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Government money makes DC the richest area in the country

Published time: October 20, 2011 19:31
Edited time: October 20, 2011 23:31
The Capitol Building in Washington DC

The Capitol Building in Washington DC

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill might be ignoring the growing anger at the widening gap between the rich and poor in America because, frankly, they can’t tell. The greater Washington DC area is officially the wealthiest metropolitan region in the country.

With the Occupy Wall Street movement in its second month of demonstrations protesting the alliance between Washington and the financial sector, perhaps the wealthy are unaware of their growing concerns because everything seems fine and dandy along the banks of the Potomac. The average annual income in the DC area of 2010 was around $84,523, head-and-shoulders above the national median of $50,046.

By comparison, the annual household income in the San Jose, California area — home to Apple Computers, has dropped just below DC to $83,944. For 2010, they will take second place as wealthiest metro area; those in America’s technological hub of innovation and invention fall just a few pennies short of the politicians which give America such grand contributions as — well, anyway. . .

With politicians, lobbyists and federal contractors having their pockets lined handsomely in the District of Columbia, Washington has usurped Silicon Valley as the wealthiest region in America.

With more than 170,000 federal employees working in the DC-proper as of June this year, they are helping boost the area’s mean income by bringing in wages worth bragging about. The average annual wage of DC-area federal employees is $126,000. Elsewhere in the area, workers of all sectors go to their jobs on the Hill and throughout the DC area from the surrounding towns of Virginia and Maryland.

“There’s a gap that’s isolating Washington from the reality of the rest of the country,” Prosperity Agenda Director Kevin Zeese tells Bloomberg News. “They just get more and more out of touch.”

In addition to the many federal positions, Lockheed Martin Corp., a regular contractor for the Pentagon, employs throngs of area’s residents as the world’s largest defense company.

As Occupy Wall Street protests have spread across America and internationally in the weeks since it first began, reexamining the inequality problem with the US has become a focal point of demonstrators involved in the movement

“As our middle class is disappearing, so is the health and the peace of our country,” Chelsea Elliott told RT recently. A Brooklyn, NY native, Elliott was in attendance at one of the early Occupy Wall Street events, protesting peacefully, only to be pepper-sprayed by an NYPD police officer.

“Our government is incredibly corrupt,” added Elliott. “They are being paid by the very people they are supposed to be regulating and everyone is suffering.”

While the median income in Georgetown, one of the wealthier neighborhoods of DC-proper is around $140,000 annually, those living in the southeast portion of the District bring in an average of around $29,000, RT reported earlier this year.

“More and more people in urban, suburban and rural areas are waking up to the fact that large corporations, particularly the financial industry, need to do more to pay their fair share to fix the economy that they broke,” Jordan Estevao from National People's Action told RT.

Douglas Besharov, a professor at the nearby University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy adds that while DC might indeed be a wealthy region, that wealth is far from distributed fairly.

“Even though we’ve got this very healthy group of government employees and contractors, there’s still a lot of people left behind,” Besharov tells Bloomberg.

Although the 5.6 million residents in the metro DC region combined bring in around $221.4 billion each year, 11 percent of DC-proper qualifies as “very poor,” meaning a family of four makes under $11,000 annually.

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