Does It Really Cost This Tea Party Congressman $200,000 to Feed His Family?

What do Tea Party congressman feed their families? On Monday, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a member of Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus met with MSNBC's Chris Jansing to discuss President Obama's proposed tax increases on the wealthy. Using his own income as an example, Fleming gave an interesting glimpse into the world of Tea Party economic theory ... and economic justifications.

Unlike many of his fellow legislators, Fleming's taxes would rise under the Obama plan. This is because, in addition to his $174,000 congressional salary -- which is far below the minimum threshold for Obama's tax increases -- Fleming also pulls in an impressive $6.3 million from his investments, including several Subway franchise restaurants and UPS stores.

However, Fleming was quick to explain that he only brought home a small portion of his $6.3 million gross income. As he told Jansing, "That's before you pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment and food. The actual net income of that was only a mere fraction of that amount." In fact, according to Fleming, he made a comparatively paltry $600,000.

While decidedly less than $6.3 million, Fleming's $600,000 is still nothing to sneeze at: Given the $49,455 that the median American household brought home in 2010, the congressman's yearly income equaled the take-home pay of more than a dozen average families. But, as Fleming noted, even that princely sum was not all it appeared. In order to create more jobs -- and, not coincidentally, expand his business -- Rep. Fleming needed to invest more money: "By the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment ..."

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So, let's see: $600,000 minus $400,000 for reinvestment leaves $200,000 that Fleming has budgeted to "feed his family." In other words, the congressman's yearly food budget is more than the total take home salary for four average families.

And how many people does Fleming's $200,000 feed? Well, the congressman and his wife Cindy have four grown children. Assuming that the pair still has all of their children living under the same roof, the USDA's food allotment under its "Moderate-cost" plan would total $378.90 per week, or $19,702 per year. So, Congressman Fleming is budgeting more than 10 times the average yearly food cost for a family his size.

When Jansing pointed out the vast gap between the average American salary and Fleming's, the congressman responded: "Class warfare has never created a job."

Apparently, however, it puts a lot of food on the table.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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