Washington’s One Percent

Stories about the wealth of Washington, D.C., have become commonplace, but this Sunday front-page story in the Washington Post adds more details to the lifestyles of the rich and powerful:

At the Collection at Chevy Chase, a $1,100 purple python pump gleams in the window of the Gucci store. Across Wisconsin Avenue at TTR Sotheby’s, sales agents prepare to sell a $32 million riverview home near Annapolis — one of the most expensive properties ever listed in the D.C. area. And at a nearby Whole Foods, BMWs idle in the circular drive as shoppers dash in for $19.99-a-pound Dijon-crusted rack of lamb.

Long before “the 1 percent” became part of the political lexicon, a growing number of highly educated, dual-income families were driving the region’s top income levels into the stratosphere.

To be considered part of the 1 percent in this area, it takes a household income far above the national average of $387,000. The gateway for the region is $527,000. In the District, the top 1 percent of households bring in at least $617,000; in Montgomery County, more than $606,000; and in Fairfax County, $532,000, according to an analysis of census statistics by The Washington Post and Sentier Research, a firm that specializes in income data….

The percentage of area households with impressive, if not eyepopping, salaries has grown as well. In 1980, just 3 percent of households in the region had incomes that were the equivalent of $200,000 or more in today’s dollars. Now [after an increase in the national debt from $1 trillion to $15 trillion] 13 percent do.

Sounds like the Capitol in The Hunger Games. Washington’s citizens are less frivolous, though – despite recent news stories. The one percent in Washington are lawyers, lobbyists, government contractors, and the doctors and entrepreneurs who serve them. But unlike regions where actual wealth is created – software, automobiles, financial services, capital allocation, movies and television, medicine – Washington’s economy is based on the confiscation and transfer of wealth produced elsewhere. As such, Washington’s wealth is a net loss for economic growth in the country.