As our friend Seton Motley often observes “College IS for Dummies.”
As our friend Seton Motley often observes “College IS for Dummies.”
According to a study conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics, financial disclosure forms reveal that out of the ten richest members of Congress, a whopping total of seven are Democrats.
Collectively, the total wealth of the seven richest Democrats in Congress amounts to $1.1 billion.
The richest member of Congress is a Republican: Rep. Darrell Issa, whose wealth totals $330,050,015. The other two Republicans, Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan and Rep. Vernon Buchanan, rank at number 5 and 6.
Four of the 10 richest members (Issa, Pelosi, Peters, Feinstein) hail from California.
The majority of Congress are still millionaires, but Senators increased their net worth in 2015 at a far greater rate than Congress as a whole.
In 2015, the median net worth of Senate Republicans rose 13 percent from $2.9 million to $3.3 million, according to personal financial disclosure data filed by congressional members and reviewed by CRP researchers.
Over the same period, the median net worth of the Senate Democratic Caucus, on the other hand, rose 9 percent – still far greater than the 4.5 percent increase in combined net worth of U.S. households and nonprofits in 2015, according to a report this year from the Federal Reserve.
In 2015, more than 70 percent of Senators were millionaires, meaning most never needed to worry about the pressures that most middle-class American face – from securing gainful employment to saving for unforeseen financial shocks. At at a time when Congress is considering changes to the tax code and healthcare legislation, this disparity calls into question their ability to adequately represent their constituents.
In the House, median net worth of members increased only about 1 percent, from $860,000 in 2014 to $875,000 in 2015.
In 2015, three Senate Republicans at least doubled their wealth in a single calendar year.
The list includes Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota (up 490 percent); Roger Wicker of Mississippi (326 percent); and Thad Cochran of Mississippi (124 percent); according the personal financial disclosures filed with the Senate.
Rounds was worth an estimated $2.7 million in 2014 and $16.2 million a year later, mostly due to his wife selling her real estate and insurance company. Wicker sold his stake in his timber company. Cochran remarried into wealth.
When members of Congress file their annual personal financial reports, they’re allowed to list the value of their assets and liabilities in broad ranges. In practical terms, that obscures exactly how much each member of Congress is worth. And the larger the value of the asset, the broader the allowable range.
To account for those ranges, CRP’s researchers establish a minimum and maximum net worth, and then use the average as an estimated net worth for each member of Congress.
In 2014 and 2015, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was again the wealthiest member of Congress. Issa, who made his fortune in the car alarm business, had an estimated net worth of about $330 million in 2015.
At least six other lawmakers had an estimated net worth in excess of $100 million as well. That included House Democrats Jared Polis of Colorado ($314 million), John Delaney of Maryland ($233 million) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California ($101 million) as well as House Republicans Dave Trott of Michigan ($177 million) and Vernon Buchanan of Florida ($116 million).
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D), whose estimated net worth of $238 million in 2015 was roughly one-quarter of the combined wealth of his 99 colleagues, was both the wealthiest senator and third wealthiest member of Congress in 2015. Democrats Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut ($81.7 million) and Dianne Feinstein of California ($79 million) were the year’s next wealthiest senators.
The least wealthy member of Congress in 2015 was again Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), who reported an estimated net worth of negative $24 million, “up” from $25 million in net liabilities in 2014. Valadao’s disclosures and previous interviews with CRP indicate his debt is tied to loans for his family’s dairy farm.
The second “poorest” member of Congress was Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a United Methodist pastor and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Despite the growth in the number of congressional millionaires, total net worth of members — the value of all their assets minus liabilities — declined from $4.5 billion in 2014 to $4.2 billion in 2015.
Expect More Data to Come
While the scope of this report is limited to 2015, CRP is continuing to update the personal finances section with the more current 2016 data that was filed by members of Congress this summer. We currently have some 2016 data and are working to process the remaining filings for those members who filed for extensions and submitted later in the year. Follow us on Twitter to be the first to hear about future updates.
Researcher Alex Baumgart contributed to this story.
(See more here at OpenSecrets.org) Republished under a Creative Commons license.
The House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a long-awaited step toward updating America’s tax code.
If you’re a middle-class taxpayer, the bill has a lot to like. Tax rates are lowered, the standard deduction is doubled, the child tax credit is increased to $1,600, and a parent and non-child dependent credit is added.
If you’re a working taxpayer, employed by a business, or the owner of your own business, there’s even more to like.
The corporate tax rate is cut from 35 percent—one of the highest rates in the world—to 20 percent, immediately. Family-owned and small businesses that pay their taxes as individuals will pay a maximum rate of 25 percent on certain business income.
All businesses will also be able to immediately write off the costs of new equipment for five years. This provision, called “expensing,” allows businesses to invest more in American workers, add new jobs, and raise wages.
According to the Tax Foundation, the House plan could boost the economy by 3.6 percent over the long term, raise average incomes by $2,500 (after taxes), and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
The Senate builds on the House’s momentum toward tax reform, and improves on the House bill in six important ways.
1. Lower tax rates at every level.
The House plan reduces the number of tax brackets from the current seven down to four, but does not lower the current top tax bracket of 39.6 percent.
The plan actually raises marginal rates on some taxpayers making over $200,000 and includes a new “bubble tax rate” of 45.6 percent that is intended to take back the benefit of the lowest tax bracket for high-income earners.
The Senate bill improves the House bill by lowering marginal income tax rates for a larger share of Americans—most notably, reducing the current top 39.6 percent rate to 38.5 percent and doing away with the House’s bubble rate.
The benefits of lowering marginal rates for more Americans—increasing the incentive to work, save, and invest—outweigh the cost of the Senate not being able to consolidate any of the current seven tax brackets. Lower rates trump fewer tax brackets.
2. Full repeal of the state and local tax deduction.
Legislators from New York, New Jersey, and California have held the House tax reform effort hostage, forcing the plan to retain a $10,000 property tax write-off—a subsidy for their wealthy constituents.
The Senate proposal improves on the House bill by fully repealing that property tax deduction. Both bills repeal the state and local tax deductions for income and sales taxes.
3. Simpler treatment of business income.
The Senate bill simplifies the House’s complicated treatment of businesses that file as individuals, or what are known as “pass-throughs.” The House includes a 25 percent maximum tax rate on business investment, but then includes a set of complicated rules to avoid the lower rate becoming a loophole.
The Senate forgoes multiple different tax rates in favor of a larger business deduction worth 17.4 percent of the businesses’ taxable income. The deduction lowers the effective top marginal tax rate for small and pass-through businesses to 31.8 percent.
This rate is roughly comparable to the total effective tax rate on business income earned through traditional corporations and paid out as dividends. The Senate treatment avoids complicated pass-through rules while moving toward treating all businesses equally.
4. Better treatment of investments.
Both the House and Senate bills allow five years of full expensing for new equipment, which, if extended permanently, could have a dramatic impact on investment and economic growth.
The Senate bill also shortens the write-off time for residential and nonresidential buildings to 25 years. This reform, although far from the ideal of full expensing, would significantly lower the cost of investing in buildings and increases the growth potential of the Senate tax bill over the House version.
5. Lower tax rate on overseas profits.
The House-proposed tax on overseas profits is set at 14 percent on overseas cash holdings and 7 percent on physical investments.
In an ideal world, this money should not be subject to U.S. taxes since it was earned abroad and, in most instances, already subject to taxes by another country. But, as a transition measure toward the new territorial tax system, a low tax rate is acceptable.
The Senate bill lowers the tax down to 10 percent on overseas cash holdings and 5 percent on physical investments. An even lower tax rate would be better.
6. Repeal of the individual mandate.
The Senate bill would also repeal the Obamacare individual mandate as part of tax reform. This would provide tax relief to millions of Americans who can’t afford the rising costs of Obamacare insurance and would otherwise be subject to the tax penalty.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over 10 years, repealing the mandate would increase federal revenue by $338 billion by reducing outlays on subsidies for people who would not have otherwise purchased the insurance. This additional revenue would help lower tax rates for all Americans and would make it easier for the bill to meet the Senate’s arcane budget rules.
Repealing the individual mandate is not only helpful for tax reform, it is also good health care policy. In a recent Daily Signal post, my colleagues explain that “the experience with Obamacare over the last four years shows that the individual mandate does not work” and is a burden on millions of middle-class Americans.
Far From Perfect
For all its improvements on the House plan, the Senate plan is far from perfect.
For one thing, it fails to repeal the estate or death tax. Not permanently repealing the death tax is economic malpractice, as it would forgo potential economic growth and likely make it harder to fully repeal the tax later on when those affected by it will be an even smaller minority of Americans.
The House bill would repeal the estate tax in 2024, while both bills would double the tax’s basic exclusion from its current $5.49 million per person.
The House bill includes two important simplifications to education policy that are left out of the Senate reform. The House consolidates seven different education tax incentives into the existing American opportunity tax credit and makes it available for an additional year.
The bill also improves and simplifies education saving accounts by consolidating the current two programs into a more flexible and broadly available version of the current 529 college savings plan.
The House bill also removes a remarkable number of special-interest subsidies, taking a crack at draining the swamp in Washington. The plan eliminates tax credits for oil production and for green energy, deductions for medical expenses and for student loans, the credit for rehabilitation of historic buildings, and a “new markets” tax credit, just to name a few.
The Senate maintains each of these in the tax code and even adds in a new family leave subsidy.
The passage of the House bill this week will be a big step forward for tax reform. Once the Senate has passed its version of the bill, Congress should seize the opportunity to combine the best components of the House and Senate bills to make tax reform of maximum benefit to all Americans.
Adam Michel focuses on tax policy and the federal budget as a policy analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
After eight years of non-stop attacks on working Americans by Barack Obama, Democrats, Hollywood, the mainstream media, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, former House Speaker John Boehner is blaming political division on…
In a bizarre interview with POLITICO, Boehner specifically says Obama is not to blame for America’s problems, which are entirely caused by Levin.
Boehner blames Levin, not Obama or Congress, for the fact Middle America is frustrated with Washington’s inability to reform or cut anything.
He even denounces Levin as “dark” and refers to the conservative grassroots as “right wing nuts.”
Boehner tells POLITICO:
“It wasn’t him (Obama)! It was modern-day media, and social media, that kept pushing people further right and further left. People started to figure out … they could choose where to get their news. And so what do people do? They choose places they agree with, reinforcing the divide…
…I always liked Rush [Limbaugh]. When I went to Palm Beach I would always meet with Rush and we’d go play golf. But you know, who was that right-wing guy, [Mark] Levin? He went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged [Sean] Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys—I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly they’re beating the living s–t out of me…
“…I had a conversation with Hannity, probably about the beginning of 2015. I called him and said, ‘Listen, you’re nuts.’ We had this really blunt conversation. Things were better for a few months, and then it got back to being the same-old, same-old. Because I wasn’t going to be a right-wing idiot.”
It was Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who launched a broadside against President Donald Trump’s budget nominee over religious views, but it’s the No. 2 Republican in the Senate who is blocking the nomination of Russ Vought from coming to the floor for a vote.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, seemed to clarify in a tweet Friday that it isn’t personal against Vought, who Trump nominated to be the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Rather, Cornyn just wants more federal dollars for his state, which was hit by Hurricane Harvey this summer.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, joined Cornyn and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a bipartisan, bicameral letter asking for $18.7 billion in hurricane aid. However, Cruz is not joining in the effort to hold, and supports the Vought nomination.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The Daily Signal disaster relief and confirmation of nominees should be viewed separately.
The administration welcomes a conversation with all members of Congress about the next disaster relief request, which we expect to come in the coming weeks. While we work with Congress on that next request, we urge the Senate to keep doing their jobs by confirming qualified nominees to crucial positions inside our government. This administration has already faced unprecedented obstruction of its nominees.
During an exchange from Vought’s June confirmation hearing, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, raised suspicions about the nominee’s Christian beliefs.
“You wrote, ‘Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.’ Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?” Sanders asked.
Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation.
Sanders cut off Vought and went on to say he “is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
Report by Fred Lucas. Originally published at The Daily Signal.