Ross Douthat is a conservative New York Times columnist who I rarely agree with, but he brought up something important in his Sunday column comparing the D.C. metro area, where policy decisions are made, to the rest of the country. While the economic crisis hit most of the country hard, direct and indirect federal government growth enabled Washington to weather the storm.
White flight has actually reversed and gentrification has improved some of the city’s worst areas. Surrounding cities in Maryland and Virginia like Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda, and Chevy Chase are among the richest in the country.
As someone who (sort of) lives there now, it really resonated. American is northwest D.C., which has long been the most prosperous. I’ve been to NoVa a few times in the last few weeks, and that wealth is abundant and evidence of an insulation from the suffering of millions of Americans.
It’s hard to think that this insulation doesn’t play a role in the fact that government policy has not been nearly aggressive enough in responding to the recession. Many of the people who live in those suburbs and attend AU (and I include myself in this) by and large grew up in upper middle class and wealthy families. They talk about the economy or the budget deficit as issues they care about, but they will in all likelihood not have to worry about finding work to make ends meet or rely on a government program that will be targeted for funding cuts.
But Douthat also suggests that this problem is a symptom of “our spending problem.” But in my eyes, the solution lies in strengthening our progressive tax code and reforming our campaign finance system to make candidates less beholden to the wealthy.
Douthat also makes a smart comparison the relationship between The Capitol and the rest of Panem in The Hunger Games, where the inequality is even more stark. In that universe, the tyrannical government is overthrown. If the Occupy movement and pro-union protests, along the subsequent harsh crackdowns, are any indication, then the fears of that happening in this country are greater than the plutocrats would like to admit.
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