Part of the reason the richest 1 percent of Americans have captured our politics is because they are able to finance political races, issue campaigns, and lobbyists. But the other reason some of the richest Americans have been able to control our politics is because they themselves have gotten elected to positions of power at a much higher rate than the rest of us.
As Roll Call points out today, the estimated median net worth for a member of Congress in 2010 was $513,000 (this is strictly an estimate as assets are reported in ranges). Meanwhile, the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s David Rosnick points out that the net worth of the median household in the United States that same year was closer to $100,000:
For Congress, the median net worth in 2010 was about $513,000. For regular households, the Federal Reserve Board pegged that number at about $120,000 in 2008, and that number this year is probably around $100,000, [said economist David Rosnick]. While it is hard to make an exact comparison between Congress and the rest of the nation, what is clear is lawmakers “are all a lot richer than anything you would call a typical American,” Rosnick said.
The Center for Responsive Politics looked at the average wealth of members of Congress in between 2004 and 2009 (relying on estimates derived from ranges). In 2009, the average net worth of a senator $13.4 million. On the House side, it was $4.9 million:
Meanwhile, the average wealth of an American household is around a half a million dollars (dragged upwards from the median by high-wealth families). This isn’t to say that just because members of Congress tend to be much wealthier than most Americans that they necessarily will not legislate on behalf of the 99 Percent. But it is important to note that the wealth gap between Americans and their federal legislators is as wide as it is, even in a democratic system that is supposed to represent all Americans, not just the most wealthy.