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For the First Time, Half of Members of Congress Are Millionaires

Last week, unemployment benefits expired for over a million Americans. Also, a report revealed that over 50.1 percent of Congress are millionaires.

monopoly man 

(Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings/Flickr)

Conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics, the report analyzed financial disclosure reports from 2012.

Of course, it isn't rare to have rich representatives for less-than-wealthy Americans. In 2011, 48 percent of members of the legislature had a net worth of over $1 million. Still, the report points out, it's significant that the balance tipped to a majority of millionaires at a time when Congress is determining issues that affect the poor, such as extended unemployment, raising the minimum wage, and food stamps.

Why do Americans continue to elect rich candidates? In part, it's because they're the ones who can afford to run.

"Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall, there's been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington," says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center. "Of course, it's undeniable that in our electoral system, candidates need access to wealth to run financially viable campaigns, and the most successful fundraisers are politicians who swim in those circles to begin with."

Eric Lipton of The New York Times highlights the fact that many recently elected members of Congress were wealthier than usual, which drove up the numbers.

"...[T]he change in the average wealth also tracks overall changes in the well-being of higher-income Americans nationwide, as stock markets have recovered from the recession," Lipton writes.

Meanwhile, he says, the middle class is either stagnant or in decline, depending on which numbers you use. The question, of course, is whether wealthy legislators will act on issues that affect Americans in very different circumstances than their own.

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