Posted tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

It Really Is A Village

October 19, 2011

Via Bloomberg (h/t TPM):

Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area, government data show.

The key fact to extract from the data:

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, referring to the Washington street that’s home to prominent lobbying firms. “Those two industries clearly have grown in our city.”

Which isn’t to say that the concentration of high end civil service and appointed jobs doesn’t have an impact: 

Update (see the explanation below):  Bloomberg also suggests that well paid (is the suggestion overpaid?) civil servants help drive DC’s rise to the top of the wealth tables:

Total compensation for federal workers, including health care and other benefits, last year averaged $126,369, compared with $122,697 in 2009, according to Bloomberg News calculations of Commerce Department data. There were 170,467 federal employees in the District of Columbia as of June.

Update: As several commenters at the mirror post at Balloon Juice have pointed out (with the usual BJ reticence) this is a red herring, the more so for the conflation of benefits with salary to come up with a compensation figure.

A ruling elite economically and emotionally disconnected from the reality that most Americans recognize.  Which is one of the reasons that both policy and the coverage of and discourse coming out of the center of government is so unbelievably bad.

Update: As noted, several commenters at Balloon Juice pointed out that the reference to highly paid civil servants is a red herring at best, and a slander at worst.  And I agree with that, or at least with the notion that such an implication could be drawn from the above.  What I meant to do by including that last block quote was to include the survey results, but not to suggest that the GS14 working at the Dept. of Commerce is screwing up policy or its presentation to the American people.

The real point I think this very coarse bit of data allows us to draw is that it has become exceptionally lucrative to buy and sell influence…to the point that it becomes very hard to see how to construct a disinterested policy apparatus.  When your exceptionally good living depends on not knowing stuff, or knowing things that ain’t so…well, we’re living with how that ends.  And when the decision makers — Congress, and senior staffers there, and top folks at the agencies, top “journos” (scare quotes to indicate the distance such folks have traveled from actual journalism) — all know exactly how it’s possible to live in this policy-making/policy-influencing nexus, you get a Village with both experience and skin in the game that disconnects them from everyone and everywhere else.

Image:  Simon Vouet, Wealthbetween 1635 and 1640.