Friday, December 01, 2006

Forbes May Detest Millionaires in Government

I came across this article first on Forbes and on SolidarityEconomics weblog, which is Marxist oriented. I found it very strange that this would be posted on Forbes.

Meet Senator Millionaire by Jessica Holzer, Forbes

The wealth of the incoming class will hardly raise eyebrows in the Senate, where about half of the current 100 members are also millionaires and the average net worth is $8.9 million, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. By contrast, less than 1% of the U.S. population has a net worth of $1 million or more.

Though millionaires are far more common today thanks to inflation, lots of members in the 19th century Senate would have been multimillionaires in today’s dollars, insists Ritchie. Back in 1900, $100,000 was roughly equivalent to $1 million today.

So glaring was the affluence of the turn-of-the century Senate that it prompted a series of muckraking articles in 1906 called the “The Treason of the Senate.” That led to the 17th Amendment, which instituted the direct election of senators in 1913. Previously, they were chosen by state legislatures.

Read the rest here.

Comment: Holzer’s understanding of the movement to enact the 17th Amendment is slightly skewed, yet is a very common belief. The general belief is that the populist movement, fueled by the corruption in the Senate, was the driving force behind the movement. Yet recent research has determined that it was the special interest groups that were looking for more access to federal funds and to break the monopoly held by older states over the newly formed western states was the impetus for the movement.[1] It was only coincidental that the populist movement came along during the time the amendment was enacted. As we have seen in the last hundreds years special interest and greater rates of taxation have grown rapidly since the enacting of the 17th Amendment.

Troubling for me is the lack of honest investigation on the part of the left. The left looks upon the 17th Amendment as a great victory for the “people,” yet in actually it has further enslaved them. Special interest groups have more power and the people less. If the left were truly concerned for the people they would be working diligently to remove the 17th Amendment and restore the States place in the Federal government.

My other concern with Holzer’s article stems from her class based view of the Senate, while scornfully observing of the number of millionaires. This is very typical leftist harangue, but again what I found interesting is that a capitalist magazine like Forbes would print this story. Every citizen has right to run for elected office, no matter the economic status. And as history has demonstrated the rich are actually better suited to serve because they most often have a solid education and being free from want they can devote more time and energy to the community. But again, there is nothing set in stone one way or the other, only that all should the opportunity to run. Yet it is up to the citizen to take the time and learn about the candidate, hopefully make the right choice for the best candidate.

[1] Todd Zywicki, Beyond The Shell and Husk Of History: The History Of The Seventeenth Amendment and Its Implications For Current Reform; Cleveland State Law Review; 1997

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