Political Animal


December 31, 2012 11:17 AM Beltway Bite

By Ed Kilgore

So Slate’s Matt Yglesias runs through all the real-life particulars of who gets hit or missed by a national plunge off the so-called “fiscal cliff,” and closes with this interesting brief observation:

This is basically bad news all around. But note that it’s especially bad news for rich people and people living in the Washington, D.C., area. You’ll probably have noticed that high-income individuals living in the D.C. area have disproportionate influence over the political press, which is one reason there’s been so much fiscal-cliff hype.

Yeah, I guess if you’re, say, a management consultant with a lot of defense industry clients married to a GS-14 and living in an expensive NoVa neighborhood, higher income tax and capital gains and dividends rates plus higher payroll taxes plus spending sequestrations plus a higher AMT look like a mighty big ball o’ pain—and perhaps subjectively even more alarming because the Emerald City has largely avoided the Great Recession. It’s a special case where the hackneyed “All politics is local” dictum may be entirely true.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on December 31, 2012 11:43 AM:

    Oh, the poor, poor, dears living in or around the DC Money-bubble.

    Looks like they might have to cut back some, themselves!

    Usually, after the Republican dog got fat, they demand that the Democrat's cat go on the diet.

    "Waiter, let me change that order. Instead of each, make that a caviar and bottle of champagne for two. Thank you. Yes, yes, times are tough all over. It will be reflected in your tip, you can assured. We ALL have to feel some pain, don't we?"

  • Josef K on December 31, 2012 12:08 PM:

    I lived in Arlington between 1998 and 2001. Harwich Court, specifically, having to room with an Ethopian taxi driver (who I'm not sure was entirely sane) and making a living as an office temp. All the while I was seeing the fruition of the Gingrinch Revolution play out at various defense consulting firms I either temped at or tried to interview at.

    The more pain actually visited upon the Versailles of the Patomac, the better. My contempt for the lot of them couldn't really be any higher at this point.

  • Paula Product on January 02, 2013 10:02 AM:

    Ed, the unsympathetic example you describe in your reaction to Yglesias's piece unfortunately just feeds into the sort uninformed resentment that gulag's and Josef K's comments illustrate so well -- the sort of resentment that takes the concept of "Beltway" a little too literally. MY's piece points out that the various effects of the "fiscal cliff" would have a disproportionately large impact on DC metro households, for reasons that go beyond the mere fact that metro DC has above-average incomes. So you describe a well-off DC household awash in assets Yes, yes, of course we're not meant to feel too much sympathy that these folks might pay higher taxes. Well, how about considering an example without the "defense contractor" and the stocks and dividends? What about the far more typical household that consists of say, a couple of GS-11s living in Germantown, Maryland, or Woodbridge, VA, and working for the Defense Department or, if you prefer something squishy, the NIH or the Department of Energy. Those salary levels indicate professionals, who typically are underpaid or at parity with their private-sector counterparts (even if you buy the studies about how "overpaid" the federal workforce is for less-skilled jobs. Those federal government employees haven't seen a pay increase in years (their pay remains frozen as part of a pound-foolishly bipartisan political stunt). They have high housing and commuting costs (even if they aren't underwater on a mortgage, as many in the DC exurbs are, having been hit by the same real estate collapse felt in far-flung suburbs around the country). Their taxes will go up just like other workers' (due to payroll tax holiday expiration), but the sequestration cuts put their hours, and perhaps their jobs, in jeopardy as well.

    It's just a hypothetical example, and maybe the jobs this hypothetical couple have really ought to be trimmed from the budget. But what you, Ed, and commenters like gulag and Josef K ought to try to remember is that most of DC metro looks a lot more like America than the cartoonish picture of "the Beltway" would suggest.

    And by the way, DC is not only not "Versailles on the Patomac," as Josef K (who isn't a very good speller) writes, but it's not known as the "Emerald City." That's in the *other* Washington, out west.