I often marvel at how completely the debate in Washington seems so totally disconnected from the polling data and the concerns of regular Americans in these tough times, but it is important to keep in mind members of Congress aren’t like regular Americans. For the most part they are incredibly wealthy. From Opensecrets.org:
Like their veteran counterparts, U.S. House and U.S. Senate freshmen are together a notably wealthy bunch, enjoying exponentially greater wealth than most of the Americans they represent, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of federal personal financial disclosure reports.
Sixty percent of Senate freshman and more than 40 percent of House freshmen are millionaires, the Center’s study finds. Roughly 1 percent of Americans at large claim the same lofty financial status.
“Even though millions of Americans continue to struggle financially, most of the nation’s newest congressional representatives are a world away from such constituents’ financial realities,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center’s executive director.
This is one of the many problems with our country having almost no public financing of elections and extremely expensive congressional races. To run for Senate, you need to either be able to directly write your campaign a multi-million dollar check, which inherently requires you to be fabulously wealthy, or you need to spend a lot of time begging very rich people for money, which, by the way, is made much easier if you are already a fairly rich person with lots of rich friends.
As long as being able to spend lots of private money is almost a prerequisite for winning an election, the wealthy people with lots of private money to spend on elections are going to make up a vastly disproportionate number of winners and people with influence in the process.
Which is basically why the carried interest loophole still exists, allowing billionaire hedgefund managers to pay a lower tax rate than teachers.