Saturday, August 20, 2011

Government-Funded Wealth in Washington D.C.'s Suburbs

This is pretty fascinating, especially given the national angst about taxing and spending. At WaPo, "Government dollars fuel wealth: D.C. enclaves reap rewards of contracting boom":
Millions of dollars worth of federal contracts transformed Anita Talwar from a government accounting clerk into a wealthy woman — one who can afford a $2.8 million home in the Washington suburbs with its own elevator, wine cellar and Swarovski crystal chandeliers.

Talwar, a 59-year-old immigrant from India, had no idea that she and her husband would amass a small fortune when she launched a company providing tech support to the federal government in 1987. But she shrewdly took advantage of programs for minority-owned small businesses and rode a boom in federal contracting.

By the time Talwar sold Advanced Management Technology in 2004, it had grown from a one-woman shop to a company with more than 350 employees and $100 million in annual revenue — all of it from government contracts.

Talwar’s success — and that of hundreds of other contractors like her — is a key factor driving the explosion of the region’s wealth over the last two decades. It also has exacerbated the gap between high- and low-wage workers, which is wider in the D.C. area than almost anywhere else in the United States.

Washingtonians now enjoy the highest median household income of any metropolitan area in the country, and five of the top 10 jurisdictions in America — Loudoun, Howard and Fairfax counties, and Falls Church and Fairfax City — are here, census data shows.

The signs of that wealth are on display all over, from the string of luxury boutiques such as Gucci and Tory Burch opening at Tysons Galleria to the $15 cocktails served over artisanal ice at the W Hotel in the District to the ever-larger houses rising off River Road in Potomac
This isn't something to be proud of. The Washington Leviathan is the capitol's biggest driver of wealth, either through government contracting, or through government employment. It's a situation Mark Steyn discusses in America Alone. We've given up freedom to an ever increasing bureaucratic establishment that's the arbiter of material success. And it's self-fulfilling. If you want more people to be successful expand the size and scope of government. Somehow I think James Madison wouldn't have been pleased.

BONUS: See if you can make heads or tails of these two letters to the editor, which are critical of the posts coverage of the government-funded suburban luxury. (There's a reverse kind of outrage, not at the luxury itself, but to the possibility that such media coverage might create a backlash to government largesse.)