It’s where the money is

Mac McPhail

Recently, I read a article on the MSN website showing the richest counties in every state in the U.S. I immediately scrolled through the article to check out the richest county in North Carolina. No, it wasn’t Sampson County. It wasn’t Mecklenburg County, with the huge city of Charlotte. Nor was it New Hanover County, with all those rich folks living at the beach. It was Wake County. It’s the home of Raleigh, the state capital and the home to the power and money of state government. It reminded me of another story I had read a couple of years ago.

The article by Kali Geldis in Main Street listed the fifteen richest counties in the United States. It was based on the median household income from the most recent Census Bureau data from 2010. The national average for median household income is $49,445. The average for these fifteen counties is about double that figure. No, Sampson County was not one of them, either.

So where are the counties located? Not surprisingly, a couple of the counties are near New York City. But ten of the richest counties are located within an approximate fifty mile radius of one city. Not New York, not Houston or Dallas, Chicago or Los Angeles. Where do the rich folks live? Near Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.? I thought that was where all those folks who were sacrificing for “public service” live. You know, the ones who are looking out for you and me. Here are the facts per the Census Bureau. Ten of the richest counties in the United States, based on median household income, are in the Washington, D.C., area. Five of the counties are in northern Virginia and five are in Maryland.

Number one on the list is Loudoun County in Virginia, where the median household income is $119,540. Remember the national average is $49,445. Bordering Washington, Loudoun County is the home of Dulles International Airport.

According to the Census Bureau, four of the top five richest counties in America border Washington, D.C. And the cost of living shows that. In Arlington County, Va., the median value of owner-occupied homes is $571.000. I remember talking to a friend and she saying her son and his wife were paying over $1500 a month in rent for a small one bedroom studio apartment in Arlington, and that was considered a good deal.

Why Washington, D.C.? Why would the richest counties in America be near our nation’s capital? I suppose the answer is the same one that Willie Sutton gave when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”

Washington is where the money is. Well, it’s the place from where the money flows. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin stated that the U.S. government spent over 3.7 trillion dollars in 2013. Forget “billions,” isn’t it funny (and a little scary) that the word “trillion” doesn’t shock us anymore. Back in the 1960’s, Senator Everett Dirkson said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” The quote seems so outdated now.

Back in the 1960’s Loudon County, Va., was an agricultural county. Since then the county has grown rapidly, with the population almost doubling since 2000. Since the U.S. government is dealing in trillions now instead of billions, there must be a lot more money to go around in Loudon County. And with a poverty rate of only 3.2 percent, the money must be going around.

But here’s the problem. Sen. Manchin stated back in 2013, that the U.S. government spent 3.7 trillion dollars that year, but that the government collected 2.2 trillion; which added another trillion to our national debt. In 2014, the federal government only spent $486 billion more than it collected. (Remember, a billion dollars is not that much in Washington’s eyes.) But the national debt is over $18 trillion dollars, and is still rising.

I’m glad things are going so well for the folks around Washington. It’s easy to understand why politicians like to go up there, stay and never leave office. It sounds like a very nice place. But it’s kind of making it rough for the rest of us. And it is also easy to see one of the reasons why Wake is the richest county here in North Carolina. It’s also where the money is.