My think tank duties have taken me today to our nation's capital. Washington looks great. Which was enough to make this Californian angry.
I live in the heart of Los Angeles -- the Miracle Mile -- and walk and drive all over town. Even the fanciest LA streets show signs of the recession -- from the potholes to empty storefronts. This reflects a terrible economy, with unemployment north of 12 percent, and budget cutbacks on the state and local level.
Downtown Washington, on the other hand, doesn't show much evidence of the recession. Yes, the unemployment rate in Washington DC is relatively high -- 10.9 percent, higher than the national average. But government and defense spending has been a bulwark against much worse.
The median home price is now higher here than in Los Angeles -- which, as someone who has lived in both places, is a demonstration of the power of government to distort reality. The fact is, no reasonably sane individual who had a choice would choose Washington's cold winters and humid summers over the glories of Los Angeles weather. And that's just climate. Throw in our superior culture and food, and the fact that we're a lot better looking than they are, and it's a wonder our housing prices aren't twice as high as theirs.
Here's what I find particularly infuriating: California has sent far more in tax dollars to DC than it's gotten back over the past 20 years. This town, which depends on those tax dollars, has refused to do more for cities and states, including Los Angeles and California, during this economic downturn.
Federal officials ought to be embarassed at the gulf between the money available where they live and the stark reality of much of inland California, where unemployment is 30 percent or more and public services have been slashed beyond the bone.