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21 Jul, 2010 23:25

The search for the “Real” America

The Capitol of the United States booms as much of the rest of the country busts.

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.

Obama has an 85 percent approval rating in Washington, DC, while the approval numbers are much lower elsewhere in the US. Nicki Kurokawa, the director of research analysis at The Winston Group, argued that it is simply in DC’s self interest to support the president.

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.