America’s Top 5 Richest Counties Can Thank Federal Spending
Forbes Magazine reports today on the nation’s top ten richest counties, and more importantly, the attribution for their wealth. When one is asked where these places may (and should) be without the benefit of the data; places like Silicon Valley, the Texas Triangle, and even Williams and McKenzie County may come to mind. I think that is because, inherently, we want to believe that wealth is created versus shifted. Unfortunately, the data does not bear this to be the case.
Forbes instead found that America’s top five richest counties can thank Uncle Sam (and your tax contributions to him) for their successes. Four were in proximity to the Washington, D.C. area, and the fifth was the home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is the largest employer in that county.
The top five counties, in order of median annual household income, are:
1. Loudoun County, Virginia/ $115,574
2. Falls Church City, Virginia/ $114,409
3. Fairfax County, Virginia/ $105,416
4. Los Alamos County, New Mexico/ $103,643
5. Howard County, Maryland/ $103,273
Our immediate reaction may be an assumption that the wages detailed above are primarily from a swollen federal workforce. After all, many of the incomes listed above are not outside the norm earned by many of the senior-level federal workers that live and work in or near the beltway. In reality, however, the unholy alliance of lobbyists who push for federal funding for programs and other government spending which in turn creates the (sometimes artificial) demand for contractors and consultants ultimately accounts for the high median income average in these counties.
Whether the employment come from a growth of federal employees or those that ultimately get them the funding they need to hire the contractors to do the piecework of their programs, or the consultants to advise them is not the point. The true foundation from which all the sprawling office parks in the beltway sprang up from is the out of control federal spending which has spanned both the previous Republican and Democratic administrations and congresses.
New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Ross Douthat probably sums it up best in his September 22, 2012 column when he wrote the following:
For Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, what’s happened in Washington these last 10 years should be a natural part of the case against Obamanomics. Our gilded District is a case study in how federal spending often finds its way to the well connected rather than the people it’s supposed to help, how every new program spawns an array of influence peddlers, and how easily corporations and government become corrupt allies rather than opponents.
The state of life inside the Beltway also points to the broader story of our spending problem, which has less to do with how much we spend on the poor than how much we lavish on subsidies for highly inefficient economic sectors, from health care to higher education, and on entitlements for people who aren’t supposed to need a safety net — affluent retirees, well-heeled homeowners, agribusiness owners, and so on.
Federal government spending on pet programs is nothing new, and unfortunately we have gotten so used to it that it has slowly been accepted by too many. But what is telling about this latest assessment of wealth by county in America is how much more personal wealth is attributed to redistribution of prosperity versus production of it.Tags: big government, Domestic Issues, Economy, election 2012, Humor, national debt