Design, Politics

What Washington Has Become

One of the myths propagated by the Right and by pseudo-moderate sympathizers like David Brooks is that Washington D.C. as home to legions of bureaucrats, an empire of regulators and do-nothings trampling on our freedoms. For example, this snippet from Brooks in the New York Times yesterday captures the mood:

But, alas, we are living in the great age of centralization. Some Democrats regard federal commissions with the same sort of awe and wonder that I feel while watching LeBron James and Alex Ovechkin.

That’s classic Brooks, with a Reagan-like constant anti-government drumbeat.  The problem is, it’s just so misleading.

For Washington has been taken over not by bureaucrats but by corporations.

I walked this morning to meet a friend for coffee at 1oth & New York Avenue, an area that was a devastated wasteland in the 1970s after the riots in 1968. There are now dozens of blocks covered with new, gleaming office buildings full of “Government Relations” departments from every major company in the US and beyond. It used to be the biggest outposts in town were for the unions (the big AFL-CIO building on 16th & I for example) and the lobbyists were constrained to a few blocks on K Street.

Drive out to Dulles Airport and the corridor is full of office buildings, mile after mile of them, from government contractors. Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, and on and on. None of this existed when I grew up in the Washington suburbs in the 1970s.

Listen to FoxNews or Sarah Palin or the TeaBaggers, and you’d think Washington and these gleaming office buildings are full of ACORN workers sucking off the government teet, sending all our tax revenues to the poor. But of course the truth is these buildings are now home to thousands of corporate outposts looking for the government to goose their profits. The government host taken over by parasites from the financial, insurance, oil & energy, and health care industries.

Hardly a bureaucrat or regulator to be found these days.

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