Rich Politicians: More than just a fluke

Alan Duff

Being rich would be awesome. I would get the best cars, beachfront properties, and even get to design cologne for myself. On top of that, people would always be trying to take pictures of me for free; I would never have to pay a cameraman again.

Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single drawback to being rich, especially since I would then be like almost half of the United States Congress.

So what would it take for me to be in this elite group of people? According to **The Wall Street Journal**, I would need to make at least $506,000 a year to be in the top one percent of America. While that’s a good amount of money, I decided it’s probably more practical to aim for the more modest title of Millionaire Extraordinaire.

Comparing these numbers to the members of Congress is quite surprising in our democratic country. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 57 members of Congress are in the one percent. More surprising is that almost half of the United States congress is made up of millionaires. Clearly, money does help when running for office.

While these numbers are shocking, I decided to see if they held true for presidents as well. According to **The Atlantic**, only nine of the 44 American presidents were worth at least one million dollars. This is certainly better than our congressional ratio for 2011, where 328 members of congress are millionaires.

On closer examination of the numbers, though, the last non-millionaire president the United States had was Harry Truman in 1945. It’s been more than 50 years since the United States has had a Commander-In-Chief that didn’t hail from the richest part of our population.

Now truth be told, since Truman’s time, political campaigns have become a lot more expensive, and that could be why we’ve had so many more millionaire politicians than average Joes. But I would like to explain why the rich are so disproportionately represented in American politics, aside from the obvious campaign costs.

America is a representative democracy, and so we elect officials that are larger than life, the best of the best in theory. No one wants to elect a politician who is a failure. On top of that, Americans love celebrities to a fault. We buy their clothes, follow them in magazines, crave their attention, look at their oh-so-dramatic relationships and stalk them with cameras whenever they go out in public.

So we love celebrities, maybe because we want to be them, maybe because we just want to be entertained. Clearly America is obsessed, and who is more eccentric and dramatic than a rich politician?

The honest truth is it takes more than money to be a politician. To fill the all-star requisite to win a congressional seat or the presidency, you have to talk loud and proud and think big. The average American doesn’t have the time, or excess money to do that. How else can you explain the Govenator?

For a representative democracy, the problem of representation still exists. Socioeconomic representation in Congress is real, and I think new election laws that enforced tighter spending budgets would help fix this. Stopping celebrities, though, still seems impossible.

But I’m willing to take the optimistic approach here and assume it is the nature of a democracy that allows rich politicians to be put into office. Besides, being rich and famous seems the best bet for getting a political office. Just ask Donald Trump.

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