NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

He’s not rich, he’s you

Excuse us for a moment as we break out our tiny vio­lins and a box of kleenex to lament the plight of Con­gress­man Den­ny Rehberg (R‑MT), who is chal­leng­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jon Tester for his seat in 2012 . You see, although Mr. Rehberg is the 23rd rich­est mem­ber of Con­gress he informed con­stituents at a town hall meet­ing over the week­end that he is strug­gling finan­cial­ly just like them.

“I’m a small busi­ness­man. My wife is a small busi­ness­man. You know she has­n’t tak­en a salary in ten years? She has not, as a result of the busi­ness, because we are strug­gling like every­one else… with the econ­o­my,” Rehberg said.

Accord­ing to Rehberg’s 2009 finan­cial dis­clo­sure form, he self-report­ed a net worth of between $6,598,014 and $56,244,998. In nam­ing him to its 50 Rich­est Mem­bers of Con­gress list, Roll Call notes that Con­gress­man Rehberg’s net worth increased slight­ly from 2009 to 2010.

The ranch and real estate own­er increased his net worth by less than 1 per­cent last year, most­ly because of slight increas­es in stock values.

Even if his net worth is exact­ly one per­cent high­er than the low­er fig­ure above, how many peo­ple in Mon­tana do you think have that kind of mon­ey? In 2010 the medi­an income in Mon­tana was $42, 322, low­er than the nation­al aver­age of $50,221, and Rehberg him­self is mak­ing $174,000 in salary this year.

Oh, the hor­rors of being wealthy! What a bur­den it must be for Con­gress­man Rehberg!

By con­trast, Sen­a­tor Tester intro­duced leg­is­la­tion this year to end auto­mat­ic year­ly pay increas­es for mem­bers of Con­gress.

On Wednes­day, I teamed up with a bipar­ti­san group of Sen­a­tors to intro­duce the Con­gres­sion­al Pay Raise Pre­ven­tion Act. Our leg­is­la­tion (HERE) would require all mem­bers of Con­gress to per­ma­nent­ly give up auto­mat­ic year­ly pay raises.

Under cur­rent law, mem­bers of Con­gress auto­mat­i­cal­ly receive year­ly cost-of-liv­ing pay increas­es unless we vote to stop them.

When I got to the Sen­ate, Con­gress had spent a decade giv­ing them­selves pay rais­es every year, while hard­work­ing, mid­dle-class Mon­tanans strug­gled to make ends meet. Most folks don’t have the lux­u­ry of auto­mat­ic pay raises–and Con­gress ought to lead by example.

Tester ran in 2006, against an out-of-touch, in the pock­et of cor­po­rate inter­ests incum­bent, look­ing to make U.S. Sen­ate look a lit­tle more like Mon­tana. And while Sen­a­tor Tester reports income and assets above the Mon­tana aver­age, its his deeds that show that he’s still fight­ing for the aver­age Mon­tanan. As for Con­gress­man Den­ny Rehberg, the only finan­cial woes he’s fac­ing are the poten­tial of los­ing his job and the six fig­ure salary it pro­vides come Jan­u­ary 2013.

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