The search for the “Real” America
The Untied States of America…
It’s made up of 50 states, but Washington, DC isn’t one of them, despite deciding the fate of the rest of the country. It is also a place where the economy thrives, where neighborhood restaurants stay busy all week and it’s residents shop at luxury grocery stores.
Many call DC a one-industry town, with politics dominating the pulse of the economy. Where the dollars are trickling down to nearby communities like Ellicott City and Columbia, Maryland, recently ranked the number two area to live in the country by Money magazine.
“We are close to Washington, DC – you know who lives there,” said Richard Story, CEO of Howard County Economic Development Authority. “And we are very close to Fort Meade, including the National Security Agency enhanced by BRAC that’s coming in here with three major organizations and soon to follow, the cyber command which will dwarf and probably surpass the BRAC activity. “
Story said the vacancy rate for Class A commercial real estate has actually gone down, from 16 percent to 12 percent and that even residential real estate is heading in the same direction, setting it apart from much of the rest of the country.
“Howard County is not a foreclosure market,” said Story. “We’re seeing one real estate broker reporting that his team is selling 100 homes a month.”
The unemployment rate in Howard County is about five percent. Contrast this with the rest of the country where the average is at 9.5 percent or with the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where unemployment is at about 80 percent.
In Palmdale, California, a once thriving suburb, many communities have turned into ghost towns. For the residents who are still there, many have strong opinions about lawmakers in Washington.
“I think they’re very out of touch,” said Sherry Combs, a Palmdale resident. “They talk about spreading their wealth; I’d like to see them spread their wealth first. Let’s see them get rid of their fancy cars and their drivers.”
“Between the politics in the middle east and everything else, ya know, save some money here,” said Karen Azimianaraki, who also lives in Palmdale.
A recent Gallup poll addressing President Obama’s job approval rating found its highest numbers in Washington, DC – 85 percent.
Among the group of states offering the lowest approval ratings were Wyoming, West Virginia and Alaska.
“The government is the industry in Washington, and right now the industry is booming,” said Koffler.
He argued that lawmakers and government bureaucrats are both out of touch with main street USA. Lawmakers are used to being treated well in Washington and the bureaucrats work in a region where economic troubles have less of an impact on daily life.
US President Barack Obama has shot 41 rounds of golf as president in the past year and a half.
“The president has to relax. The problem is really the appearance and that it shows that maybe he is getting a little bit out of touch. Golf after all, is looked at by most Americans as something they can’t do 41 times in a year and a half. They don’t have the time, they don’t have the money. Yes, he has a right to relax, but by doing it in that way he projects that he is above people a little bit, maybe a little bit out of touch, a little bit elite. There might be some other ways that he can find to relax I think that would be better for him and probably the country,” said Koffler.
“They are very much out of touch with what’s going on. They do not understand the fear economically, they don’t understand that anger,” said Budowsky.
He argued that presenting, what he views as a modest financial reform bill, as one of the greatest and strongest bills since the Great Depression is evidence of this disconnect, because the sentiment doesn’t match the average American’s life.
“People aren’t stupid and they know the difference,” said Budowsky.
Frustrated Americans will take their anger to polls, lots of Democrats and some Republicans losing their seats in congress in upcoming elections, argued Budowsky.
“It’s a total state of denial and delusion by everybody in Washington. It’s like an island surrounded by angry Americans and they just don’t get it,” said Budowsky.
Budowsky argued that Americans are now more likely to elect moderate Republicans, populous Democrats and independents to congress. However, he does not see the Tea Party taking off fully because its candidates are too far to the right.
“There is a lot of denial going on in Washington right now,” he said.
“Bureaucrats want to keep their jobs and bureaucrats want to add to their power. As we are adding new agencies, as we are expanding the size of the government, these are people who, it’s in their interest to support this president and to want him to stay in office,” said Kurokawa.
Washington is traditionally a liberal town and is a government town. The city receives a huge amount of federal money and support from the government, as do surrounding communities.
74 percent of those in Washington, DC said they have not felt the impact of the economic downturn.
“This reinforces all the attitudes that we’ve seen that DC is out of touch. That’s why we see congressional approval ratings so low. Right now it’s at like 11 percent, this is historic lows,” said Kurokawa.
Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, Kurokawa explained that politicians come to Washington with a plan to change things, but in reality they become a part of the system.
Voters are angry; the perception of Washington is highly negative.
“This contributes to an anti-incumbency mood and we’ll see how this all plays out in November,” said Kurokawa.