Entries in Incomes (2)


Nearly Half of Congress Members Are Millionaires, Research Shows

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- It’s no secret that many members of the U.S. House and Senate are millionaires -- their salaries paid for in part by the American taxpayer. But their six-figure salaries are just the tip of Congress members' earning potential.

The Center for Responsive Politics has crunched the numbers and released the results on its Open Secrets blog: “About 47 percent of Congress, or 249 current members are millionaires...In 2010, the estimated median net worth of a current U.S. Senator stood at an average of $2.56 million.”

“Despite the global economic meltdown in 2008 and the sluggish recovery that followed, that’s up about 7.6 percent from an estimated median net worth of $2.38 million in 2009...and up 13 percent from a median net worth of $2.27 million in 2008...Fully 36 Senate Democrats, and 30 Senate Republicans reported an average net worth in excess of $1 million  in 2010.  The same was true for 110 House Republicans and 73 House Democrats,” the Center’s research went on to say.

“The vast majority of members of Congress are quite comfortable, financially, while many of their own constituents suffer from economic hardships,” said Sheila Krumholz at the Center For Responsive Politics. “Few Americans enjoy the same financial cushions maintained by most members of Congress -- or the same access to market-altering information that could yield personal, financial gains.”

A recent 60 Minutes feature blew the lid off of one major moneymaking perk: insider trading laws don't apply to members of Congress, allowing them to legally buy and sell stock with market-shaking knowledge of upcoming patents, drug approvals, key economic data, and the like.

Such market activity would be a federal crime to anybody else, including so-called Wall Street "fat cats" some of the same members of Congress publicly decry.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top 1 Percent's Income Soared Since '79

John Foxx/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON) -- The income of the richest 1 percent in the U.S. soared 275 percent from 1979 to 2007, but the bottom 20 percent grew by just 18 percent, new government data shows.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a study this week that compared real after-tax household income between 1979 and 2007, which were both after recessions and had similar overall economic activity.

While the income of the richest 1 percent nearly tripled, increases were smaller down the economic ladder. After the 1 percent, income for the next highest 20 percent grew by 65 percent, much faster than it did for the remaining 80 percent of the population but still lagging well behind the top percentile.

The changes illustrate how the better off have captured the bulk of income gains over the past three decades. The top quintile has seen its share of income rise while the other four quintiles have suffered declines in their shares, according to John Bowler, director of country risk service with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The report states that without the growth of the top percentile, income inequality still would have increased, "but not by nearly as much." The study was prepared at the request of Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

The CBO said the reasons for the rapid growth at the top are "not well understood," though some possibilities include technical innovations that have changed the labor market for superstars, "such as actors, athletes, and musicians," changes in executive compensation, and increasing scale of financial-sector activities.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio