The Hunger Games: Potomac Edition





Fiction fans know The Hunger Games as a trilogy of novels and a recent movie about a decadent imperial capital that levies tribute on its impoverished provinces.

Quite a few people are making the connection between this fictional world and contemporary Washington. The latest is conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds,  who asks in USA Today "Are we living in the Hunger Games?":

I’m not the first to notice that Washington, D.C., is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. Even in upscale parts of L.A. or New York, you see boarded up storefronts and other signs that the economy isn’t what it used to be. But not so much in the Washington area, where housing prices are going up, fancy restaurants advertise $92 Wagyu steaks, and the Tyson’s Corner mall outshines — as I can attest from firsthand experience — even Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive.

He adds:

As P.J. O’Rourke famously observed: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators." But it’s not just bags-of-cash style corruption. Most of the D.C. boom is from lobbyists and PR people, and others who are retained to influence what the government does. It’s a cold calculation: You’re likely to get a much better return from an investment of $1 million on lobbying than on a similar investment in, say, a new factory or better worker training.

Ross Douthat also drew the analogy in the New York Times a couple of months ago, too, adding:

There aren’t tributes from Michigan and New Mexico fighting to the death in Dupont Circle just yet. But it doesn’t seem like a sign of national health that America’s political capital is suddenly richer than our capitals of manufacturing and technology and finance, or that our leaders are more insulated than ever from the trends buffeting the people they’re supposed to serve.

Reynolds concludes:

It’s no coincidence that as the federal government morphed from an entity that did a few highly visible things well, to one that did a whole lot of not-so-visible things less well, respect for the federal government plummeted even as the political class’ wealth climbed.

That’s where we are now, with a capital city that looks more and more like that of an imperial power where courtiers and influence-peddlers abound. Want to do something about it? Don’t secede. Return to the Constitution.

And for a broader (and sobering) examination of the  evolution of Washington into the influence-peddling capital of the world, see my Ending ‘Big SIS’ (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic.

 

 



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  • Txrange

    All I can say is finally some people are starting to wake up to reality the way Palin did many years ago,first as mayor of Wasilla then as gov of Alaska.Her Indianola speach said what so many of us have being saying for years,but have being ignored by both parties and the corrupt media.Palin has the right message and offered a great solution to help end the cycle of corruption.I pray she is developing it further and getting ready to let the gennie out of the bottle very soon.

  • MaMcGriz

    Well done. Thank you, Mr. DeLong. Very insightful and thought provoking.

    "That’s where we are now, with a capital city that looks more and more
    like that of an imperial power where courtiers and influence-peddlers
    abound. Want to do something about it? Don’t secede. Return to the
    Constitution. "

    I agree.

  • n4cerinc

    Where were these people during that Indianola speech? That was the first time I heard a politician let the cat out of the bag so to speak about the wealthiest counties in the country. And it was then I realized that our problem is not the Democrats. It is the Permanent Political Class which is comprised of Democrats and Republicans. 

  • http://lenbilen.com/ Lennart Bilén

    The decadent city Potomac
    where cronyism fills up its stomach.
    It is borrow and spend;
    find more lenders to lend.
    Our government has run amok.

  • Julia Mahoney

    So true!    Once a stodgy community of middle class bureaucrats and, DC now glitters like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.  Most worrisome is the fact that the Washington region now dominates every list I’ve seen of our nation’s highest income counties, suggesting that the surest path to wealth runs through the government.   

     

  • conservativemama

    So true.  I live here.  Go to Tysons Corner mall and be amazed at the handbags and shoes the women are sporting.  Walk past the Louis Vuitton boutique in Bloomingdale’s and see many people shopping.  Watch the young girls spill out of the American Girl store and see them carry not one, but two of these expensive dolls.

    We are reverting to the default state of mankind, where the few rule over the many.

  • 01_Explorer_01

    The Fat cats of Washington D.C.

  • nkthgreek

    When the money runs out, guess who the entitlement class will turn on?

  • CBDenver

    Mr DeLong — I have read your book and I have to say I liked it but it is also quite depressing.  Chapter 4 describes the reasons why the Special Interest State is so well entrenched in our lives.  The idea of being able to make a dent through education and reform just doesn’t seem possible.   Sometimes it seems like the only end to the whole mess will be currency collapse, debt default, and the chaos that results.  Not something to be wished for, but I don’t see how else this can end.

    • Laddie_Blah_Blah

      Gov. Palin has two simple and effective remedies.  

      1.  End all corporate income taxes.  The corporations don’t pay them, anyway, because the lobbyists on K St. are paid to write tax loopholes for their clients, and to collude with Capitol Hill and the WH to get them passed and signed into law.  End all corporate income taxes and the whole reason for such corrupt collusion goes away.

      2.  End all corporate welfare.  Other than lobbying for tax loopholes, the chief activity of K St. is to lobby for corporate welfare.  Ending all corporate welfare ends special subsidies to favored corporate interests, like the handouts given to so-called "green energy" companies by the current administration.

      Sarah’s radical reform agenda is the main reason the permanent political class constantly trashes her.  She would put a stop to the federal government gravy train they are all riding to the land of legalized graft, legalized protection rackets, legalized extortion, etc.  Other than the physical violence, they use many of the same tactics that the Mafia does to enrich itself at the expense of honest, law abiding citizens.

      It can be done, but there is one, and only one person, of national stature, with the integrity and the courage to do it.

      • conservativemama

        You could not be more right.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/JV-DeLong/100003838521300 JV DeLong

       It was pretty sobering (I won’t say "depressing") to write it, too, especially because of the paucity of suggestions from some very smart people, such as Mancur Olson and Jonathan Rauch. However, I do think that facing and understanding the situation is an essential first step, and that honest assessments will help open up some new possibilities. If not, then I think that your fears will be validated.

  • Leroy Whitby

    For the mods. Try to find a way for us to easily tweet articles without giving access to our twitter accounts to do it. I don’t do that, have seen people tweet out ads for example when they have given access. I also see many sites that have a tweet that is easy and you don’t have to go through steps to do it or give access to your account. Am I wrong?

  • Leroy Whitby

    Great article by the way. So, so, so true. When I was getting out of law school many years ago, the best path to a good income was private practice, or government and then a shift to private. Now it’s not so clear cut. I know many attorneys in DC working for the Federal Government who are making solid, steady year after year incomes of 160,000 and up, plus gold plated benefits and fantastic job security. I know many attorneys that fell off the gravy train in private practice who are struggling. Meanwhile the govt. atty’s are shopping in these "Rodeo Drive" rivaling shopping malls. One called in a debt from me in a business venture so he could buy a condo . . . for $350,000 . . . as a single, govt. atty! And that was a decade ago.

  • ZH100

    ‘Poll: Americans Reject Crony Capitalism, 3-1′

    From the article:

    "In a recent Boston Herald column, pollster Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports cited poll findings that show strong bipartisan opposition to cronyism and its effects on free markets."
    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/08/12/POLLSTER-Voters-Strongly-Reject-Cronyism

    ——————————————————————-

    Long before "crony capitalism" became a topic of national debate Gov. Palin has fought against corruption and crony capitalism.

    Taking on corruption and crony capitalism has always been a cornerstone of Gov. Palin’s agenda.

    Here are some links with information about Gov.Palin’s consistent fight against corruption and crony capitalism.
    —————————-

    ‘Institutionalizing Crony Capitalism’   (by Governor Palin)  

    From the article:
     
    "We need to be on our guard against such crony capitalism. We fought against distortion of the market in Alaska when we confronted “Big Oil,” or more specifically some of the players in the industry and in political office, who were taking the 49th state for a ride.
    My administration challenged lax rules that seemed to allow corruption, and we even challenged the largest corporation in the world at the time for not abiding by provisions in contracts it held with the state. When it came time to craft a plan for a natural gas pipeline, we insisted on transparency and a level playing field to ensure fair competition.

    Our reforms helped reduce politicians’ ability to play favorites and helped clean up corruption. We set up stricter oversight offices and ushered through a bi-partisan ethics reform bill. Far from being against necessary reform, I embrace it. "
    https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=382303098434
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    ‘Crony Capitalism on Steroids from GE to Solyndra’ (by Governor Palin)

    From the article:

    "This crony capitalism and government waste is at the heart of our economic problems. It will destroy us if we don’t root it out. It’s not just a Democrat problem or a Republican problem. It’s a problem of our permanent political class."
    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150295067853435
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    ‘How Congress Occupied Wall Street’  (by Governor Palin)
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204323904577040373463191222.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    ‘Palin: Congress, it’s time to stop lining your pockets’ (by Governor Palin)
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2011-12-12/congress-insider-trading-sec/51841156/1
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    ‘Governor Palin’s Consistent Fight against Corruption and Crony Capitalism’  (by Whitney Pitcher)

    From the article:

    "Governor Palin’s strong stance against crony capitalism, bureaucrats picking winners and losers, and a lack of transparency is not just words; it’s action.

    Citizen candidates do indeed bring a fresh perspective to a campaign and even to public office. However, there is something to be said for someone who took on corruption while in elected office. Such an individual has governed or legislated in an atmosphere of corruption, back room deals, and cronyism and has not only weathered such an atmosphere, but has effected change for the better. It is one thing to act as a citizen watchdog; it is another to make sure that legislation and projects are transparent and are void of back room deals and crony capitalism. Governor Palin is such a person."
    http://conservatives4palin.com/2011/05/governor-palins-consistent-fight-against-corruption
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    ‘Some of Sarah Palin’s Ideas Cross the Political Divide’ (by Anand Giridharadas)

    From the article:

    "But something curious happened when Ms. Palin strode onto the stage last weekend at a Tea Party event in Indianola, Iowa. Along with her familiar and predictable swipes at President Barack Obama and the “far left,” she delivered a devastating indictment of the entire U.S. political establishment — left, right and center — and pointed toward a way of transcending the presently unbridgeable political divide. "
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/10/us/10iht-currents10.html
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    ‘How Governor Palin Reformed Alaska’s Ethics Laws and Made Crony Capitalism a Crime’ (by Gary P)

    From the article:

    "With all of the talk of corruption and crony capitalism these days, this is a great time to talk about some of the things Sarah Palin did to reform Alaska politics. She worked with the Alaska Legislature to pass tough, sweeping ethics reform "
    http://thespeechatimeforchoosing.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/how-governor-palin-reformed-alaskas-ethics-laws-and-made-crony-capitalism-a-crime/
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    ‘Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute praises Sarah Palin for highlighting Washington’s rampant crony capitalism ‘ 
    http://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/kudos-to-sarah-palin-for-exposing-the-sleazy-bipartisan-corruption-problem-in-washington/
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    ‘How Palin Beat Alaska’s Establishment’ (WSJ)

    From the article:

    "If you’ve read the press coverage of Sarah Palin, chances are you’ve heard plenty about her religious views and private family matters. If you want to know what drives Gov. Palin’s politics, and has intrigued America, read this."
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122057381593001741.html?mod=djemEditorialPage
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    ‘Sarah takes on Big Oil: The compelling story of Governor Sarah Palin’s battle with Alaska’s
    ‘Big 3′ oil companies’
    (by Kay Cashman and Kristen Nelson)

    Gov. Palin’s successful efforts to stop the cronyism and reform the energy business in Alaska were so impressive Kay Cashman, the publisher and executive editor of Petroleum News, wrote the book entitled: “Sarah Takes On Big Oil” .

    This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the leadership Sarah Palin has exhibited in the area of reforming government and industry.

    http://www.amazon.com/Sarah-takes-Big-Oil-compelling/dp/0982163207
    or
    http://product.half.ebay.com/Sarah-Takes-on-Big-Oil-by-Kristen-Nelson-and-Kay-Cashman-2008-Hardcover/71269107&cpid=13906976712008-Hardcover/71269107&cpid=1390697671

  • mymati

    I wish it were as easy as "return to the Constitution", but we MUST, first, return to a moral and religious society that is willing to respect the conscience of others. Until we can do that we will continue to lose our liberty in an ever more painfull spiral down into anarchy and debauchery that is devouring the liberty so many have fought and died for. No it will be not be an easy or quick return to the Constitution.

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