This excerpt comes from a piece by Michael Winship on how much Washington has changed since the Nixon years. The social and cultural changes are quite striking. But this says it all:
[T]he biggest difference between then and now, as the great Washington journalist Bob Kaiser titled a book not too long ago, is that there’s “So Damn Much Money,” with lobbyists spending almost three times what they did a dozen years ago and an ever-increasing number of ex-members of Congress, staffers and regulators running full tilt through the revolving door and joining the ranks of the extravagantly paid.
“People talk about the size of the federal government,” my brother noted, “and yet that hasn’t changed enormously. Instead, it’s the emergence of all the ancillaries to government — law firms, lobbyists, communications companies, government service providers — that have flooded the city with people and money.” What’s more, there’s “the explosion of the permanent military-industrial complex, which Eisenhower warned about and the Cold War made real. The post 9/11 world has just mushroomed this corporate impact, aided and abetted by the penchant for outsourcing that has essentially created contractor-led defense and security establishments that parallel/shadow (and profit from) their government counterparts.”
Washington has become the most affluent metropolitan area in the country. A 2012 Gallup poll rated it the most economically confident region of the United States. And with so damn much money has come a building boom: a once dying downtown has turned into office buildings, restaurants, stores and luxury apartments, forcing others out of the way. African-Americans were as much as 71 percent of the District’s population when I lived there in the seventies; today that number has fallen to a little less than half, with many having to move outside the city.
“They are not one-dimensional and certainly not bad people,” Leibovich writes. “They come with varied backgrounds, intentions, and, in many cases – maybe most cases – for the right reasons. As they become entrenched, maybe their hearts get a bit muddled and their motives, too…” Too often, the game becomes more important than those for whom government should exist to help.
As an observer from far away, one of the more irritating characteristics one sees in some DC denizens is their unwillingness to admit the effect of big money and the celebrity culture. Many members of the political culture, particularly the media, insist on pretending that they are still just down home folks who shop at Wal-Mart. That’s the essence of my critique of the Village — this obnoxious insistence that money, fame and power haven’t changed them despite all evidence to the contrary. What this translates to, especially among liberals, is the belief that their concerns match the concerns of the average American. And it just ain’t so.
Anyway, yeah. It’s all about the flood of money that is flowing around and through our political system and the media that’s supposed to inform the citizens. I honestly don’t know what has to happen to change it.