By Robert Tracinski, Aug. 16, 2012
A long, brutal recession is prompting a certain degree of soul-searching and even philosophical debate in this election year. One example is a piece of honest introspection from a left-leaning commentator who stumbles upon an important truth while still showing us the cultural and philosophical blinders of the mainstream cultural elites.
The honest part is a sort of inadvertent admission of those blinders. In a piece mostly devoted to denouncing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for failing to print more money, Jonathan Chait ends up offering a poignant reflection on the distance between the cultural elites in Washington, DC-including himself-and those who are suffering in this economy.
“The political scientist Larry Bartels has found (and measured) that members of Congress respond much more strongly to the preferences of their affluent constituents than their poor ones. And for affluent people, there is essentially no recession. Unemployment for workers with a bachelors degree is 4 percent-boom times. Unemployment is also unusually low in the Washington, D.C., area, owing to our economy’s reliance on federal spending, which has not had to impose the punishing austerity of so many state and local governments.”
This is horrifically understated. Washington “has not had to impose austerity”? Well of course it hasn’t! Washington has sucked an extra trillion dollars out of the economy and sent it through the conduits of the federal bureaucracy, employing tens of thousands of college-educated, middle-class functionaries to process all of the stimulus checks and write all of the new regulations. And an awful lot of those stimulus checks have been sent out through the local mail. A recent New York Times article crowing about the DC area’s affluence reveals that “the District of Columbia’s [has] received more stimulus dollars per capita than any state.”