November 27, 2012

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT YESTERDAY: My USA Today column: Are We Living In The Hunger Games?

UPDATE: Reader Stewart Hall writes:

Professor Reynolds:

I very much enjoyed your piece in USA Today about the unreality of the Washington economy and its disconnect from the rest of the Country. Having worked and lived in this town for 20 years (most as a GOP lobbyist), your points about Tysons Corner and the DC suburbs are spot on. A well known GOP pollster told me back in August that only two states he polled where people believing things were better in the country since 2008 were Virginia and Ohio. The Virginia perception was almost entirely the result of the massive amount of government spending and employees that spill across the Potomac bridges each day into areas as far away as Prince William and Faquier Counties.

Ironically, I have spent the better part of my time here working to dismantle the federal leviathan that pays the freight for my family to live in Western Fairfax County in one of the highest earning zip codes in the nation. I would gladly make the trade if I could for the sake of my daughters’ futures. I told my wife the morning after the election that if the people wanted big government then let them have it as we are burrowed down in the one locale where I can continue to get paid to fight the legal and regulatory nonsense that is visited upon my clients every week. Perhaps that is a petulant attitude, but most of the folks who voted for Obama have no idea what they just did to themselves. It won’t be the rich guy who takes it in the shorts in the next four years, but the working and non working lower classes as their wages and or benefits are eroded through inflation, Obamacare hourly cut backs, and economic stagnation.

But back to the fantasy land that is NOVA. One point that many people miss about its politics is the enormous influx of hispanic immigrants – legal, naturalized citizens, or illegal in the area. Like any economic creature, they migrate to where the money is. As our hotels in Tysons flourish, our eateries are full and profitable, and construction continues unabated. Jobs are here. Whether for nannies for suburban mommies, hotel workers, or construction laborers, there is still a shortage of labor here. Unlike prior immigrant groups, hispanic immigrants here live in the suburbs, not the City. They heavily populate areas like Sterling in Loudon County, Centerville in Prince William, Bailey’s Crossroads and Reston in Fairfax, etc. All are locales in the middle of affluent suburbs. On election day they voted en masse for Obama. But it wasn’t out of ignorance or misguided loyalty over amnesty. They, like the federal workers and so many others who work for federal contractors in the area know where their bread is buttered – big government. They voted their interest. Period.

Virginia is now truly two states. I spent a week in Abingdon/Lebanon VA for a softball tournament this Summer, and to see the depression in the area because of the collapse of the manufacturing and resource economy (coal) is stupefying. SW Virginia has never been known for class harmony or a great dispersion of wealth, but now everyone is equally poor and I should add, equally angry. The gulf between NOVA and Southside couldn’t be greater and is worsening by the day. Arrogantly, the folks in this area dismiss these people as backward hicks or just casualties of a cultural and environmental war. The NOVA residents have no concept of the pain these communities are feeling, the suicides, decay, and hopelessness that the federal government they support and run is bringing upon decent people who want so much to believe in their country and their fellow citizens. In short, the State itself is a microcosm of the nation right now – a center-right federalist population overwhelmed by a small number of blue dots surrounded by a sea of red – in this case one large blue dot on its northern border.

Yes, drive around and you can see this. Maybe we should move to put northern Virginia back into DC, as it originally was. . . .

UPDATE: Reader William Vine emails:

Was not DC created to keep government employees and their sycophants from voting for federal representation including presidential electors and congress? Apparently, someone mistakenly gave them the vote for presidential electors in 1961by constitutional amendment. Now that government employees have infiltrated VA, NOVA should be incorporated into DC and the 23rd amendment repealed… I can dream.

It makes sense, under a “living constitution” sort of approach! But not everyone likes my analysis, as I got this:

Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I really think you should reconsider your article about how Washington, DC was not affected by the recession and is doing so much better than the rest of the country. I honestly found it a bit offensive. I am not sure if you have ever been to the DC area, but I live here and there is a lot of poverty. The capital area might be doing great and the 2 wards where congresspeople live might be doing well, but the rest of the city is affected by poverty. Wards 7 and 8 have an average income of less than 30,000 and there are boarded up stores all over the city, just not in the 2 mile radius that tourists and outsiders see. Our city is 65 square miles and generalizations should not be made based on one small area. Most of the lawmakers you speak of are not DC residents and only live here part of the year. Saying that DC is not affected by the recession ignores the fact that the rest of the city is affected by poverty and doesn’t live the “high life” of the lawmakers. MOst of the people that live here are just regular people not involved in politics. Maybe your next article could be about how DC has the largest income margin in the nation? About how the congresspeople and lobbyists make over 100,000 a year, and the rest of city is living in poverty?

Thank you,

Samantha L. Scown

Legal Intern
Office of Councilmember Marion Barry, Ward 8
Council of the District of Columbia

Well, Washington — with its growing gaps between rich and poor and a frankly inept and corrupt municipal government that maintains its power in part by naked racial appeals — is certainly no stranger to me; I find pretty much all of DC’s toxic local political brew offensive. I lived there for a number of years. It’s true that the “Capital City” prosperity is not evenly shared; in fact, most of it’s in the areas surrounding DC, where, ironically, people prefer to live because taxes are lower.

MORE: Ed Morrissey comments. “Well, I didn’t like the movie anyway, so perhaps I’m not one to comment on this. However, I would note that this phenomenon seems to be growing in a time characterized by both ‘compassionate conservatism’ and outright redistributionism. Regardless of the similarities and differences between the two, it shows the dangers of centralized control as opposed to distributed power through federalism. We might tend to see the same thing in state capitals in the latter system, but at least voters are better situation to prevent and reverse it.”