Infographic Of The Day: Wall Street? Pfff. Protesters Should Be Occupying Congress

The demographics of Congress don't really reflect that of the populace: They're richer, and they do way better on the stock market.

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]

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11 Comments

  • Tim Geoghegan

    The problem is, lobbying is another word for bribery, isn't it? Maybe not in payments, but in favors and in connections. It happens in any government of course. And it's not a crazy conspiracy theory to believe that the most powerful and richest organizations will wield power to protect their best interests.

    That's exactly what any entity does - it tries to survive. This one just happens to have it's hands in every aspect of our daily lives.

    To be angry at the 'corporate state' is to be angry at the privatized state, which is to be angry at the country's basic foundation right now (as well as international system that's linked to it). What the protesters and many others are coming to realize is that they are protesting not Wall Street, or their government, but their way of life.

    Just how far are these protesters willing to raise and examine the issues? That remains to be seen. Protesting not just wall street or their government - but their own lifestyle - suddenly changes things in people's minds. Are they willing to forgo the lifestyles that the current system has brought them? The system that has - even if it's hurting now - brought them the same expensive devices they're using to upload tweets and pics of the demonstrations? The same system that allowed their trust fund to grow that is paying for the 30k/year school that they're skipping classes from to protest?

    Would they even able to make a dent in such a powerful, connected, controlling system that will do what it can to protect its own interests?

    Again, that remains to be seen.

    Wall Street is merely the engine powering what is now, frankly, (for better or worse) a corporate state with democratic ideals. That's not even a question anymore.

    But rather than taking it out only on Wall Street or only on Congress, take it out on ourselves. We created it, or allowed it to be created through our collective ignorance and greed. Change starts with us, not 'them.'

    I just wish the conversation focused more on exactly what and who they are protesting against. The lack of clarity in their message will not bring about the changes they seek. Instead, it will allow their message to be hijacked and twisted and clouded by other interest, which is already happening. So I'm afraid this will all eventually splinter into an even more confused argument that simply comes across as a disgruntled class war. And a lost opportunity to get the country back to some of it's original ideals and to somehow create a more fair distribution of wealth and chances of prosperity.

  • Mattythesaint

    50% of Congress are Millionaires? Funny, 76% of Congress are members of a fraternity. Crony capitalism starts in college, possibly? Would things be any different if Congress was made up of labor unions? Who knows? It seems that no no matter where you look, people are trying to work out sweet deals for themselves and their friends & family. Consolidation of wealth, consolidation of power. It's been the same story for Millennia. The only thing that restores the balance is violent revolt, at which point the process begins anew.

  • Michael Mitchell

    how unfortunate that the protesters have to be attacked by police to get maximum media coverage. hopefully more people will be energized to join the protests.

  • Michael Mitchell

    unfortunately the only way to get maximum exposure is to be attacked by the police

  • CallMeCrazy

    If the ows crowd don't rally around a clear message soon they will quickly fade away. My suggestion for a focus, congressional redistricting reform.

  • Outoflinecreative

    Er, nope -technically, this is actually just about right. 

    Senators are meant to be rich. That's how the system works(-ish). 

    Rich senators are designed to balance the imprudent will of the peoples house.... 

  • Rev60_icelynx

    "you've got to believe that they should be just as angry at Washington." but they're not.  In the end, I doubt the protesters will leave any positive change: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
    The whole "politician-income" thing helps move along a slow news day, but its a tired, worn-out argument nonetheless. As senator Quintus in the movie Gladiator said: "I don't pretend to be a man of the people, but I am a man for the people".

    Remembering Steve Jobs: 1955-2011.  He was the 1%.

  • Ross P

    Apparently when you sign in before finishing a post it automatically posts whatever you've already typed?

    Anyway: I really doubt people at Occupy care about insider trading or rich people more than they care about Wall St's corrupting influence on our democracy, the regulatory capture of the SEC, or campaign finance reform. Wall St is the source of most of the problems affecting Congress and our government and recognizing that is important.

  • Ross P

    I really doubt people at Occupy care about insider trading more than they care about

  • J852

    One of the reasons Senators/Congressmen outperform wall street is because they are allowed to profit from insider trading.  They have access to information and are allowed to invest based on that knowledge, whereas the rest of us have to follow the law.