NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Problems with Washington, D.C.

February 25, 1997

The seat of the federal government is high on the list of the worst-run, most problem-plagued city in America. Observers say high poverty and crime rates, bloated budgets, steep taxes and an expensive, sub-par educational system have left Washington, D.C. on the verge of fiscal collapse.

It's not for lack of a tax base: in 1995, per-capita income there was $32,274 -- about 42 percent higher than the national figure.

Rather, critics say that Washington's problems arise from political cronyism and federal paternalism.

  • In 1996, the city received $712 million in federal money -- one-sixth of the city's $4.4 billion in general revenue.
  • In 1993, per-capita general expenditures amounted to $7,894 -- compared to $1,014 for Los Angeles and $5,385 for New York.
  • In 1994, 16.7 percent of the city's population of 567,000 were on Aid to Families with Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income payments,according to Census Bureau data -- compared to a national average of 7.7 percent.
  • In 1992, the violent crime rate for youngsters up to 17-years old was 1,487 per 100,000 -- versus a national average of 483, the FBI reported.

Some residents see the city's problems personified in their Mayor, Marion Barry, who was reelected in 1994 after serving jail time for cocaine possession.

  • Although its public school students are among the worst performers on standardized tests of those in any major U. S. city, Washington spends $8,211 on each of them -- versus a national average of $5,907 during the 1994-95 year.
  • Washington has only 16 teachers per central administrator -- compared to a 60-to-1 ratio in Los Angeles.

Source: Carl Horowitz, "The Last Bastion of Socialism?" Investor's Business Daily, February 25, 1997.


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