Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Are we living in the Hunger Games?"



Glen Reynolds:

D.C. has power and wealth while the rest of the country suffers. It's not a question of who the odds favor. Washington, DC is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. Washington is rich not because it makes valuable things, but because it is powerful. That's where we are now, with a Capital City that looks more and more like the capital city of an imperial power.
You know the story: While the provinces starve, the Capital City lives it up, its wheeler-dealer bigshots growing fat on the tribute extracted from the rest of the country.
We don't live in The Hunger Games yet, but I'm not the first to notice that Washington, D.C., is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. Even in upscale parts of L.A. or New York, you see boarded up storefronts and other signs that the economy isn't what it used to be. But not so much in the Washington area, where housing prices are going up, fancy restaurants advertise $92 Wagyu steaks, and the Tyson's Corner mall outshines -- as I can attest from firsthand experience -- even Beverly Hills' famed Rodeo Drive.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, the contrast is even starker. As Adam Davidson recently wrote in The New York Times, riding the Amtrak between New York and D.C. exposes stark contrasts between the "haves" of the capital and the have-nots outside the Beltway. And he correctly assigns this to the importance of power.
Washington is rich not because it makes valuable things, but because it is powerful. With virtually everything subject to regulation, it pays to spend money influencing the regulators. As P.J. O'Rourke famously observed: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."
In our last election, a majority of Americans broke for the Capitol. The districts be damned. Television host Caesar Flickerman revved up the crowds. Perpetually-reelected President Coriolanus Snow gave the cooperative districts some extra rations, taken from less cooperative districts. And free condoms to boot-- paid for by the least cooperative district of all

Allied with the Mainstream Media, the Capitol is getting damn good at bread and circuses. Food Stamps and Reality T.V. 

Classical stratagems to suppress rebellion against elites. 

15 comments:

  1. Shorter Egnor: "I'm a rich surgeon who shouldn't have to pay more taxes! Waah!"

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  2. Shorter Anonymous: "Waaah!"

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  3. Reynolds quotes Davidson's NYT piece out of context.

    Davidson pointed out that wealth used to be generated at all points along the route from New York to Washington. Now it is generated at the end points. Both end points: Washington (center of political power) and New York (Wall street). Reynolds entirely omits the mention of New York, which is doing quite well.

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  4. What, you mean Egnor's sources are not reliable? I am shocked, shocked!

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    1. Egnor has sources. Apparently, you do not. And I am not shocked.

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    2. Well, Egnor's sources are dubious at best. The reason the D.C. area does well is not because of "buying and selling legislators", but rather two entirely different reasons.

      The first is actually related to government: there are lots of companies that vie for government contracts that have their base of operations or a major office in the D.C. area. All those defense contractors that provide the nifty weapons that conservatives love? They are all produced by companies that have a presence in or near D.C. They may manufacture some or all of their product elsewhere, but their headquarters is often right near D.C. And those people spend money to buy houses, furniture, food, and so on, which supports other businesses, and so on and so forth.

      The second reason is mostly unrelated to government. The D.C. area has a large and thriving information technology sector. Though not that important any more, AOL has their headquarters in the area, and they didn't choose to be in Northern Virginia by accident, but rather because they could find lots of technology capable employees. This is not unique to D.C. Most cities that have a substantial IT industry are doing better than the average.

      These two elements combine to make D.C. prosperous. And neither have anything to do with "buying and selling legislators". As usual, Egnor's conspiracy theory bullshit is just that: bullshit.

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    3. George Boggs is the kind of drooling simpleton that, when you are skeptical about an article alleging the existence of Bigfoot, would complain that "you have no sources, but I do". He's the perfect Egnor fanboy.

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    4. Apparently, your source was limited in scope.

      A third reason is there are approximately 320,000 federal employees living in the DC MSA. (BLS)

      That alone boosts the wealth of the DC area, given that median federal compensation was 12% higher than equivalent private sector jobs and federal benefits were 400% higher (USA Today, 2010). I'm sure the situation is even worse today (or better, depending on whether you're host or parasite).

      But the big deal, the part of the deal that pushes DC above even Silicon Valley in income, is lawyers (and I'm married to a lawyer, so I have no brief ;-) against the breed). Here's what Bloomberg (2011)says:

      "In recent years Washington has attracted more lobbyists and firms with an interest in the health-care overhaul and financial regulations signed into law by President Barack Obama, according to local business leaders.

      'Wall Street has moved to K Street,' said Barbara Lang, president and chief executive officer of the DC Chamber of Commerce...

      Last year Washington had the most lawyers per capita in the U.S. compared with the 50 states, with one for every 12 city residents, according to figures from the American Bar Association and the Census Bureau. In New York State the figure was one out of every 123 residents, while in California the ratio was one in 243."

      You may disagree with Egnor, but the DC Chamber of Commerce agrees with him. And it is 2000+ page legislation and a tsunami of regulation regulation that is attracting those lawyers to do their best for the rich Crony Capitalists who can afford them and the progressives who thirst for power.

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    5. @ Occupoid Anonymite:

      You're right about one thing! I did have sources. Further proof of the "stopped clock is right twice a day" hypothesis.

      BTW, are you still scratching those chancre sores?

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    6. Last year Washington had the most lawyers per capita in the U.S. compared with the 50 states, with one for every 12 city residents,

      That's an almost trivial observation though, as the population of D.C. is dwarfed by the population of the surrounding municipalities. D.C. has about 600K inhabitants. Fairfax County alone has over 1 million. Looking at the number of figures per capita in the city is slicing the data and ignoring reality.

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    7. That alone boosts the wealth of the DC area, given that median federal compensation was 12% higher than equivalent private sector jobs and federal benefits were 400% higher (USA Today, 2010).

      It boosts the wealth of the area by a little bit, but two things make this a less than insightful argument:

      1. The dollar amount of all Federal salaries is dwarfed by the amount paid out in contracts. Corporations working on Federal contracts account for far more wealth than even the salaries of 320,000 Federal workers could.

      2. The "median" figure is somewhat misleading. Federal salaries are higher than private sector salaries at the low end of the scale. At the high end, the private sector salaries far outstrip the pay for comparable government positions. It is much better to be an office assistant or clerk for the Federal government than for a private company, but far worse to be a doctor or engineer. In short, the government, unlike industry, doesn't shaft the "peons" in its work force.

      But this doesn't really serve to make the area that much more affluent. The fact that a secretary makes 1.25 times as much as she would working in a private job doesn't really lift the local economy all that much.

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  5. Religio et circensesNovember 27, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    You forgot to put on your tinfoil hat, Michael.

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    1. I see you took time out from shaving your palm so you could participate. Good for you!

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  6. Um... yeah. I live in northern Virginia, and this:

    "and the Tyson's Corner mall outshines -- as I can attest from firsthand experience -- even Beverly Hills' famed Rodeo Drive."

    prevents me from taking this guy seriously. Tyson's is a decent mall (technically a pair of malls) but it's nowhere near as nice as Rodeo Drive. And DC is very nice in the northwest and around the Capital. The rest... not as much. But yes, cities generally have more wealth than the countryside. This is news?

    Boo

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  7. "Last year Washington had the most lawyers per capita in the U.S. compared with the 50 states, with one for every 12 city residents,"

    And how is this relevant to anything? Hasnt it been this way for years? Oh I know, grasp at anything to imply that its allll the Dems' fault. The fact is, Many lawyers who move to DC do so for their desire to enter into politics. And thats both sides of the aisle.

    Seeing that we're talking non sequiturs here- since 1929 the stock market has fared better whenever democrats have been in charge.

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