It used to be common wisdom that working in government didn’t pay. Working in government resulted in a tradeoff: a lower salary in exchange for more job security and better benefits. But that common wisdom isn’t really the case anymore and hasn’t been for decades. Now government jobs (at least at the federal level) are some of the best-paid around, which is part of the reason so many now are looking to mooch off Uncle Sam.
The Washington, DC area in particular has become one of the richest in the country thanks to the trillions of dollars that flow to the government each year. Six of the country’s richest counties in terms of average annual income are in the DC suburbs. And Washington, DC itself has shed the reputation it earned in the 1990s as the country’s murder and drug capital and is rapidly gentrifying, quickly becoming one of the most expensive cities in the country.
Congressmen often get lambasted for complaining that their $174,000 per year salaries are too low. But while that may be a good salary for many rural areas and small cities, it’s well known that in many areas of the country a six-figure salary doesn’t go very far. We’ve all heard the jokes about garbage-men in Manhattan making six figures and not being able to afford a place to live. So what does it take to be considered rich in DC?
In order to break into the top 5% in DC you need to make $250,000 a year. So while Congressmen certainly won’t be starving on their salaries, they’re nowhere near the top earners in the city. To break into the top 1% requires a lot more, nearly $600,000 a year, which is 40% higher than the national 1% threshold of $422,000.
Now those aren’t government employees making that kind of money. Even the highest-paid federal employees in Washington top out in the low $200K range. No, those high salaries are paid to all the people who gravitate to the center of power and suck even more money away from taxpayers. We’re talking lobbyists, lawyers, and government contractors.
With trillions of dollars floating around Washington ready to be redistributed by the federal government, the stakes are high for companies on the receiving end of those funds. That’s why they hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers to make sure that the spigot remains turned on. And the contractors who end up getting much of that money do well for themselves too, fueling the rise in wealth in many of the Washington, DC suburbs.
With more money than ever flowing to Washington, there’s never been a more surefire way to get rich than by feeding off the taxpayers. If Americans want to stop that waste and rein in government then they’ll have to start getting serious and stop sending such profligate Congressmen to Washington.