Add John Fleming, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, to the growing, bipartisan list of relatively well-off politicians who may want to revisit the way they discuss their income in public.
During an MSNBC interview to discuss why Fleming opposes President Obama's tax increase on those earning more than $1 million per year, host Chris Jansing said that Fleming has an income of more than $6 million. Fleming quickly corrected her, saying he actually takes in a fraction of that gross amount--about $600,000.
"The amount that I have to reinvest in my business and feed my family is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million," Fleming explained. "So by the time I feed my family I have, maybe, $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment."
Watch the entire interview below.
Fleming owns a string of Subway sandwich shops and UPS store franchises that earned a gross income of about $6.3 million last year, according to a review of the congressman's finances in The Wall Street Journal.
Jansing went on to tell Fleming that his annual personal income of $200,000 from those ventures was "not exactly a sympathetic position" from which to make the case for lower taxes on the wealthy.
"You do understand, congressman, that the average person out there who's making maybe 40, 50, $60,000 out there, when they hear you only have $400,000 left over, it's not exactly a sympathetic position," she said. "You understand that?"
"Class warfare's never created a job," Fleming responded. "And that's people that will not get jobs. This is all about creating jobs, Chris, this is not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know in this country, most people feel that being successful in their business is a virtue, not a vice, and once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down."
Fleming was merely pointing out a consequence of tax increases--that business owners will have less money to re-invest and hire new workers if they decline to take a pay cut. But his message likely won't resonate, as Jansing said, with "average Americans."
Lawmakers in both parties have long found themselves appearing removed from reality. From pictures of former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket in 2004 to current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's six-figure tab at Tiffany's in 2011, national politicians can find themselves treading a fine line when it comes to discussing their wealth, especially during tough economic times.
Others may want to take note.