I do understand is that students here have passion. Passion for public service and education policy and painting and engineering and entrepreneurialism. Standing outside a freshman dorm, I couldn’t find a single student aspiring to be a banker – but at commencement this May, there’s a 50 percent chance I’ll be sitting next to one. This strikes me as incredibly sad .”
It is indeed very sad. But the reason those kids feel the need to do exactly that is because we have created a culture of greed and money-above-all. Charity is not rewarded. Working for a non-profit to better society for everyone is not rewarded. Being an engineers to build bridges is not rewarded or lucrative. What is rewarded is greed and selling out: Kim Kuntrashian does it, and so does the US Congress. There is no difference. So of course those kids, after four year, end up with shattered dreams and then resign to it and follow the money.
When you live in a society in which every action is measured by the financial bottom line, from medical research to environmental protection, you create a culture of greed filled with narcissists thinking they have to get rich or die trying and that in fact doing so is a virtue. A lot of people think that the American dream is about getting rich.
That is why in Mitt Romney’s universe people who aren’t millionaires are nothing but losers to spit on. That is also why his wife condescendingly referred to the voter base as “you people.” Ann Romney is too well-bred to call African-Americans “you people” in public, of course, especially after what happened to Ross Perot. But she obviously has no problem referring to other folks she holds in contempt that way. And she holds them in contempt because they aren’t rich – which is her criteria for success in and worthiness to life.
So with millionaires in charge of our country and the ongoing, all-encompassing corruption of elected officials – corruption that has become so widespread it is invisible at this point – is it any surprise that the United States is going down fast? Is it any surprise that the world looks at us in astonishment when they see our people show up to public hearings with assault rifles to oppose access to health care? Is it any surprise that unemployment is high? And the economy a mess? Or that some elitist, Mormon nut-job who nets a quarter of a billion dollars but who has never done a hard day’s work in his life, is running as the leader of this country?
Corporate raiding, mass-layoffs and tax evasion are not hallmarks of either a patriot, a person of integirty or a successful man who earned his riches. The operative word here being earned. And they most certainly are not the hallmarks of a man who wants to represent us.
We are no longer the subjects of our leaders as was the case hundreds of years ago – at least not in the way we used to be. We are slaves to money in a very high tech fashion – but we are still enslaved. Nearly every politician is a multimillionaire while the overwhelming majority of those they represent lead very modest, wage earning, middle-class lives, about two paychecks away from destitution and definitely several lifetimes and dreams away from being millionaires.