Living the good life in D.C.
June 24, 2012
While families in Nevada and throughout the nation are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table, senior federal bureaucrats, politicians and hordes of political consultants are prospering in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. My Tennessee-born father would have said “they’re living high on the hog.”
Time magazine recently published an expose that revealed “the affluence flooding the nation’s capital.” That affluence sets the Greater Washington area, including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, “a world apart from the country it governs.”
No wonder so many active and retired politicians, like former Nevada Gov. and Sen. Paul Laxalt, remain in Washington after leaving office. A more recent example of the Creature of Washington Syndrome is longtime Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, who spent nearly 40 years inside the Beltway before a Tea Party challenger defeated him in the Republican primary last month.
Although Lugar was a respected voice on foreign policy (Full disclosure: I usually agree with him on foreign policy), he lost contact with his political constituency back home in Indiana. The same thing almost happened to our very own Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), when he was challenged by Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle two years ago. Although good old “Pinky” Reid from tiny Searchlight, Nev., has become a card-carrying Washington insider, he continues to focus like a laser on Nevada issues and is almost single-handedly responsible for keeping highly toxic nuclear waste out of the Silver State.
But let’s get back to the good life in our nation’s capital.
As Time magazine disclosed, “Of the 20 counties with the highest estimated median income in the U.S., half surround the capital.” Incomes are high and the local real estate market is booming. “The local unemployment rate, at 5.5 percent, stands well below the national figure of 8.2 percent (and) the region’s foreclosure rates have always been significantly lower” than the national average, Time added.
So who are these people who are riding the federal gravy train? Well, besides 535 congressmen and thousands of congressional staffers, there are well-paid federal bureaucrats – think million-dollar regional conferences – and the ubiquitous contractors and consultants who populate the Washington suburbs. As Time says, “The contractors are famous for secrecy (and) many have job titles that bewilder. What is it, after all, that an analyst, a facilitator, a consultant, an adviser or a strategist actually does to earn his or her paycheck?” Good question. Somewhat surprisingly, many of them are young since Washington has the highest concentration of 25- to 34-year-olds in the nation.
Those are some of the people who pay $67 apiece to enjoy Happy Hour cocktail-tasting sessions and use expensive limousine services to move around town. Hey, why not? The taxpayers are footing the bill.
I think all of this is a cautionary tale for our Carson City representatives in Congress, Sen. Dean Heller and Congressman Mark Amodei. Don’t forget your Nevada roots, boys. We expect to see you in the Nevada Day Parade, and good luck in November.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.