Why people hate Congress

at 11:34 AM ET, 12/28/2011

(This post initially used a chart that included data that we and others misunderstood. It did not reflect the wealth of Congress, but instead the wealth of the country, described according to numbers of seats in Congress. The Fix regrets the error.)

Want to know why Americans hate Congress?

Well, here’s a big part of the reason.

The Washington Post and New York Times this week have done stories about how Congress is getting richer, and Roll Call is well-known for its “Richest Members of Congress” feature, which showed the same thing last month.

The fact that members of Congress are getting richer (and 57 members come from the top 1 percent, according to USA Today) confirms what Americans suspect about the people who are running this country: that they don’t empathize with normal people.

The fact that rich people are in Congress isn’t usually that big a deal. But when Congress struggles mightily to take care of the economic business of the country — from the recent payroll tax extension fight to the debt limit fight — it starts to seem pretty evident to the average, everyday voter that members really don’t understand the economic problems their constituents face.

So should we expect Americans to start voting out the wealthy and voting in the middle class? Not exactly.

The realities of campaigning make it a rich person’s enterprise. Candidates often have to have enough wealth so that they can leave their jobs to campaign full-time, and it always helps to be able to put millions of your own money into a campaign.

But the fact that people are learning that their Congress is getting richer, even in tough economic times, bodes ill for whatever hope legislators had for returning to the good graces of the American public.

At least until the American people start to feel that Congress is helping average people get on their fiscal feet again.

 
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