Sunday, December 29, 2013

Getting rich in the new Washington: The Transition From Power or Money to Power AND Money

From the Washington Post's The Insiders' Game special report:
I’d been at the Post only a few months in 1988 when the managing editor, Robert Kaiser, walked into my office, closed the door and tossed onto my desk the section from that day’s paper containing the list of recent home sales in the District. One sale was circled — mine.
Bob’s message that afternoon was that I’d broken an unwritten rule by buying an $830,000 house in an upscale neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Post journalists were not supposed to call attention to themselves in that way, he explained. I had chosen a house that didn’t reflect my proper place, as a mid-level editor, in the pecking order of Washington. Because I was new in town, he wanted to warn me about my violation of this unwritten code.
The son of a diplomat and academic, Bob grew up in a Washington where your place in the social order wasn’t determined by how much money you had but by how much power and influence you had and how much respect you commanded. It was all about what you did and what you knew, not what you had.
Even the few who had wealth abided by the old-money ethic that you didn’t flaunt it — and most certainly you didn’t talk about it. Washington back then thought of itself as a city that existed for one purpose, to serve the public.
If that strikes you today as incredibly hokey and na├»ve, consider it a measure of how much the culture of Washington has changed in the past 30 years. In almost every way, the region continues to be shaped by the presence of the federal government. But as this series, the Insiders’ Game, has richly illustrated, the idea of “serving the public” has taken on a somewhat different meaning — one less rooted in sacrifice, stewardship and the chance to make a difference, one more given to celebrity, manipulation and the chance to make a big score.
This transformation was not part of some grand strategy hatched over lunch at the Metropolitan Club to make this the richest region in the country. Nor was it some mysterious breakdown in the moral fiber of those living in the capital. According to those who lived through it, the explanation is a whole lot more simple: The nation changed and Washington changed with it.
(Andre da Loba/For The Washington Post)
Still small and Southern
In the decades after World War II, Washington was something of a middle-class paradise, a company town where a rapidly growing government provided reliable jobs and steady income to a wide range of Americans who flocked here — black and white, urban and suburban, high skilled and low, ambitious and risk-averse....MUCH MORE
HT: Marginal Revolution