Net worth of Congress

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Wealthy Congressmen Don't Feel Your Pain

When you're as wealthy and comfortable as members of Congress are, it's tough to identify with people who are barely making ends meet.

The median net worth of Congress soared 15% from 2004 to 2010, with the average Congressman worth $913,000. Meanwhile, the median net worth of all Americans fell 8% over the same period to $100,000.

Nearly half of the members are millionaires.

Even America's richest 10% haven't fared as well as the typical member of Congress - their net worth in that time span has remained about even.

"There's always a concern that they can't truly understand or relate to the hardships that their constituents feel - that rich people just don't get it," Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told The New York Times.

In fact, the trend of Congress members growing disproportionately wealthy stretches more than two decades.

According to a Washington Post study of Congressional financial disclosures, the median net worth of a member of the House - excluding home equity - more than doubled between 1984 and 2009, from $280,000 to $725,000. Meanwhile, the comparable wealth of the average American fell from $20,600 to $20,500.

The Post excluded home equity because it is one of several items not reported, or underreported, in congressional disclosure forms.

For example, members need only disclose a maximum of $1 million of assets belonging to a spouse, regardless of how much that spouse may be worth.

Take John Kerry. His wife, Teresa Heinz, inherited the vast Heinz family fortune estimated at about $500 million. That figure never appears higher than $1 million on his disclosure form.

And members don't have to disclose at all the value of their government retirement accounts and any personal property not considered an investment, such as automobiles and artwork.

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