Political Correction

Tea Party Caucus Members Are Twice As Rich As Typical Member of Congress, Push Tax Policies That Favor Wealthy

January 11, 2012 4:01 pm ET - by Jamison Foser

A new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics finds that the median House Tea Party Caucus member is more than twice as wealthy as the median member of Congress and nearly three times as wealthy as the median member of the Progressive Caucus:

The median average net worth of a member of the House Tea Party Caucus was $1.8 million in 2010. [...]

That's significantly higher than the comparable number for the median House member: $755,000. It's also more than 130 percent above the $774,280 average net worth of the median, non-Tea Party Caucus House Republican.

Furthermore, the caucus, a group of 60 House members founded by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), includes 33 millionaires and six members worth more than $20 million, according to the Center's research. [...]

The median House Republican, generally speaking, was worth significantly more than the median House Democrat last year: $834,250 versus $635,000. [...]

The Center's research found that the median average net worth of a member of the Progressive Caucus was about $639,500 in 2010.

But the uncommon wealth of Tea Party Caucus members is only half the story. The Tea Party Caucus was formed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), whose failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination provided a clear picture of the caucus' economic priorities:

"In my perfect world," she explains, "we'd take the 35% corporate tax rate down to nine so that we're the most competitive in the industrialized world. Zero out capital gains. Zero out the alternative minimum tax. Zero out the death tax."

Eliminating the capital gains tax — a popular proposal among Tea Partiers — would constitute a massive tax cut for the very wealthy while doing essentially nothing for the rest of the country. The estate tax only applies to estates in excess of $5 million, so zeroing it out would constitute a huge tax cut for the very wealthy while doing literally nothing for the rest of the country. 

The Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman spelled out some of the effects of Bachmann's proposed cuts:

This got me wondering: What would happen to the number of non-payers if the GOP presidential hopeful got her wish and Congress did abolish taxes on gains. My Tax Policy Center colleague Dan Baneman ran the numbers: Such a step would remove 23,000 millionaires from the income tax rolls, and cut their annual tax liability by an average of a half-a-million dollars.

While proposing massive tax cuts for millionaires, Bachmann wants to raise taxes on the poorest Americans:

Republican presidential candidates have been resolutely opposed to tax increases in the debate over the nation's budget straits, but Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann this week suggested there's one group that needs to be paying more: poor people who pay nothing now.

At a town-hall meeting Tuesday given by the South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, a questioner noted that major U.S. corporations are paying "very few dollars of federal income taxes, if any." He prefaced his point by saying the Bible advises us to render unto Caesar what Caesar is due.

Ms. Bachmann turned the conversation elsewhere: "Part of the problem is today, only 53% pay any federal income tax at all; 47% pay nothing," the former federal tax attorney said. "We need to broaden the base so that everybody pays something, even if it's a dollar."

And, again, Bachmann's position is representative of Tea Party Republicans.

Though they cloak themselves in populist rhetoric, the Tea Party Caucus are, in fact, an affluent select few who are trying to use their office to enact tax policies that would further rig the system in favor of already wealthy elites like themselves.

Copyright © 2010 Media Matters Action Network. All rights reserved.