Wealthiest Member Of Congress Is Way Out Of Touch With American Income Levels

April 22, 2011 3:52 pm ET — Brian Powell

Rep. Darrell Issa

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the wealthiest member of Congress, illustrated how hopelessly out of touch he is with average Americans when he suggested that individuals making over $200,000 a year are "well into the middle class." NBC San Diego reported:

Issa also takes exception to a remark in President Obama's speech last week that the Republican budget approach caters to the nation's wealthiest citizens.

"The President's left-wing rhetoric is what we don't like and don't need in Washington," he said.  "The President says we've got to go after the millionaires, but his major tax increases begin well into the middle class."

Obama's proposal would "allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for individuals making $200,000 or more a year and couples making $250,000 or more." Does Issa truly believe that a couple making a quarter of a million dollars a year is "middle class"?

Even at its broadest definition, the middle class only includes households making up to $166,000 a year. A Congressional Research Service report in 2007 found:

The narrowest view of who might be considered middle class would include those in the middle quintile, those households with income between $36,000 and$57,660. But it seems unlikely so small an income range would correspond with many impressions of who is middle class. A more generous definition might be based on the three middle quintiles, those households with incomes between $19,178 and $91,705.That group accounts for 60% of all households and 46.2% of all household income. The broadest definition of middle class to be had from these numbers would be to add the part of the top quintile just up to the point where the top 5% begins. That would put those households with income between $19,178 and $166,000 in the middle class. That group accounted for 74.4% of all household income in 2005.

Issa's reality-challenged comments echo recent Republican talking points claiming that the richest Americans bear an unfair tax burden, but the "burden" of taxation on the wealthy is actually relatively minimal. While the richest one percent of Americans make 25 percent of the nation's total annual income, this same group controls an amount of financial wealth equal the bottom 95 percent of Americans.

The American people aren't fooled by Republican misinformation about tax and income disparity. Recent polling indicates that voters favor taxing Issa's supposed "middle class" — households making over $250,000 — by a two-to-one margin.