Have you ever wondered how much money our elected officials make? Have you ever wondered why there are so many millionaires in our government? Were they all wealthy when they took office, or did they gain their wealth after being elected to office? Why do so many Politicians make a career out of remaining in office? What is the attraction? Let’s follow the money!
Let’s start with some interesting facts and figures. Let’s find the money shall we?
Why is it that the collective net worth of Congress INCREASED by 25% between 2008 and 2010 while the net worth of all American households DECREASED by 23% between 2007 and 2009? Why is it that the percentage of millionaires in Congress is more than 50 times higher than the general population? In 2012 the Washington Post reported that “the median net worth of the current Congress rose 5% during the recession while it fell 39% for the average American. The wealthiest one-third of lawmakers saw their net worth rise 14%.”
What if I told you that Insider trading was perfectly legal for all our politicians on the Hill? Yes, legal for the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and every other representative on the Hill along with their staff!. Before the STOCK Act, was put before the House in 2012, insider trading was legal for government officials, but illegal for everyone else. That means that anyone in the United States caught trading insider information in order to make some quick but substantial cash would be put in jail, and subjected to heavy fines, but not our Representatives! In 2011, Nancy Pelosi, bought stock in initial public offerings that granted her hefty returns while she had access to insider information that would have been illegal for an average citizen.
But, the STOCK Act, which required transparency in trading on the Hill to prevent insider trading, was passed in 2012 thanks to the investigative reporting of 60 minutes, telling the story of such unfair practices by Pelosi, Boehner and other politicians. However, it was changed in 2013 to no fanfare or attention by the media. The change in the law delays the creation of systems that enable public access to trading activity by our representatives. This delay was signed into law by President Obama, and the law may even be repealed. Once again, transparency has been gutted by the administration. Our representatives are not supposed to be using insider information to make their fortunes, but there is basically no way to know for sure if they are following the law. Do you trust your Representative to do the right thing?
Did you know that the House of Representatives, paid by the American taxpayer, is the only institution that votes in its own salaries and pay increases? Yes, they do, regardless of the job they do, how many days they work, or how much or little work they actually do. How much do we pay our Representatives? Since January of 2009, most Representatives and Senators are paid $174,000 while the Speaker receives $223,500, and the majority and minority leaders receive $193,400. They are also offered an allowance to support them with personnel, official office expenses and mail. The average per Representative is $1,446,009.00.
What about retirement? All representatives earn the guarantee of a monthly pension check. They also receive Social Security payments and can opt to pay into the Federal Thrift Savings Plan, which is a 401k style plan with fees that are far lower that most retirement plans. As a result, longtime members can retire with six figure annual incomes for life. “If you can get elected to Congress and stay there, you can retire pretty well,” said Chris Kahn, a Bankrate analyst, who conducted the research. Based on current salaries, members of Congress who serve 5 years are guaranteed annual pensions of more than $14,000 at age 62. Those who serve 20 years or more qualify for a pension of at least $59,000 as early as age 50.
The President will retire with an annual pension of $200,00 a year in addition to Social Security. The average Social Security recipient receives around $15,000 per year, White House officials can expect $30,000 per year due to their high salaries. And icing on the cake? If lawmakers opt to invest in the Federal Thrift Savings Plan, (a 401k style plan) they receive an employer match and enjoy fees of less than 0.03%. How does that stack up with the average American? A Congressional saver would pay 27 cents in annual fees on $1000 investment, while you would pay more that $5. Over a period of time, the lower fees can mean thousands in savings.
In 2011, the total average net worth of Representatives in the U.S. Congress was $4,946,090,771.00 Yes folks that is in the billions!! The Average net worth of each Representative was $7,888,502.00, and yes that is in the millions.
In 2012, Democrats averaged averaged $13,566,333.00 (millions) in the Senate while a Democratic Representative of the House averaged $5,700,168.00 (million). How did the Republicans fare? In 2012, A Senator averaged $6, 956,438.00 (millions) while in the House, they averaged $7,614,097.00 (millions).
As of 2012, the Center of Responsive Politics says that the majority of the members of Congress are millionaires. While the majority of Americans are struggling in this economy, should Congress continue to receive such high salaries and such generous pension plans funded by the American taxpayer?
Do we consider these elite Representatives on the Hill our equals? Can we expect them to understand and make laws that benefit everyday Americans struggling to make a living? Recently President Obama said,
“If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner or you might put off a vacation.”
Is it fair or even right for the President to ask Americans to put off their vacations while he and his family have obviously not found it necessary to put off theirs? Do you think he deserves more vacations and golf outings then we do? Does he work harder to earn his money then we do? Should we be forced to rein in our spending and stay within our budgets while the government refuses to do the same? The big difference between us and them? We are spending OUR money and they are spending OUR money!
Can we, as Americans, finally admit that our Representatives definitely follow the money? The vote goes to the highest bidder, the vote goes to the highest campaign contributor, the vote goes to the ones who have the most to pay for it. How much is your vote worth?
So when you ask, “Where is the money?” I think the path leads to the Hill where our career politicians constantly “follow the money!”