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In the Hunger Games franchise of movies and young-adult novels, political power is concentrated within the Capitol; citizens there revel in pageantry and pomp while their fellow Americans suffer from the dire, impoverishing consequences of the government’s policies. That same sort of sedimentation of power and money into the nation’s capital is happening in the current-day United States.
Measured by median household income, Loudoun County, Virginia – a trendy suburb of Washington, DC – is the most affluent county in the nation, rocketing past the hot zone of technological innovation in California’s Santa Clara County. Seven of the nation’s ten most affluent counties surround America’s real-life “Capitol District.”
As DC continues to collect power and taxpayers’ money, home prices have followed the upward trajectory of Washington lobbyists and government employees’ incomes.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, a roof over your head in the nation’s capital costs nearly twice as much as the national average annual housing cost of $9,891. Including both mortgage and rent payments in their calculations, BLS statisticians determined residents of the Washington, DC metro area are spending an average of $17,603 on housing each year, 77.9 percent above the national average.
Living expenses such as utilities and furniture represent an additional $10,803, another metric that places DC metro-area luxury far outside the reach of the rest of the nation.
While most denizens of the nation’s capital live very well, the rest of the nation struggles mightily just to preserve what it has. Between 2003 and 2013, most U.S. states had fewer new residential construction projects than in the previous decade, while DC’s construction market grew by more than 45 percent. The District of Columbia, whose primary contribution to American society is palace intrigue and restrictions on useful economic activity, was one of only a few areas to experience any positive growth in residential construction.
As the city best known for backroom deals and political gamesmanship continues to live large at the expense of the rest of the country, more Americans are becoming more disillusioned about whether our elected representatives really represent us. This problem will be solved only by working to return political power to the states and communities in which we live and work, away from the out-of-touch land of plenty called Washington, DC.