Congressional wealth

I was very happy to see (well, hear about via NPR, then read) WaPo's discussion of the wealth of Congressmen. Well, happy to see that they're noticing the problem.

And I think, as a human interest story, it was a good one, but missed many of the important issues that bear on why so many Congressmen are so wealthy.

In particular, it completely missed on mentioning the rates that incumbents get re-elected (around 96%, last I heard), and how gerrymandering is affecting that rate.

One knock-on effect of that, is that, because Congressmen and Senators get very out-sized returns from their investments (as I mentioned previously), those who stick around for a little while quickly become very wealthy.

I was quite surprised to see that about 8% of Congressmen have little or negative net worth (home excluded); I expected no more than a dozen for the entire body. I would be willing to bet that those are pretty much all first-term'ers.

(As an aside, I found Rep Kelly's comment about the "death tax" pretty offensive. Nobody has said, or even suggested, that you shouldn't be able to pass a pretty substantial amount on to your children. The debate has been about the exact percentage, and on amounts over how many millions of dollars. Suggesting that you can't pass anything on, when the tax doesn't even kick in until your estate clears several million dollars is assinine, at best. And that's a tax that's barely over 1/3. Yes, you are being taxed twice on the money (well, most of the time; not actually all the time). One could argue about the fairness of that, but what about the fairness of codifying a (roughly) permanent aristocracy by not having a tax at all? That's the choice.

And keep in mind that $1M is already 22 times the national median income. So even if the tax were to become 100% for amounts over $1M, which nobody has suggested, you would still be able to pass on the amount an average person earns in 22 years. Calling that nothing should be damned offensive to at least half the population.)

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