Congress is supposed to represent the typical American voter. And they’re supposed to do that, in part, by actually being like the average American voter. Just witness the number of congressmen who can be found in ads tooling around in pickup trucks or bouncing their grandkids on their knees. But Congress, if you look closely, doesn’t much resemble the rest of America at all. Consider this wonderfully concise chart, by illustrator Chris Piascik:
Okay, technically the figure is 41% for the House and a whopping 66% for the Senate, based on 2009 data. (See a more detailed report, including which politicians are the biggest fat cats, at the Center for Responsive Politics.)
Whatever the precise numbers, the point abides: There’s a huge demographic gulf between Congress members and the electorate they’re supposed to represent. And not only that, there is at least some indication that Congress may be guilty of crony capitalism: One groundbreaking study found that the stock portfolios of Senate members outperformed the market by 12% per year over six years. To put that in perspective, that’s way better than the returns earned by all but the best billionaire hedge fund managers. And it’s enough for the study’s authors to have concluded that Congress is a hornet’s nest of self-dealing and insider trading. (As if that weren’t already clear enough.)
Does personal worth affect how they vote? Maybe. Maybe not. Their donors probably have at least as great an effect.
But given the anger that Occupy Wall Street is focusing on the crony capitalists in private enterprise, you’ve got to believe that they should be just as angry at Washington.
[Top image by Elvert Barnes]