After describing the amazing transformation of Washington, D.C. and surrounding regions from blight to astonishing affluence (and employing a Hunger Games analogy that I'm clueless about) Ross Douthat ends his column on Washington Versus America with this analysis.
For Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, what’s happened in Washington these last 10 years should be a natural part of the case against Obamanomics. Our gilded District is a case study in how federal spending often finds its way to the well connected rather than the people it’s supposed to help, how every new program spawns an array of influence peddlers, and how easily corporations and government become corrupt allies rather than opponents.
The state of life inside the Beltway also points to the broader story of our spending problem, which has less to do with how much we spend on the poor than how much we lavish on subsidies for highly inefficient economic sectors, from health care to higher education, and on entitlements for people who aren’t supposed to need a safety net — affluent retirees, well-heeled homeowners, agribusiness owners, and so on.
There’s a case that this president’s policies have made these problems worse, sluicing more borrowed dollars into programs that need structural reform, and privileging favored industries and constituencies over the common good.
But this story is one that Romney and his party seem incapable of telling. Instead, many conservatives prefer to refight the welfare battles of the 1990s, and insist that our spending problem is all about an excess of “dependency” among the non-income-tax-paying 47 percent.
In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop.
When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.
My brother lives in Baltimore which is rapidly becoming part of the Beltway axis of power and money. Whenever I visit I'm both fascinated and appalled by the trends Douthat describes. Nowhere is the growing gap between the Two America's more pronounced (except maybe Palm Beach County where I live). This also points out the ideas deficit of the Romney campaign and Republican party who can't seem to do any better than recycle talking points from the 1980's that have nothing to do with the challenges of the shrinking middle class.
Does anyone really think that if Republicans take back the White House (and hold onto Congress) the growth of this Washington will stop? No. The benefits will go to another set of well connected insiders.