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FROM THE EDITOR: Sign of apocalypse? Majority in Congress now millionaires

For the first time in American history, the majority of members of Congress are millionaires, according to a story that appeared last week in Time Magazine.

Millionaire public servants. Let that sink in for a second.

Grand, isn’t it?

The magazine article is based on a study conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzed the 2012 financial disclosure statements of all 534 current members of Congress. The center discovered that for the first time the median net worth of members of congress exceeded $1 million.

Democrats are the wealthier of the two parties, with a median net worth of $1.04 million. Republicans aren’t far behind with a median net worth of an even $1 million.

The richest congressman is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). He’s chairman of the House Oversight Committee, not a bad job really. He was worth an average $464 million in 2012. He made his fortune in car alarms.

The least wealthy, according to the center study, was Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), who was worth a negative $12 million in 2012; some loans to the family’s dairy business dinged this poor congressman’s finances.

How did Nevada’s delegation stack up? Good question.

Let’s start with the senators.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was worth an average $4.3 million in 2012. His maximum net worth was $6.17 million. Nice!

Republican Sen. Dean Heller was worth an average $3.27 million with a maximum potential of $3.7 million. Also very nice!

At least one member of the Silver State’s House delegation isn’t doing too shabby either.

Rep. Dina Titus, District 1, had an average net worth in 2012 of $5.42 million. Her maximum net worth was $8.6 million. Awesome!

Rep. Mark Amodei, District 2, had an average net worth in 2012 of $166,000, and a maximum of $230,000. He really needs to pick up the pace.

Rep. Joe Heck, District 3, reported an average net worth in 2012 of $305,000, with a maximum potential net worth of $510,000. Not horrible, but maybe a few plum committee assignments would do the trick.

Rep. Steven Horsford, District 4, whose district includes Pahrump, had an average net worth in 2012 of only $144,000, up to a maximum of $260,000. Poor Steven.

I’d perhaps chalk up Horsford’s meager finances to his rather short time in Congress. Who knows, a few more terms and he too can be wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

The center study also looked at the investments congressmen and women are making. General Electric appears to be the company most widely invested in by members of congress.

It received government contracts in 2008, 2009 and 2010 of about $12 billion total, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. But to put that into perspective, Lockheed Martin scored more than $100 billion in contracts during the same period.

Other companies widely invested in by members of congress, according to the center study, included Wells Fargo, Microsoft Corp., Procter &Gamble, and Apple Inc. Not a bad portfolio.

It’s really great to hear that a majority of our national lawmakers aren’t just surviving financially, but thriving. They sure are doing better than me, and I bet better than you, too.

It’s almost like our national legislators are recession proof.

Meanwhile, guess who’s not recession proof? The vast, vast majority of Americans.

While the majority of congressmen and women can celebrate their wealth, a lot of Americans continue to endure a fickle labor market, income stagnation, long-term unemployment, rising costs on just about everything, etc.

Our millionaire senators couldn’t find the common ground this week to pass legislation extending jobless benefits for 1.3 million apparently incurably unemployed Americans. God forbid we give these folks three more months of unemployment benefits — God only knows how awesome it is to live in the wealthiest country in the world and not be able to find a job or feed your kids.

But hey, maybe something’s just wrong with those unemployed people.

Well, what about the working poor? You know, the teenagers and immigrants slaving away for $7.25 an hour — $8.25 an hour in Nevada if you’re willing to roll the dice and refuse to enroll in your employer’s medical plan.

Seven Nobel laureates, all economists, and eight members of the American Economic Association this week came out in support of a higher national minimum wage, you know something working people can sort of live off of.

They sent a letter to the new Millionaire’s Club, or Congress, urging members to consider supporting a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

The letter offers this little bit of political fodder, since we all know the first thing conservatives are going to do is huff and puff about small businesses suffering as a result (if you think Washington Republicans give two hoots about small businesses, you’re deluded. Gigantic corporations, that’s another story.) Now these economists appear to defuse this bit of likely political puffery by stating emphatically that “the weight of evidence now show[s] that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”


The letter goes on to say that a higher minimum wage might actually HELP the economy: “A minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.”

Well, well, well. What will our millionaire overlords in Washington do now?

Wait, wait. Let me guess.

Nothing. (And get richer doing it.)

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