The Nation’s Boom Town
America is struggling with a sputtering economy and high unemployment — but times are booming for Washington’s governing class.
The massive expansion of government under President Barack Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come. The housing market, boosted by the large number of high-income earners in the area, many working in politics and government, is easily outpacing the markets in most of the country. And there are few signs of economic distress in hotels, restaurants or stores in the D.C. metro area.
As a result, there is a yawning gap between the American people and D.C.’s powerful when it comes to their economic reality — and their economic perceptions.
This disconnect has been going on for quite some time, but it looks even worse now. You can be sure that politicians and bureaucrats manage to find a way to get money into their own communities–including the public schools where their kids attend.
Uncle Sam employs about 10 percent of the area’s 3 million-person work force — or by federal procurement dollars, more than $20 billion of which landed in nearby Fairfax County, Va., alone last year.
“This is our auto industry, or financial services, or entertainment,” said Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, alluding, respectively, to the economic foundations of the Detroit, New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. “The federal government is our business. And on top of that, we have an administration that’s clearly expanding the role of the federal government in the context of the national economy — as a manager and as a provider of funds. That hasn’t been the case in the past, except in the case of wars.”
Then again, according to the Obama Administration, we’re in a war against pretty much everything, which requires government mobilization!
And more money is on the way, in the form of well-paid agency jobs associated with reforms of the nation’s health insurance sector and financial markets: Both bills call for substantial new federal oversight by agencies such as the Health and Human Services Department and the Internal Revenue Service. And the professionals who take those jobs will need homes, buy furniture and pay taxes, said David Robertson, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, “and that’s going to have a multiplier effect in our region.”
The Center for Regional Analysis projects the federal government will add 6,500 new jobs in the area each year through 2012.
It’s a boom town, for sure.