“Rich politicians take care of their own,” Fred Grimm wrote in the Miami Herald yesterday. “The rich are different from you and me. Well, me anyway. And they’re damn well positioned to keep it that way.”
Here’s his proof: Florida has a fabulously wealthy governor-elect who spent $73 million of his own money to get elected and a Legislature “laden with millionaires.” 18 millionaires will be “slumming in the state Senate. That’s 18 out of 40 senators.” 34 millionaires vote in the House. Out of 120 state reps. “Rich reps are forced to mingle with the unwashed rabble,” Mr. Grimm wrote.
“The U.S. Congress wallows in even more disproportionate affluence than our elected moneybags in Tallahassee.” He used the Center for Responsive Politics to find that 261 members of Congress are millionaires, and 55 are worth more than $10 million. Median wealth in the Senate rose from $2.27 million to $2.38 million last year.
I apologize in advance. I tried to make this funny. It isn’t.
This kind of writing irks me. My neighbor Stan is a millionaire. He doesn’t feel rich. In fact, he complains about anything but rich. A Texas friend, Billy Bob, is just about on the median wealth of the Senate. He feels richer than I do, but he ain’t buying jet airplanes. Not many other millionaires are, either. So the Herald columnist who wants grimly to stick it to we fabulously wealthy types mingling with the unwashed rabble seems to have left out a fact or two.
Let’s look at some real figures, albeit from 2009 before the electoral shakeup. Only about 17% of Congress Critters are women although 51% of Americans are. 178 representatives and 58 senators are lawyers although only .3% of Americans are. 400 representatives and all but two senators have earned college degrees; many have advanced degrees although only 27% of Americans do. The average age in the House is about 56 and in the Senate, almost 62 although the average age in America is 37.
So, it looks as if our Congress critters are mostly rich, white, college-educated lawyers between 55 and 64, and the general population isn’t.
The general population is about 37 years old, and a mixed bag of ethnicities and schooling. Just .7% of them overall are millionaires. Zero point seven percent.
So what happens when we compare Congress critters to mostly white, college-educated lawyers between 55 and 64? Or even just to college-educated Americans?
The Federal Reserve Bank looks at the median value of financial assets for most folks in America, primarily so banks can sell us checking accounts. The median is the “middle number” of a sorted list of numbers so half the numbers in the list will be less and half the numbers will be greater. The smaller numbers can be a lot smaller or just a little bit smaller but, in this case can never be less than zero. The bigger numbers can be just a teeny bit greater or can be hugely larger.
The Fed reported on those median values. It turns out that households of people aged 55-64 had about $95,200 in cash and stocks in 2007 (college graduates of all ages held slightly more at $99,400). Household median “nonfinancial assets” like your house and your car was $347,000 for the Congressional age group and $435,400 for college graduates of all ages. So the mid-line for college grads of any age is to be half a millionaire.
Half the college educated households are worth more than half a million?
Mr. Grimm didn’t tell us that.
27% of Americans have a college degree. 5% of Americans are “rich” millionaires. That means that about a fifth of Americans with a college degree are probably millionaires.
Mr. Grimm didn’t tell us that either.
Perhaps Mr. Grimm spent Thanksgiving with a can of Spam so he wants us to swallow his turkey.
Perhaps we need more college educated households although that offers no guarantees. The BLS reports that more than 482,000 college-educated Americans are customer service reps. Over 100,000 college-educated Americans are maids and janitors; 5% of those have a Ph.D.
And perhaps, as Mr. Shakespear reminds us, our bigger problem with Congress is the number of lawyers rather than the number of rich lawyers.
Mr. Grimm irks me because he trotted out an abundance of ogre words and a sparse few facts to back them up. I guar-an-damn-tee you that being a millionaire ain’t what it used to be.
I searched for a biography of Mr. Grimm who says “the way [the rich] see things . . . well, they’re different from you and me.” No joy. He was a general assignment reporter at the Herald after working for other newspapers. He has been a columnist there for about 20 years. I’m going out on a limb here without giving you the data I wanted him to give us, but I’m thinking Mr. Grimm is a limousine lib. He probably has a college degree. He certainly rubs elbows with the very same kind of folks lounging around Tallahassee and Washington that he excoriated yesterday. After all, the BLS also reports that the top 10% of news analysts, reporters, and columnists (meaning senior staff at major metro dailies) earned more than $77,480 per year.
Columnists are supposed to make waves. I do.
But Miami columnists ought not complain about how cold it is in South Florida when the fact show it is 60° colder in North Puffin. We do better making waves with facts that stand up to daylight scrutiny.
Warning: Unexpected transition ahead. Follow along and be careful where you step.
I will address the question, Is Liberalism really Liberalislam another time.
The Herald column does what so many limousine liberals and fundamentalist Muslims alike want to do: drag down the rich so everyone is poor and scrabbling in the dirt.
Me? I’d rather be a millionaire so here’s my proposal. If you are so apologetic for your personal wealth, give me your fortune. I guarantee I will hire a dungeon master to help you feel really ashamed.
You libs want something worth groaning about? Mr. Grimm could have offered a couple of valid statistics:
- In about 40 years, the average U.S. CEO pay has grown by an order of magnitude. Mine hasn’t.
- Congress critters upped their average wealth by 16% in 2009, a year the rest of us took a hit.
Americans should celebrate that some of us can become wealthy. Want to do better? The answer is not to tear down those who have but rather to improve the odds for the have nots.