They Don’t Even Understand the Language of People With Short Money.

From Leigh:

1% of Americans are millionaires, compared to 44% of Congress (237 elected officials, to be exact). The median income in the Senate is just under $2M, in the House it’s just over $600k. Median household income in the US is $50,303.

Just because an individual is rich does not preclude them from pursuing pro-poor or equitable policies, nor does it suggest that they cannot relate to poverty or economic inequality. But when the group norm is staggering wealth compared to the typical American, including in countless districts these officials represent, then it is understandably difficult to consider or develop policies that truly address economic hardship. Add to this wealth disparity the reality that 9 in 10 House incumbents and 8 in 10 Senate incumbents are re-elected each election year, and my despair over Congressional legislation benefiting the average American certainly deepens.

She’s not trafficking in easy populism here. Like she said, members of Congress live in a world with relatively high job stability. They pull in $170, 000/yr and make use of an extremely generous healthcare plan in which the government pays up to 75 percent of the premium.  The major legislative players in health care reform have never worried about their employers switching to an inferior plan with a higher contribution or dropping their insurance outright. Their plans have no lifetime caps, they face no rescissions or any of the constellation of obstacles that are par for the course for their fellow insured Americans (to say nothing of the folks with no coverage at all).  And then there are folks like John McCain, who despite his considerable wealth would have a hard time getting covered on the individual market thanks to his history of cancer,  and has been insulated from from that reality by receiving government-funded care as a member of the Armed Forces, a veteran, and a U.S. Senator. Or Dick Armey, the former House majority leader-turned-professional-healthcare-reform-obstructionist,  who received public health care as a young professor at a state university in Texas before spending the next several decades in Congress.

If the impression you’ve gotten from the way our lawmakers have handled the health care debate is that this whole thing is a big abstraction to them, that’s because it probably is.

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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

8 comments to They Don’t Even Understand the Language of People With Short Money.

  • Thanks for the link. I’m enjoying the power of our words from that photo above them, with all that collective comfort and self-satisfaction on display.

    “If the impression you’ve gotten from the way our lawmakers have handled the health care debate is that this whole thing is a big abstraction to them, that’s because it probably is.”

    Yep.

  • If salary caps are good for sports, I’d love to see them in politics. Not particularly practical, but then, neither is this.

    • I’m not particularly convinced it’s their congressional salary that’s the problem. It’s that they’re rich before they get there. I’m actually ok with them being paid high salaries because they have to travel a lot and maintain two homes, generally. What I think is wrong is that the costs of campaigning are so ridiculously high that only rich people can do it in the first place.

      • keke

        yes, you are so right! it amazes me when I hear the amount of money spent on political campaigns. and if you are running to represent states such as New York or Illinois forget about it, the funds are through the roof! Millions and millions of dollars, just to win the seat!

        • Yeah, and you have to not work or whatever. In most states local or even state level offices are virtually volunteer, so you either have to not worry about your day job or have the kind of familial support that allows you to drive to the state capital all the time and not worry about what’s going on at home.

  • Ladyfresh

    I entertain the idea of politicians recieving median pay and average to no insurance from time to time but then i realize that they would either be too distracted to do their jobs(losing themselves in affairs or drugs or prostitutes or just depression…) or too easily bribed…no wait this happens anyway…:\

    “If the impression you’ve gotten from the way our lawmakers have handled the health care debate is that this whole thing is a big abstraction to them, that’s because it probably is.”

    hell yeah

  • I think of the same thing when I consider the Regents of the University of California. They’re much wealthier than the average member of Congress, many of them are current or former CEO’s is business, banking, entertainment, publishing, etc. They certainly do not have backgrounds as education professionals. Charging us $2,500 more a year isn’t much to a person who has a personal aircraft.

    Seriously, regents can get reimbursed for travel to a meeting in a personal aircraft. WTF?!

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