Darrell Issa (R-CA) in Washington on June 28, 2013.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Nation’s richest congressman: U.S. poor are ‘envy of the world’

Updated
When members of Congress are ranked by wealth, one lawmaker usually stands out, even among the rich. Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican, has a net worth of at least $350 million – which gives him a comfortable lead over his next closest rivals in the race for the top spot.
 
This isn’t criticism, of course, and there’s nothing wrong with someone having great financial success. But given Issa’s riches, he should probably avoid the kind of rhetoric he used with CNN yesterday.
Asked by CNNMoney whether he feels personally responsible to address income inequality in the United States, the Republican Congressman from California said “absolutely.” But he noted that America is the richest country on earth and implied that those in poverty here are better off than the poor in other nations.
 
“If you go to India or you go to any number of other Third World countries, you have two problems: You have greater inequality of income and wealth. You also have less opportunity for people to rise from the have not to the have,” said Issa.
The California Republican added that the United States has made “our poor somewhat the envy of the world.”
 
Now, even if Issa weren’t hyper-wealthy, it’s generally not a good idea for politicians to vote to slash public investments, cut taxes on the wealthy, and then lecture the poor on how their station in life could be worse. Issa is supposed to be a congressman, not a Dickensian villain.
 
But the fact that the California Republican enjoys Romney-esque wealth – and he’s making the comments as economic inequality in the United States reaches unprecedented levels – just adds insult to injury.
 
Over at Daily Kos, Hunter’s sarcasm struck a compelling note: “That is just super. Compared to the Indian caste system and assorted ‘other Third World countries,’ (cc: India, have fun with that), we’re pretty great guys! Maybe not if you compared us to those nations that allow their citizens to go to college without having a boat anchor of debt wrapped around their necks, or those nations that allow ‘universal’ medical care even for the really poor poors, but when you compare America to your assorted sampling of “other Third World countries” we come off pretty good.”
 
The CNN correspondent had a similar thought, reminding Issa, “I don’t think the comparison is one we want to make. We don’t want to compare ourselves to India.”
 
The California Republican was unimpressed. “Why shouldn’t we?” Issa responded. “I appreciate your comment, but you’re wrong.”
 
It seems the GOP lawmaker’s mind is made up, but for those who care about the details, economic mobility in the United States has been stagnant for a half-century, and fares poorly “compared to other wealthy nations:”
 
It’s just a little detail the next time Issa and his cohorts vote to cut food stamps, unemployment aid, and education funding.
 

Darrell Issa, Economic Inequality, poverty and Wealth

Nation's richest congressman: U.S. poor are 'envy of the world'

Updated