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    America's Biggest Problem - A Greedy, Self-serving, and Unpatriotic Congress

    Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

    America’s Biggest Problem - A Greedy, Self-Serving, and Unpatriotic Congress
    People used to run for congress in order to serve the nation. But that no longer seems to be the case. Today, far too many people run for congress in order to gain influence and seek personal fortune. While many may be willing to throw a bone to the American people on occasion, they’ll only do so if they can do it without hurting themselves, and always with an eye towards how the gesture will benefit them in the next election.
    Due to our apathy and ever increasing ignorance of the political process, the American people have presided over the birth of a monster - an entrenched political class whose interests are more aligned with those who seek to exploit us than they are the people they’re elected to represent.  In addition, we’ve allowed them to solidify their control over the system through gerrymandering, or realigning, their districts in such a way that it’s next to impossible to vote them out of office. As a result, the people we elect to office as our representatives - or, employees, as it were - have become our rulers. That’s not how this nation was designed to function.
    For the past thirty years, since the Reagan administration, this nation has been in the midst of a bloodless coup. The Republican Party’s intent is to reestablish a European-like caste system here in the United States, a social order that most of this nation’s founding fathers sought to avoid, and left Europe to escape.
    Alexander Hamilton, one of the premier founding fathers of the conservative movement, said the following:
    "All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and wellborn, the other the mass of the people.... The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second, and as they cannot receive an advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government."
    Debates of the Federalist Convention (May 14-September 17, 1787).
    So there has always been a strain of thought in this country incline toward subjugating the poor and middle class.  During the federalist convention there were  many who advocated that only those with property should be allowed to vote. But the majority of the founding fathers opted for equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all - with the notable exception of Black people and women, of course. That only came later, in theory.
    So why 226 years later do we find ourselves back to square one, and once again engaged in a class war?  It’s simple - greed.
    As we’ve pointed out many times before, in the new global economy, American corporations are now forced to compete with countries that pay their workers less per week than many American workers spend on lunch per day. Thus, in order to maximize their profits, U.S. corporations now have a vested interest in lowering the standard of living of the American middle class.
    That is the corporate agenda, and therefore, the Republican agenda. It’s also what accounts for the brutal attack on both unions, and our educational system - they’re attacking unions to take away the voice of the middle-class worker, and they’re attacking our educational system so we’ll be too ill-informed to see through their convoluted pretext for cutting our throats.
    A prime example of that is how we’ve allowed the corporatists and their congressional henchmen to convince us to subsidize corporations and enrich the top 1% of the population through the destruction of unions, accepting lower wages, and supporting a trillion dollar tax cut under the pretext that the rich create jobs.  That’s total and utter nonsense.
    No matter how big a tax break we give Schwinn, we’ll never be able to convince him to hire people to make bicycles that he can’t sell. While we commonly refer to “supply and demand,” in actuality, “demand” precedes “supply.”  Thus, the only way that we can get Schwinn to hire employees is to create a demand for bicycles by putting enough money in the pockets of the poor and middle class where they can afford to buy bicycles for their kids.
    Therefore,  jobs are actually created by the poor and middle class through the purchase of goods and services. And with every job created it, creates other supporting jobs. When Schwinn starts hiring people to make bicycles, others have to hire people to provide the steel and rubber used to make the bike, people have to be hired to produce, prepare, and serve the employees lunch, mechanics have to be hired to repair their vehicles so they can get to work, etc.
    So again, it’s the poor and middle class who create jobs. Clear evidence of that can be found in the fact that in spite of his huge tax cuts for the rich, under George W. Bush, the country was hemorrhaging jobs at a rate of 800,000 jobs a month.
    The American people are supposed to have a built-in defense against this sort of deception through their elected representatives. But due to our apathy, naivete, and the distractions of ESPN, BET, MTV, and our non-elected “leaders,” we continue to re-elect self-serving demagogues that we’ve allowed to become so rich and spoiled that they’ve become a class in themselves - the political class.
    While the American people have been distracted by the hot pursuit of the American dream, the political class have been busy stealing that dream from right under our nose. According to a report by ABC News,“47% of Congress Members [are] Millionaires — a Status Shared by Only 1% of Americans.” And that’s with good reason.
    The median income of the average American is $32,140 a year. On the other hand, congress has raised its own salary from $98,400 a year in 1990, to currently, $174,000. That’s a $75,600 increase, or 57%. A rank-and-file member of congress makes $1596.33 a day, and it takes him or her only 20 days to make what the average American makes a year. In addition, over and above that, In January of 2009 - during the height of the Great Recession, and while many Americans were losing their jobs and homes - congress voted each member a $93,000 raise in “petty cash.”
    Now let’s take a look at their work schedule. In January of this year they worked 6 days in January, 14 days in February, and 13 days in March. The most days they’ve worked in any month this year was in February, in which they worked 14 days. So it’s no wonder that congress can’t identify with the American people - They’ve become a subset of the very class of people that we’ve elected them to protect us from. So in essence, we’ve elected the Mafia to defend us from crime.
    So it’s time for the American people to wake up, stop whining, and retake control of our government. The way we must go about that is to review the voting records of our elected officials and vote anyone out of office who’s giving the top 1% priority over the American people. In addition, we must pressure congress to bring their salary into conformity with that of the median income of the American people, and cap it at a given percentage above the minimum wage.
    We should also require congress to be in session, at least, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 33 weeks a year, and 8 hours a day, 4 days a week for 12 weeks a year. And the salary of any legislator that’s not present should be docked. That will keep them in touch with the way the rest of America has to live.
    We should also force congress to pass a "Workers' Bill of Rights." If a corporation wants to do business in the United States, there should be a base set of rules that force them to act responsibly. One of those rules should be that the corporation must maintain a certain level of employment based on the profits they're drawing out of the U.S. Market.
    And finally, we must insist that congress adhere to the principles of democracy by getting rid of all internal rules, like the filibuster, that allows one, or a handful of individual legislators, to obstruct the majority.
    Thus, in spite of the heated rhetoric from Obama haters on both ends of the political spectrum, congress, not the president, is without question the source of most of America's problems. Congress controls the money, and they can vote to overrule anything that the president attempts to do. On the other hand, congress can initiate and pass laws without the president, and if he vetoes the law, they can override his veto. So while congress is free to act unilaterally, the president is limited to the consent of congress. So while everyone seems to want to point a finger at the president, we must always keep one thing in mind - the president can’t do a thing without congress' blessing.  Most people are fully aware of these simple facts, but during these challenging times, we can't afford to make any assumptions.

    Congressional Pay Analysis
    The median income of the average Middle Class American is $32,140. 
    Congressional pay raises since 1990 increased from $98,400 to $174,000 in 2012 ($75,600 increase, or 57%).
    The current salary (2011-2012) for rank-and-file members of the House       and Senate is $174,000 per year ($1596.33 a day).
    It takes a congressperson 20 days to equal what the average citizen makes a year.
    Congressional Work Schedule
    Month - Days of Work
    Jan - 6, Feb - 14, Mar - 13, Apr - 8, May - 10, Jun - 13
    Jul - 13, Aug - 3, Sep - 8, Oct - 5, Nov - 8, Dec - 8
    Eric L. Wattree
    [email protected]
    Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)

    Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.


    Well said.

    I do feel that Our President has more prestige right now.

    And Reid is really pissed at the use of the filibuster.

    And Pelosi is attempting to lure to repubs over to her side; on specific legislation.

    At this time of year we should think of renewal and not hopelessness.

    I listened to this NRA pig on Piers Morgan and O'Brien and I don't think the peeps are buying this crap.

    And I do not think that the peeps are buying the Grover Norquist crap either!

    I would rather look for signs of renewal and keep my arguments on the side of renewal.


    I have been told that the end is near for over 60 years and that message just aint true.

    There is a new movement out there.

    We need strong voices like yours leading us on.

    But I will not accede to the argument that all is lost! hahahaha


    Yes we are finally at a tipping point. I am worn out from the last 30 years of this. Right now it seems social network is a lot of the force for change. It makes my day when NRA get raked over the coals on the internet.

    Good read. Thanks.

    Great post. We focus on what CEOs make and forget the differential between what Congress makes vs the average citizen.

    This may be one reason that tax breaks favor the wealthy over the middle class. A GOO Congress cannot identify with those who can't raise their own salaries.

    $174K a year isn't rich. $1600/day is hardly a lot for a top lawyer, and the way this is calculated is misleading- Representatives work more than these days. A typical CEO makes much more than this. The federal exec pay scale goes from $120K-$180K.

    It's all in the perception of the individual.  For the vast majority of households, according to many research reports, the median income is a bit over $50k.   To the average household, $174k does seem, if not rich as those of Romney's ilk, this amount is indeed 'rich' in their reality based lives.

    There are far more of the working poor than there are lawyers, CEO's and others who consider a hundred bucks minimal pocket change - to them it instead equates to the ability to obtain necessities such as groceries, heating fuels and/or gas for their much less than new vehicles they need to keep operable to get them to their jobs.

    Yes, there are people in Nebraska who've never paid $15 in DC to get 10 blocks either, or never paid $15,000 a year for a regular private elementary school or never paid $2500/month for half a rundown townhouse, and the local diner costs $8-12 for breakfast rather than $5.

    There's just not enough real difference in lifestyle to make that $174K be "rich", unlike changes that start at say $250K-300K, depending on where you're liviing.

    While we can play this "seems rich" game forever - when I was 8 years old, $20 seemed like rich. Presumably most people in the US have TV and know the difference between Joe the Plumber, a local bank director, and Oprah Winfrey or Brad Pitt.

    The median Private Banking Director salary in $150K. Median Government Affairs Director is $118K. Median Executive Government Affairs Director is $222K.

    A Sr. System Administrator at Washington Post? $100K. Lead Developers at Huffington Post? $110K. CNN Executive Producers? $130K

    Somehow a $174K salary for a high profile gov position you raised and spent a year or 2 of income and 2 years of your life campaigning to acquire doesn't seem exorbitant. 

    (Average campaign cost for incumbents in 2010: $1,163 million. Challengers paid $166,000, though 90% of challengers lose, so money flushed down the toilet)

    Congressional incumbent reelection rate, 2008: 94%

    Average spent by House race winners, 2008:$1.4 million

    Average raised by challengers, 2010: $166,000

    Average raised by incumbents, 2010: $1 million


    The median net worth of Congress is just over $900K. The man in the middle is Arizona Democrat, Ed Pastor, a member of the House. When he came to Congress in the 1980’s his worth was estimated at $100K. As of 2011, as a multi-term member of Congress, he had increased his dollar value almost tenfold. Comparing mean values, his wealth has tripled.

    Half of population of the United States lives in poverty. Millionaires make up half of Congress are millionaires. Congress is disconnected from the average American. $174K is rich to a wide swath of the US citizenry

    Bait-and-switch. Are we talking about Congresspeople's worth, or their salary? Most don't get their net worth from their salary.

    I once had a homeless guy on the street insulting me as a rich cat for having a rusted out 20-year-old van - who knows what a "wide swath of the US citizenry" thinks, but I imagine they're thinking of Paris Hilton and P. Diddy, not Ed Pastor.

    The lowest Congressmen are Joe Walsh and Marco Rubio - conservative idiots with negative net worth attacking the poor - does that help the argument here?

    The median net worth for incoming freshmen is >$500K - so Ed Pastor is barely ahead of the newcomers after 20+ years of experience.

    (Note if Ed saved $10K/year and got 7% on his savings, he'd be where he is after 25 years)

    The half of the country living in poverty would love to be able to save $10K per year.The mean US income was just over $44K in 2003. I think the majority of the US population would love to be able to save 23% of their income.


    Much of the country would love to save $1000 a year - that doesn't mean anyone making $60,000 is rich. Really, $172K isn't rich - it's upper middle class if you can sustain it for a while, but it also depends on where you live. In NY or DC or LA, you're fighting against housing prices and cost of living that whack your net worth.

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