We use that headline not because we have some sort of advanced tracking system that tells us who you are and what you're worth. We say that because we are playing the odds. On average, members of the 113th Congress are worth over a million dollars. If you are, too: Congratulations! If you aren't: Well, we figured.
Roll Call released its look at the richest members of Congress on Wednesday, a review of the personal financial disclosure documents of elected officials on Capitol Hill. Not much about it will surprise you. According to the findings, Congress is worth over $2 billion combined, with five members alone contributing 37 percent of that amount. The richest has been and continues to be Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is worth at least $357 million. We say "at least" because Congress reports its assets in ranges, "at least $50,000 and no more than $100,000," or "over $1 million," etc. So Issa is almost certainly worth more than that. How much is he worth? If you cashed out all of his assets and stacked them as one dollar bills, it would stretch 40 kilometers into the sky. Well, actually, it would fall over and all the bills would blow away and lots of people in Washington would have a fun afternoon, but you get the point.
How does this wealth compare to the rest of the United States? Thankfully, the Census Bureau collects data on household wealth, allowing us to compare. The Census data is in five ranges of net worth, from top fifth to bottom fifth. We plotted the median (half are higher, half are lower) and mean (average) valuations of Congress by chamber and party (using calculated data from the ever-useful Center for Responsive Politics) and compared it to the median and mean net worths of the bottom, middle, and top quintiles of American households.
First, the average net worths.
And this is why we say they're richer than you are. (Note: This is only for people who served in the 113th Congress, both people who left and people who are there presently, stretching back to 2004 or the first year they were on the Hill.)
The median valuations are a little closer, but Congress is still worth more than the richest Americans. And, the Senate more so than the House.
Party doesn't make much of a difference.
It's worth noting too that the median net worth for members of the 113th Congress climbed even as the net worth for Americans on the whole dropped. That's a good way to stay rich: Don't lose money in recessions.
Again, this is not anything you didn't know (or at least suspect). Roll Call points out in an interactive that there are over 100 members of Congress with an estimated net worth below zero, meaning they have more debt than assets.
At least they have jobs -- for now. There's a new crop of millionaires champing at the bit to add their personal fortunes to the big Congressional pile. How much? Candidates file disclosures, too, letting journalists discover that, for example, Georgia's David Perdue has a Swiss bank account.
Just like you, we assume.