The number of Capitol Hill millionaires has grown in recent years to include nearly half of all members of Congress - 250 in all - and the wealth gap between lawmakers and their constituents appears to be growing quickly, even as Congress debates unemployment benefits, possible cuts in food stamps and a “millionaire’s tax.”

Representative Ed Pastor buys a Powerball lottery ticket every weekend and says he does not consider himself rich. Indeed, within the halls of Congress, where the median net worth is $913,000 and climbing, he is not. He is a rank-and-file millionaire. But compared with the country at large, where the median net worth is $100,000 and has dropped significantly since 2004, he and most of his fellow lawmakers are true aristocrats.

Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress - many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters - have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group.

Congress has never been a place for paupers. From plantation owners in the pre-Civil War era to industrialists in the early 1900s to ex-Wall Street financiers and Internet executives today, it has long been populated with the rich, including scions of families like the Guggenheims, Hearsts, Kennedys and Rockefellers.

But rarely has the divide appeared so wide, or the public contrast so stark, between lawmakers and those they represent.

The wealth gap may go largely unnoticed in good times. “But with the American public feeling all this economic pain, people just resent it more,” said Alan J. Ziobrowski, a professor at Georgia State who studied lawmakers’ stock investments.

There is broad debate about just why the wealth gap appears to be growing. For starters, the prohibitive costs of political campaigning may discourage the less affluent from even considering a candidacy. Beyond that, loose ethics controls, shrewd stock picks, profitable land deals, favorable tax laws, inheritances and even marriages to wealthy spouses are all cited as possible explanations for the rising fortunes on Capitol Hill.

The median wealth of House members grew some two and a half times between 1984 and 2009 in inflation-adjusted dollars, while the wealth of the average American family has actually declined slightly in that same time period, according to data cited by The Washington Post in an article published Monday on its Web site.

MIC CHECK

Now if people are fine with the United States of America becoming a second world nation, with a small, elite, powerful few who hold all the assets while the rest work long hours as peasants, then I suppose it makes sense they are against the Occupy movement. However, I think most people, who like to stand by the ideals this country was founded upon, e.g., democracy or at the very least a republic, freedom from oppression, freedom from serfdom and aristocracy, would support this occupation.

Simply going out and working hard is no longer sufficient. The American Dream now remains only a dream. I started university at 16, I graduated law school at 23, I have the best job I could get. My parents are bankrupt. I can’t afford my student loans even with scholarships. I live at the poverty line. I do not have a child, a car nor a home, nor could I dream to afford any of the above. I don’t party, I don’t spend money as if I had it, yet I have horrible credit (from moving to go to school, paying electricity, groceries and medical bills - did I mention I do not have health insurance?) and no longer have the option of a credit card. I do not drink, I don’t do drugs, and I have no mental illness. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not crying a river of personal grievances nor am I taking a stand because I can see how a movement such as this might benefit me and my middle class compatriots. No. I share all of this to illustrate that there is something wrong with our system. The moment it becomes profitable to bet against the futures and financial stability of the working people of this country, there is a problem.  The moment you deregulate a financial system or give personhood to a corporation that has no morals, no compassion, no empathy nor humanity…no motivation beyond financial profit at all human cost, capitalism ceases to function in the ideal way our founding fathers planned.  

There is a key point people seem to be missing. This is not about capitalism vs. socialism. This is about corruption. Socialist ideals, at the heart, are commendable ideals. Capitalistic ideals, at the heart, are commendable ideals. Unfortunately, both can be corrupted. Humans, like water, will find weak points and cracks, and without safeguards, a watchful eye, or accountability, inevitably those weak points will be “capitalized” upon and breached. When that happens, you can either ignore the problem, allow it to continue until the entire system is mired in corruption and everything we once held as ideals in this nation have crumbled to our feet, OR we can stand up, point out the breach, spread the word, and join forces to fix the breach and safeguard against it in the future. Socialism abused – Soviet Union. Capitalism abused – current United States. Two extremes, lessons should be learned. 

Some percentage of the population remains ignorant to the breach. They want to believe their country, the land of the free, would never succumb to the sorts of corruptions they hear about beyond our borders. Another percentage are scared, hopeless and overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems they see. No one can change this country alone. These people looked around, the dam cracking around them, the water coming up to their knees and they yelled, but no one heard. Until some brave people stood up in NYC and yelled loud enough for others to hear and realize they were not alone, and together they assembled and their voice grew louder. They became a collective microphone until more people heard. All the people who have been holding on to oppressive feelings of helplessness suddenly have their cries being heard. This movement is about SOLIDARITY. Change will only come after The People have joined together. People need to see we have a chance. When the People lead, the leaders will follow.  First SOLIDARITY, then EDUCATION, then CHANGE. 

We are in PHASE ONE. Be on the right side of history.