NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The One Percenters' Fortress City

July 20, 2012

In 2010, Politico noted that despite the contemporary economic climate, times were "booming" for the Washington governing class: "[t]he massive expansion of government under Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come." Two years later, this trend has held true with an amazing concentration of wealth at the nation's capital, says John H. Fund, a senior editor of the American Spectator.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the regional concentrations of wealth around the country, and while it is tempting to believe that cities like New York or Los Angeles would dominate their findings, this is far from the truth.

  • Money magazine recently looked at the 3,033 counties in the United States based on income and found that the top one-half of 1 percent is dominated by Washington, D.C.
  • Of the 15 counties with the highest median household incomes, an astonishing 10 are in the Washington area and have an average income almost double that of the nation as a whole.
  • Four of the remaining five surround New York City, and are populated by many Wall Streeters who benefited from the stimulus and other federal bailouts.

The incredible wealth to be found in Washington has allowed the cities' elites to weather the economic recession with little harm.

  • A full 74 percent of Washington elites said the recession had hurt them less than most Americans.
  • In 2010, a poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland for Politico found that 45 percent of Washington elites thought the country and economy were headed in the right direction.
  • This finding is much higher than the polling result (25 percent) for the nation as a whole.

The reason for this wealth barrier stems largely from the incredible salaries that public-sector workers are able to command under the current administration's government expansion.

  • In 2008, the average compensation in pay and benefits for federal civilian workers was $119,900 annually, compared to the private industry annual average of $59,900, according to the Cato Institute.
  • In 1980, only 3 percent of Washington residents had incomes of $200,000 or more in today's dollars; this figure has since increased to 13 percent.
  • To join the top 1 percent of D.C. earners, a household must have an annual income of $527,000, a far higher amount than in the rest of the country.

Source: John H. Fund, "The One Percenters' Fortress City," American Spectator, June 2012.

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