Mark Falcoff is our occasional contributor and Resident Scholar Emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes:
The latest polls show Obama sinking among independent voters (and a few Democrats as well, though possibly for different reasons). They bring to mind an epiphany I had last summer while driving through the residential suburbs of Chevy Chase, Maryland. I was overwhelmed by the abundance of Obama lawn signs, many more than you might see in my own neighborhood of Dupont Circle in downtown Washington, which probably has the highest rate of Democratic registration in the nation.
For those Power Line readers who are unfamiliar with the geography of greater Washington, DC, let me explain that Chevy Chase sits in the middle of one of the most affluent zip codes in the United States–street after street of beautiful houses situated on large, heavily wooded lots, many built in the 1920s and 1930s, the best period of American architecture. Most of the residents belong to a special class of Americans, namely, the ones whose household income ranges between, say, $350,000 at year at the low end to well into six figures at the higher end.
Having lived and worked in area for nearly thirty years I have a pretty good idea of who lives in these houses. If I don’t know the occupants, I know their neighbors or people like them. Typically the owners are a two-income couple, usually both lawyers. The husband may be a partner in a blue chip law firm downtown, the wife a principal of a “consulting” (e.g., lobbying) firm. Or the husband is the president of some sort of data processing company and the wife is the lawyer for a medical insurance concern. Or the husband is an ex-congressman, now lobbying for the Mattress Ticking Association or the Cotton Council or even some fat-cat union like the AFSCME, while the wife has an almost equally well paying job at some association or business concern.
These people make a lot of money, true, but they have big, big expenses–expenses of a type utterly unknown to vast, vast majority of Americans.
There is the $700,000 mortgage on the house, which may have been increased in recent years by the addition of a new wing or a pool.
There is the insurance (and perhaps even the payments) on two expensive European luxury cars, one typically a Mercedes, the other a Jaguar.
There are private schools for the kids. It’s true that Montgomery County, Maryland, has the best public schools in the nation, or nearly so, but that isn’t the way one’s offspring will get into Harvard or Princeton or make contacts that will last him or her a lifetime. So it’s St. Alban’s or Sidwell Friends or even Choate or Andover or Exeter. Tuition for each child, roughly $50,000 a year.
There is the au pair woman from the Third World who takes care of the kids and the house while the parents are at work. She receives not only a real salary but a bedroom and bath of her own (requiring expensive modifications to the building), not to mention health insurance and now–horror of horrors!–even contributions on her behalf to Social Security.
There is the beach house at Ocean City, Maryland, or the summer place in West Virginia.
I haven’t even included expenses such as clothes, entertainment, or restaurant bills.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said about “the very rich” — “they are different from you and me.”
It’s not difficult to see that these people are living beyond their means.
And now the Savior Obama is threatening to raise their taxes. How else is he going to finance his various projects?
My question is: what were these people thinking back in the middle of last summer? That the outcome of a presidential election as ideologically polarized as the last one would make no difference whatsoever to their lifestyle? That voting for Obama was more of a style choice than a political decision? That they thought this would establish beyond all doubt that they weren’t racists? Who knows? Maybe even they couldn’t answer these questions now.
The point is: the chickens have come home to roost. Somebody is going to have his taxes increased, and there just aren’t enough super-rich people around to finance Obamacare, the so-called stimulus, the nationalization of General Motors, and other bottomless pits for government revenue. Our friends in Chevy Chase (and several dozen suburbs like it across our land) are going to be hit in the pocketbook, and hit hard. One can’t feel sorry for them, but one does wonder how things came to this.