Feature

Why the U.S. has such huge deficits

Washington, D.C., is booming—which is a very bad sign for the rest of America

Ross DouthatThe New York Times 

Washington, D.C., is booming—which is a very bad sign for the rest of America, said Ross Douthat. A new Census Bureau report has found that seven of the 10 richest counties in America are in the Washington, D.C., suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. As a resident of the area, I’ve witnessed the rising affluence—new bars and restaurants and high-rises opening everywhere, and million-dollar real estate listings even in the district itself, where housing was once cheap. “Whence comes this wealth?” It’s not from federal workers themselves, “but from the growing armies of lobbyists and lawyers, contractors and consultants,” who are paid to influence what government does. This legal corruption is a bipartisan affair, driven by both Republicans’ fierce protection of the defense establishment and corporate tax goodies, and Democrats’ sluicing of billions into inefficient health, energy, and safety-net programs. The U.S. isn’t running $1 trillion deficits because the lower 47 percent aren’t paying enough taxes. “We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop.”

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