Tuesday

Is our country being run by millionaires?

Between 1984 and 2009 the net worth of members of the US House of Representatives almost tripled while the net worth of the average American actually declined. Same sort of thing is going on in the US Senate. It seems the fat cats are taking charge and we better take it back soon or we will lose it forever.

With a new study just released by the Center for Responsive Politics, almost half of the members of the US Congress are millionaires - the so-called "one percenters" who make up a tiny percentage of the US population at large. And the richest person looks to be a nver-heard-of-him-before Republican named Darrell Issa from California who is worth reportedly just over $700 million. Then there's Vernon Buchanan, a Florida Republican whose net worth reportedly is just shy of a third of a billion dollars.

There are plenty of other examples, both Republican and Democrat, but what this study really shows you is that while the rest of us have just been struggling to get by, the richest of the rich have been getting by just fine, thank you very much. In fact, they've been doing really rather well.

Is it any wonder that Congress favors big businesses owned by millionaires and billionaires, over the interests of the everyday consumer just trying to get by? Not really. There is a natural human tendancy to want to favor and help the people you know and who know you. And let's face it, millionaires know other millionaires, billionaires know other billionaires, and folks like the rest of us just know the rest of us.

Meanwhile, the rich put politicians in charge and the laws get changed. Think it isn't happening to you? Don't be so sure.

All across this country there is one law that every state has and that protects consumers from unfair and deceptive sales practices by dishonest merchants. Called "Udap" laws (unfair and deceptive acts and practices) or Consumer Sales Practices Acts, these laws are under attack by wealthy, conservative state legislators who are chipping away at your legal rights.

For example, in Ohio the Republican-controlled state legislature is about to amend the law so that it practically wipes it out. The Ohio Consumer Act has helped consumers fight illegal sales practices and, at the same time, helped honest merchants compete with dishonest merchants. But hard-core rich legislators, perhaps looking to their donors from the last election or the next one, want to get rid of any law that can be used against any business - no matter how honest or dishonest the business owner may be.

These zealots of change are misguided. They forget that a dishonest business hurts everyone, including the honest business-person down the street who can't compete with a liar and a thief.

Not all business owners are crooks, that's true. But there is no reason that an honest business owner should help protect a crook just because he wears a suit.

Meanwhile the bill is the Ohio legislature is steamrollling its way to approval in the coming weeks. Can you stop it? Maybe. But you better act fast. Otherwise, honest merchants will have to start adopting the deceptive and unfair tactics of dishonest merchants if they want to survive in the dog-eat-dog world that the Ohio state house seems to be brewing up for Ohio consumers.

Email, write, or call your state house representative and state senator, click here, and tell them to leave the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act alone. We don't need House Bill 275 and we don't need any change to our Consumer Protection law. This House Bill would help rich people get richer by wiping out some of your rights and making it harder than ever to use what little rights are left over.

We have enough rich people running our lives already. Tell the state legislature to leave our Consumer Law alone. Do it now. Before it's too late.

Find out who your state congressman is by clicking here, and call them now. And if they don't listen to you? Vote the millionaire rascals out.

Burdge Law Office
Helping people protect themselves every day