The wealth of Washington

During the tourist season here in Washington, D.C., it sometimes occurs to me that if our tourists drove around the many wealthy neighbors in the D.C. area, the reaction would cause the Tea Party movement of 2010 to look like an ordinary tea party. Such is the wealth of Washington.

I had the same thought when I read this post by John Gabriel at Ricochet called “D.C. Incomes Boom While U.S. Incomes Fall.” Gabriel relies on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, as cited in the Wall Street Journal. It shows that the income of the typical D.C. household rose 23.3% between 2000 and 2012 to an inflation-adjusted $66,583.

During the same period, median household incomes for the nation as a whole dropped 6.6%, from $55,030 to $51,371. And only five states — North Dakota, Louisiana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming — registered increases of more than 2% during this period.

If one considers the D.C. metro area as a whole, which includes the surrounding suburbs in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, the disparity is even more acute. The median household income for this area is $88,233, the highest among the nation’s most populous metro areas.

Folks around here like to say that Washington is “recession proof.” This may not be precisely true. We did experience a downturn in 2008, albeit a far less drastic one than the rest of the nation. Perhaps the downturn lasted long enough (two quarters) to qualify as the equivalent of a recession, perhaps not.

But there’s no denying that the non-poor in the D.C. area have it very good compared to the non-poor just about everywhere else in America. And it’s difficult to disagree with Gabriel’s assessment of why this is so:

Washington doesn’t invent smartphones or build cars or record music — instead they invent rules and build bureaucracies and record regulations. The federal government’s key industry is siphoning money from 50 far-flung states and reallocating it to preferred interest groups (after taking an ample service charge, of course).