50 > 1: Changing Washington from the Outside

Ask your neighbors and co-workers a simple question: “What are the wealthiest counties in America?” Here are the answers I got:

“Is Manhattan a county? That has to be one of the richest.”

“Which county has Beverly Hills?”

“San Francisco County has to be up there. Silicon Valley too.”

Wrong on all counts. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last week, the county with the highest median income is Loudoun County, Va. Number two is Falls Church City, Va.; followed by Fairfax County, Va. (#4); Howard County, Md. (#6); Arlington County, Va. (#7); and Prince William County, Va. (#10). Anyone else notice a pattern here?

The first county on the list not adjacent to the Beltway is Los Alamos County, N.M., home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the biggest employer is — you guessed it — Washington, D.C.

As the endless talk of “economic recovery” seems more like wishful thinking than analysis, isn’t it odd that the only region starting its fifth straight year of a booming economy is home to our political elite?

This is doubly odd since Washington doesn’t invent smartphones or build cars or record music — mostly they invent rules and build bureaucracies and record regulations. The federal government’s primary industry is siphoning money from 50 far-flung states and reallocating it to preferred interest groups (after taking an ample service charge, of course).

As a result, the states increasingly look like colonies and Washington, D.C. an unresponsive imperial capital. Since our Founding Fathers were all-too-familiar with that dynamic, they drafted a Constitution to protect such aristocratic excesses.

Not only did they create a balance of power within the federal government, they created a balance of power from without. Just as the executive, legislative and judicial branches keep each other in check, the states were given the power to hold Washington in check. 

Federalism allows the states to make many if not most of their own rules. The federal government protects essential civil rights, but if Vermont wants to slap a sin tax on non-vegan hacky sacks, go for it. If Arizona wants to toss half their red tape in a wood chipper, great. Then Americans and companies can vote with their feet for the system they like best. 

Of course, politicians from both parties are slow to give up power willingly. Year after year, federal spending has shot up independent of the R or D after a president’s name. Thankfully, the Constitution was designed to trump their insatiable thirst for more. 

Brave governors and attorneys general have defended state powers in court — and won. Twenty-five states have refused to create Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges despite ominous warnings from Washington.

The states already have the power; they just need to use it.

President Barack Obama famously stated that after four years in office he learned that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.” I agree completely with President Obama on that point. Now it is up to the governors, legislatures and citizens of all 50 states to prove him right.  

Follow me on Twitter at @ExJon.